Supervisors expected to pass Parrot protection
Photo courtesy TakmonaGardner.com
By Tamara Barak, Bay City News Service
March 13, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - The San Francisco Board of Supervisors
today is expected to pass legislation protecting the habitat of
the famed parrots of Telegraph Hill.
The legislation, proposed by Supervisor Bevan Dufty, was passed
9-1 on its first reading last week, said Boe Hayward, a legislative
aide to Dufty.
The birds, longtime local celebrities, gained international fame
in Judy Irving's 2003 documentary "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph
Hill." The film chronicles the flock's friendship with formerly
homeless musician Mark Bittner.
But in October 2005, the owner of a property adjacent to Bittner's
North Beach cottage cut down three of five Monterey cypress trees
that provide the birds a perch from which to watch for predators.
Bittner managed to save the remaining two trees by standing between
the trees and the chainsaws, and negotiations began for the protection
of the habitat.
Dufty's proposed law would provide for the pruning and maintenance
of the two surviving cypress trees, mandate the planting of up
to six new parrot-friendly trees and protect the landowner from
legal liability if dying trees fall before they can be replaced.
The Northeast San Francisco Conservancy has raised about $5,000
from donations to pay an arborist to prune and preserve the trees
until new ones can be planted.
"We got 1,600 e-mails from around the world and all over
the country. The interest in these parrots is ultimately worldwide,"
Hayward said. Dufty's office has not received a single e mail
opposed to the legislation, Hayward said.
Ed Jew was the sole supervisor who voted against the legislation
at its first reading. Jew said today that he's an animal lover,
but the city is setting a dangerous precedent in offering to maintain
"My issue is if we're going to take care of these trees,
there are going to be other individuals in other districts who
want the same thing and I don't know how we're going to provide
funding for that," he said.
While supporters of the legislation promise its cost to the city
will be minimal, Jew said he hasn't seen any evidence to support
that will be true over the long term.
"We have to be really fiscally minded," he said.
The parrots' supporters, including the animal welfare organization
In Defense of Animals, presented Land Use Committee members with
a petition of support bearing more than 4,400 signatures at their
March 5 meeting.
Committee members unanimously supported the legislation and passed
it on the Board of Supervisors.
"The parrots are a great part of the identity of our city.
They're the poster children of urban wildlife," In Defense
of Animals spokesman Mat Thomas said at the time.
"We're in support of Bevan Dufty's legislation so that parrots
can have their habitat in the area and hopefully maintain their
relationship with Mark Bittner."
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