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Supervisors expected to pass Parrot protection law

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 private property.

"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."

Copyright © 2007 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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