Pigeon feeder poses risk to flights at Bob Hope, officials say

For nearly a year, officials have been trying to figure out what to do with Charles Douglas.

The 59-year-old owner of Precise Roofing Company in Burbank has been feeding flocks of pigeons since at least September 2010, officials say, which — beyond violating municipal code — has created a major safety hazard for jet airplanes using the nearby Bob Hope Airport as the birds numbers have grown into the hundreds.

On average, airport police Commander Allen Schmitt said planes at Bob Hope Airport strike a bird once every two months. But the rate of strikes has increased recently to five incidents in July alone, he added.

“Most of those were multiple — 10 to 20 to 30 birds at once,” Schmitt said. “Now it’s becoming extraordinarily dangerous.”

In July, a Southwest Airlines flight was diverted to Ontario after it flew into 20 to 30 pigeons during takeoff, he said.

“A pigeon is not a problem, but a flock — that’s a problem,” he said.

On Friday, after two court citations and a bench warrant for feeding the pigeons, Burbank police arrested Douglas at his business on Hollywood Way and Tulare Avenue.

It was the culmination of months of legal wrangling to stop the feeding.

In December 2010 and again in February, Douglas was found guilty of feeding pigeons so as to create a nuisance, court documents show.

On July 31, Douglas was again cited for feeding pigeons, Schmitt said.

The arrest warrant was issued Aug. 11.

“Our interest in this and the reason we are so invested — we’re not talking about 20 or 30 pigeons in the middle of nowhere; there are upward of 200 to 300 to 400 pigeons flying over runways,” Schmitt said.

Douglas, a Glendale resident, was arrested on suspicion of disobeying the court order and creating a public nuisance by feeding pigeons, according to police.

Burbank Assistant City Atty. Denny Wei said the maximum penalty on one of the misdemeanors, if found guilty, is six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

For his employees, and those who work at adjacent businesses, the arrest was a surprise that also allowed them to put two and two together.

Jared Garay, who works at the nearby Hub Network, said he regularly saw “more birds than you’re ever gonna see in most circumstances.”

“I always wondered why all these birds are there,” he added.

Behind the small businesses on Hollywood Way and Tulare Avenue, long and short white streaks of bird feces coated the black gates behind Precise Roofing Co. Gray and white feathers dotted the sidewalk.

And underneath the telephone wires where the back alley intersects with Tulare, a lone car was dotted with white bird droppings. Most other vehicles were parked further north, away from the mess.

Chaz Miseroy, an employee at the motorcycle shop next to Dougals’ roofing company, said he has seen a lot of pigeons, but never saw any feedings.

“Whether it’s true or not, I don’t know,” Miseroy said. “If it is true, what’s more important? Feeding birds that can feed themselves or risking the lives of people on a plane?”

Multiple attempts to reach Douglas were unsuccessful.

Bird strikes can cause significant damage to an airplane, said Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, recalling that about 12 years ago a plane departing Los Angeles International Airport ingested birds. The engine landed on Dockweiler State Beach, not far from people who were picnicking.

Commercial airports like Bob Hope are required to have wildlife mitigation plans, but those requirements don’t extend off the airport grounds, Gregor said.

“Obviously it’s not a good idea to attract wildlife to areas around the airport. Threats of a bird strike are a very real one,” he said.

 
 

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