Pigeon Fanciers Frown on City's 10-Bird Limit

Bogdan (Bugsy) Symanski's hobby is racing his homing pigeons. But someone in town wishes his pigeons would leave home for good.

Since an anonymous caller complained to the city about the dozens of pigeons Symanski keeps in his back-yard loft on Law Drive, Symanski has found himself in the middle of a flap.

"I don't think it was a neighbor," said Symanksi, 35, a self-employed machinist who emigrated from Poland in 1973. "All seven of my neighbors signed a petition saying they didn't find the birds a nuisance. I think it might have been a jealous flyer."

Such an unhappy cross-town rival may have nevertheless set into motion a chain of events which both neighbors and other pigeon-racing fanciers are watching.

Symanski was supposed to appear in court on Aug. 29 to face misdemeanor charges of violating the city ordinance that prohibits keeping more than 10 birds. But in stepped the California State Pigeon Racing Assn. Attorney Paul Volchok, representing the association, argued that the city's regulations made the sport impossible.

"You need a minimum of 50 pigeons," he said. "You really need 100 pigeons to be successful."

To race, the pigeon owners, or "flyers," arrange to have their birds banded and then trucked to a remote location. On a recent Saturday in Stanton, for example, several local groups (Symanski belongs to one called the L.A. Rams) were preparing for a race. The birds would be trucked to Delano in the Central Valley, about 160 miles away.

The distance between the race release point and the flyer's home is measured in one-thousandths of a yard. The winner is the bird that travels the distance the fastest, allowing for the different trip lengths.

Although some Garden Grove council members expressed sympathy for people who might not want to live near a flock of birds, the council directed the city attorney's office to postpone prosecution until Nov. 28.

"We're working with" the racing association, said Greg Devereux, director of housing and neighborhood development, which is responsible for code enforcement. "The feeling is that some of what they're asking seems reasonable."

Chief among the groups' requests is an increase in the number of birds permitted.

The sport has its rewards beyond trophies and ribbons, says racing secretary Bob Schneider of Whittier.

"It's a thrill to see a bird released 160 miles away approaching a block away. It takes you out of your everyday world."

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