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Do Not Feed the Pigeons*

By Eric Richardson
Published: Tuesday, July 26, 2005, at 10:02PM

I was looking something up just now in the Municipal Code and ran across Chapter 5, Article 3, Section 53.43, titled "PIGEONS -- FEEDING -- RESTRICTED AREA". Basically it's illegal to feed pigeons on any street or sidewalk or in any park inside boundaries set up in the section. Reasonable enough. But here are the boundaries:

Beginning at the intersection of the center line of First Street with the center line of Los Angeles Street; thence southwesterly along the center line of Los Angeles Street to the center line of Eighth Street; thence northwesterly along the center line of Eighth Street to the center line of Main Street; thence southwesterly along the center line of Main Street to the center line of Ninth Street; thence northwesterly along the center line of Ninth Street to the center line of Olive Street; thence northeasterly along the center line of Olive Street to the center line of Eighth Street; thence northwesterly along the center line of Eighth Street to the center line of Flower Street; thence southwesterly along the center line of Flower Street to the center line of Ninth Street; thence northwesterly along the center line of Ninth Street to the center line of Figueroa Street; thence northeasterly along the center line of Figueroa Street to the center line of Sixth Street; thence southeasterly along the center line of Sixth Street to the center line of Olive Street; thence northeasterly along the center line of Olive Street to the center line of First Street; thence southeasterly along the center line of First Street to the point of beginning.

I looked at that for a few minutes and my brain just sort of melted. What is this? Why are these so convoluted? I actually mapped the given boundaries out using GMap Pedometer, and you can see them visually here. They look a bit more reasonable this way, but I have to ask why certain areas were left out. Who were the pigeon feeding interests that lobbied to get the blocks bounded by Flower, 8th, Olive and 9th excluded?

Actually, it looks like the block of Figueroa, Flower, 8th and 9th got added to the section in 1985. So maybe this is an issue of selective inclusion, rather than exclusion.

Update (Wed, 3pm): I just pulled up an LA Times article from 1985 that sheds light on the addition.

This ran on April 21, 1985, with the title "Feed the Pigeons and You May Be a Jailbird."

To many, they are the rats of the bird world-an urban nuisance and potential health hazard.

That sentiment has led officials in Los Angeles to consider expanding the city's "Feed a Pigeon, Go to Jail" law.

For about 25 years it has been a misdemeanor to feed pigeons in a 48-block area surrounding downtown's Pershing Square. Because of recent complaints by local businessmen, the City Coucil will soon consider tacking an extra block onto the bird boundary.

"We call it our 'Feed a Pigeon, Go to Jail' ordinance because it is a citable penalty," said Richard McCaughey, a city legislative analyst. "To my knowledge no one has ever been prosecuted, and it's my guess that no one has ever been cited either, because it's hardly a high priority."

I can't find any coverage of when the original ordinance was passed. In 1968 there was a pigeon poisoning at Pershing Square, though. 50 pigeons died. It was suspected that the perpetrators might have been partial to doves.

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