One woman allegedly dropping “15-30 pounds” of birdseed at a time has been at it for years, according to Glen Park neighbors and businesses, who say she’s single-handedly causing a rat infestation that’s roiling the neighborhood.
When Glen Park’s Canyon Market was ordered closed by the Health Department over a rat infestation on September 28 (it reopened hours later, and remains open), the shop’s owner Janet Tarlov was very clear in an interview with the SF Standard that there was one specific culprit behind the whole rat problem. She said a woman had been dumping enormous piles of birdseed on neighborhood sidewalks since February 2020, and Tarlov herself had complained to the Health Department about this repeatedly, for years, to no avail.
“I complain 100 times and nothing happens and then someone complains once and the store gets shut down,” she told the SF Standard.
A sad story of San Francisco: Rats swamp a neighborhood, and the culprit may be the Birdseed Lady— Demian Bulwa (@demianbulwa) October 12, 2022
"Cole Hardware's Rick Karp decided to stop selling the woman birdseed this month. 'We've sold her LOTS of birdseed over the years,” he said."
By @NMishanec https://t.co/sWBH8aThM5 pic.twitter.com/llSfLImTIJ
And the size of the birdseed piles is staggering. These are not your casual Mary Poppins “Feed the Birds” outings. Tarlov tells KGO that she’s been cleaning up "15-30 pounds a time” of this birdseed, “multiple times a day," now for years. And these gigantic piles delight and attract pigeons, but also attract hordes and hordes of rats.
"When I told her no you can't do that, that's going to attract rodents, she spit on me," Tarlov tells KGO.
Residents of San Francisco's Glen Park blame a woman they call the "birdseed lady" for a rat problem in the neighborhood. https://t.co/mAZiFrIrRb— NBC Bay Area (@nbcbayarea) October 13, 2022
The woman has been spotted repeatedly dumping piles of bird seed throughout the area. pic.twitter.com/bjLDNpggjE
KGO published their story Wednesday, and said neighbors had seen the birdseed lady dumping giant sacks of the birdseed on sidewalks as recently as “two days ago.” The Chronicle concludes this is definitely all being done by one single birdseed lady after they exhaustively conducted “more than a dozen interviews with residents, business owners and city officials.”
Moreover, the Department of Public Health now acknowledges they’ve visited this woman’s home and found violations described as “unsanitary conditions, rodent infestation and refuse accumulation.”
Photos of the daily drops residents tell me is "Birdseed Lady's" handiwork: pic.twitter.com/cVWSutS1gh— Nora Mishanec (@NMishanec) October 12, 2022
The Chron also contacted the owner of a local Cole Hardware, who didn't realize his shop had been playing a role in all this. “We have sold (her) LOTS of birdseed over the years,” shop owner Rick Karp told the Chronicle. “I’m guessing she’ll be taking her birdseed business to another hardware business.” He insisted that once he learned what birdseed lady was doing, he “immediately canceled” an “outstanding delivery.”
And we will remind you that local law says it is illegal “to feed or offer food to any bird or wild animal in or on any sidewalk, street or highway of the City and County of San Francisco.”
'Birdseed Lady' linked to growing rat problem in San Francisco neighborhood https://t.co/Y7fsTmeh0K— ABC7 News (@abc7newsbayarea) October 13, 2022
This is likely a mental health issue, and KGO got a statement from the Health Department saying "The person has been and is currently connected to health services. We continue to do outreach to offer support and engage the person on additional health services."
And a spokesperson for the City Attorney's office tells KGO that birdseed lady has been sent a "cease and desist" letter demanding she cut this out. And it’s sad that this has gone on so long, causing tens of thousands of dollars of damage at Canyon Market and other neighborhood businesses, even though shopkeepers and neighbors have been ratting out birdseed lady for years.
Related: San Francisco Pop-Up Cafe Infested With Rats... On Purpose [SFist]
Image: @mertguller via Unsplash