ATWATER VILLAGE — The Fletcher Drive underpass below the railroad tracks is not the most welcoming place. It’s dark and dank and filled with noise and fumes from speeding cars and trucks. Pigeons, however, don’t seem to mind and have long roosted between the steel girders that cross overhead. But down below, those pigeons have created a mess, with their droppings piling up on the narrow sidewalks used by school kids and adults. “When it rains, it turns muddy and it smells,” said one Irving Middle School student as she headed down into the underpass on the border of Atwater and Glassell Park. “When buses pass, they just blow it all into your face,” said another student of the dried droppings. “It’s kind of gross.” Not only are those droppings gross, they also pose a health hazard and need to be cleaned up, says one member of the Atwater Village Neighborhood Council.
Sergio Lambarri said there are similar pigeon poop problems where Glendale and Los Feliz boulevards dip under the same railroad line. In an email to city officials, Lambarri, who has lived in Atwater Village for more than 50 years, describes some of the potential health problems:
Some potential diseases that can occur are: Histoplasmosis which is caused by a fungus (Histoplasma capsulatum). Both humans and animals can be affected. The disease is transmitted to humans by airborne fungus spores from soil contaminated by pigeon (as well as from the droppings of other birds and bats). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has reported a potentially blinding eye condition-presumed ocular histoplasmosis syndrome (OHS) — that probably results from the fungus. NIH estimates that 4 percent of those exposed to the disease are at risk of developing OHS. Pigeon droppings also appear to be the most important source of the disease fungus Cryptococcus neoformans. The fungus is typically found in accumulations of droppings around roosting and nesting sites. Even when old and dry, bird droppings can be a significant source of infection.
But despite working on this issue for more than a year, Lambarri said he has gotten no where with city agencies, with the Bureau of Sanitation directing him to the Bureau of Street Services, which sent him back to sanitation. About three months ago, he was told that the city was studying the issue and was looking for ways to pay for a method to prevent the birds from roosting in the underpasses.
“I have attempted to be patient and understanding with the Department of Street Services in regards to the request I made for the clean-up of bird droppings at our underpasses,” Lambarri said in a letter to Council District 13. “My [patience] is now exhausted.”
As Lambarri sees it, the solution is fairly simple: Install netting that would prevent the birds from roosting between the girders. The netting is used at the Atwater Village Costco to keep birds from hanging out over a food court, he said. “If it’s good for Costco, it would be good for us.”