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Transient in eye of Torrance bird-waste storm

February 1, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
A homeless man has developed a strong following with hundreds of birds in Torrance.

When he rolls into a parking lot at Columbia Park in his 1976 Buick, the pigeons and seagulls flock to him.

"I do it every morning," says the man, who identified himself as Mike Smith, although the car is registered to a Gilbert Gonzales. "I divide it up and I give some to them."

He says local folks and restaurants give him food that he's been feeding to the birds for the past four years.

"I come here all the time, every day," he says. "I'm homeless. What else can I do? I love the birds."

And the birds love him back. But a lot of people don't like what the birds leave behind.

Bird excrement is abundant around the parking lot, on pavement, cars, park lights and nearby houses.

That's why the city of Torrance is considering an ordinance that would ban people from feeding birds in public areas.

"We've had a handful of complaints," said Sgt. Jennifer Uyeda of the Torrance Police Department. "It kind of creates an environmental hazard for the city and the residents in the city."

"To spread out a whole buffet lunch for a bunch of birds, that's a little too much," said one park visitor.

But some folks are confounded by a bird-feeding law, like Dion Bethune, who dropped off some food to the homeless man Tuesday.

"Even if he doesn't feed them, they're still going to eat and they're still going to poot," Bethune said.