The Great Crow Battle of Portage Bay, which pits one family feeding birds against neighbors, has resulted in a $200,000 civil suit.
The great neighborhood crow war at Portage Bay has not ended, and not surprisingly, it’s lawsuit time. Say, $200,000?
Lisa and Gary Mann, and their young daughter, for a couple of years have been feeding the birds at their home in the 1000 block of East Shelby Street.
Says the lawsuit, “As many as six times per day Defendants refilled and continue to refill the emptied troughs of food with peanuts and other bird foods for the seagulls, crows, and pigeons to feast upon.”
Neighbors said that anywhere from 30 to 100 crows would hover during the feedings. You bet that they brought up the swarming, attacking avian images from Hitchcock’s 1963 horror film, “The Birds.”
The civil lawsuit, filed Monday in King County Superior Court, was brought by Christine Yokan, a pension-fund investment manager who lives on one side of the Manns, and Matt Ashbach, an ear, nose and throat doctor, who lives on the other side of the Manns. Gary Mann is a surgical oncologist.
The $200,000 sought in the lawsuit includes claims of property damage exceeding $75,000 for cleaning, painting and replacing permanently damaged property on houses, decks, yard lights, walkways, sheds.
It also includes a non-specified amount for loss “of enjoyment of property, inconvenience, and emotional distress.” And attorney’s fees.
Back in April, the neighbors had high hopes quiet would be restored.
In an email, Lisa Mann wrote that “we are moving to Houston this summer as my husband accepted a faculty surgical position … ”
But an online search doesn’t show the Mann residence up for sale, nor having been sold. Lisa Mann did not return voice-mail and email messages for comment.
Janice Palm, a psychotherapist who lives across the alley from the Manns, says she gave up putting flowers in her planters because the crows pulled them. She’s not part of the lawsuit.
She says about the Manns moving, “Only in our dreams.”
Meanwhile, the lawsuit says, “Large numbers of birds swarm the feeding operations daily, leaving behind dirt, feathers, peanut particles and shells, feces, and urine on the surrounding properties … Neighbors with family members who have severe peanut allergies have pled with Defendants … ”
That lawsuit describes a litany of illnesses carried by rodents, crows and pigeons.
And more, “ … there are also frequent periods of excessive noise from dozens of birds squawking from dawn until dusk.
“While some periods of time are quiet, there are periods of time — which sometimes exceed two hours in duration and occur multiple times per day — in which the cawing of crows and the noises from other birds continues unabated and can be heard at a high volume even when one is inside the home.”
And more, “Plaintiffs had never before observed a single rat on their properties. After defendants began feeding the wildlife, Plaintiffs observed a noticeable rat population … ”
It has been Lisa Mann who has had the most dealings with the neighbors. She also was the one quoted in a BBC News story (then reprinted in Crosscut, an online Seattle publication) that described in glowing terms the feeding of the crows.
It was titled, “The girl who gets gifts from birds.”
It told how the Manns’ 8-year-old daughter originally began sharing her school lunch with crows, and how that led to the birds leaving her gifts such as an earring or polished rock.
Katy Sewall, author of the BBC piece, never mentioned the neighborhood hassles over the crows in the story, which went worldwide. “The neighborhood tensions were never my focus,” she wrote in an email.
But the tensions certainly escalated.
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At one point, Lisa Mann called the cops after an argument with a neighbor up the hill. The previous night, Mann told the cops, she had heard what sounded like rifle shots.
The neighbors, meanwhile, contacted the City Council and Public Health — Seattle & King County with a petition signed by 51 of them, asking for help.
Public Health did issue a notice of violation to the Manns for bird food accessible to rats. The Manns took the necessary measures, such as raising the feeder above ground and on smooth poles.
The confrontations continued.
In one email, Lisa Mann said that Matt Ashbach, her neighbor to the east who now is suing, took a dead crow “and illegally hung it in effigy off of his third-floor balcony of his million-dollar mansion.”
Ashbach says he did find a dead crow and hung it from his balcony, a method he learned growing up on a farm to warn off other crows. (Not illegal, according to Seattle Animal Shelter.)
Anna Johnsen, who represents Ashbach and Yokan, says a trial date has been set for a year from now — Aug. 6, 2016. A long time in crowing time.
“My clients hope the feeding will stop before then,” she says.
Meanwhile, Johnsen is asking the Manns to not feed the birds more than a quarter-pound of food a day.
“My clients don’t want to limit anyone’s freedom,” she says. “We think that’s very reasonable.”
Of course, that all depends on what your definition of reasonable is.