SF grocery store shut down due to rat infestation created by the birdseed lady

Who is up for another San Francisco story? This one starts in a neighborhood called Glen Park where there’s a local grocery store called Canyon Market. It’s a nice looking place.


Yesterday, Canyon Market was shuttered by the health department after the city found evidence of a “severe” rodent infestation.

A Health Department inspection of Canyon Market in San Francisco’s Glen Park neighborhood found rat droppings on food items, holes where vermin make nests and other evidence of a “severe rodent infestation,” according to a report obtained by The Chronicle. A 311 complaint prompted the inspection.

That’s obviously disgusting and when I first saw the headline for this story I thought something along the lines of ‘Ewww! Why don’t these people clean up their store?’ But this is San Francisco so of course there’s a lot more to the story. In this case, the owners of the market, Janet and Richard Tarlov, aren’t at fault. On the contrary, they’ve been warning the city about the problem for more than two years, to no avail. The problem is the birdseed lady.

In February 2020, a new resident on Chenery Street moved in and began to scatter birdseed to feed the pigeons around the village, including the commercial areas as well as the BART station and parking lot. And not dainty handfuls here and there — pounds and pounds, piles and piles of seeds. Her garage is completely filled with huge sacks of birdseed which she pushes in a shopping cart on her missions.

“We’ve been asking for help for two-and-a-half years,” said Janet. “On June 1 I was told by DPH that they were going to bait traps in the sewers. Ten days ago I asked what was going on and they said they were waiting for the accounting department to approve the expense. ‘Well, how much longer are we going to have to wait?’ I asked. And they said, “I’m sorry, we don’t know.”


The San Francisco Chronicle has more on the Tarlov’s battle with the birdseed lady:

Tarlov said she first noticed the local resident using a small shopping cart to unload piles of bird seed at the doorsteps of neighborhood restaurants in April 2020, when the restaurants were closed due to pandemic restrictions.

“I saw her dropping enormous amounts of bird seed in multiple locations in front of all the closed restaurants,” Tarlov said. “I thought, ‘This is terrible. The restaurants are going to have rat infestations.’”

When Tarlov told the resident to stop, Tarlov said the resident spit on her in retaliation. Tarlov said she believes the resident also began leaving ground up tortilla chips across the street from the store’s loading dock.

Janet Tarlov said she now spends part of her day sweeping up the birdseed left behind by this one woman so it won’t provide more food for rats. She has collected as much as 30 lbs in a single day. Here’s a photo she took showing just one of the bird seed dumps in a local parking lot.

To be clear, this story about the birdseed lady isn’t all coming from one store owner. Others in the neighborhood have been aware of the problem for the past two years.


Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, whose district includes Glen Park, called Canyon Market’s forced closure “completely unfair” and said the issue is not limited to one store. Mandelman said his office has been trying to get the Health Department and others to address the issue “for months.”

“There is a rat problem in the neighborhood and it appears to be related to a person distributing mass quantities of bird seed every single day,” Mandelman said in an interview Thursday, adding that the resident has been cited by police “at least once.”

I feel bad for the Tarlovs who seem like conscientious business owners who are understandably upset that their reputation is being sullied because of the irresponsible actions of one individual. It’s also not fair to local residents who not only have to deal with the rats but also with not having a grocery store for a few days. And it’s all because one individual can’t be stopped from behaving in a way that harms everyone.

The birdseed woman may not be homeless but it sure sounds as if she has some mental problems. And just like every other person with mental problems wandering the streets of San Francisco (or Los Angeles), the city’s default position is to do nothing until it creates a big enough crisis to make the local news. Then, finally, the city might stir itself to do something about the actual problem. In this particular case, it has taken two and a half years just to put out some rat bait. How much longer will it take to stop the birdseed lady from creating this problem for an entire neighborhood?


Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on HotAir Videos