Maybe they should just refer it to the zoning board.
Hungry bears have been invading the Los Angeles suburb of Monrovia, with reported sightings last year nearly quadrupling to about 460. So far no one has been injured in bear encounters, but the city is contemplating a range of measures -- including adding bear-resistant garbage cans and letting people electrify their fences -- in hopes of separating man from beast.
Other cities in Los Angeles' foothill suburbs have reported similar problems, resulting partly from a spike in the number of bears in California. State Fish and Game spokesman Kyle Orr estimated there are 35,000 bears in the state, up from about 10,000 in the early 1980s. And as both bear territories and communities have expanded, so have human-bear encounters.
"Bears are attracted to anything edible," Orr said, recommending that people in bear country secure garbage and pet food, pick up fruit fallen from trees, and keep the barbecue grill clean. "When wild animals feed on human food and garbage, they lose their natural ways."
Monrovia abuts the massive Angeles National Forest, which covers a wide swath of the San Gabriel Mountains that separate L.A. from the Mojave Desert. The transition from plains to mountains is abrupt, leaving L.A.'s suburban sprawl to wash up against the San Gabriels like waves on a beach.
And where there are people, there is garbage, which the bears eye like tourists at a Las Vegas buffet.
"It's a people problem, not a bear problem," said Monrovia City Council member Tom Adams, a local Realtor.
The city is drawing from experiences of nature-edge communities in Nevada, Colorado, Alaska and elsewhere to see how they deal with the problem.
The solution: Augment education programs with local ordinances requiring residents to secure garbage and food. But enforcing those ordinances at a time when city budgets and staffing are strained could be a problem, city officials warned.
Adams said too many residents thrill at the sight of the bears. "They view it as something that's kind of fun, to watch the bears on the swimming pool or sitting on the patio" and lose sight of how powerful and violent bears can be.
"My only fear is if you end up between a momma bear and her cubs, that could create a problem," Adams said. "If someone gets hurt, then they'll say, how come nobody did anything?"
Adams says he often sees bears in his neighborhood. Around lunchtime on a recent Sunday he had to wait in his car until a bear finished lumbering through his yard.
"When I pulled into my driveway, it was on my neighbor's wall. ... I parked and sat in the car and watched as it climbed down and across my yard and climbed over the neighbor's fence," Adams said. "It kind of scared the hell out of me."