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El Monte Woman Granted Delay in Moving Aviary


Anna Scheybeler can temporarily keep her more than 60 exotic birds, but must remove her oversized aviary in April, the El Monte City Council decided Tuesday.

Scheybeler said the council's decision forced her to choose between keeping her house or keeping her birds. She decided to keep her birds and will move in April to a 23-acre plot in the San Bernardino Mountains, where she will live in a trailer.

"I don't have to live here in El Monte," she said. "I can move somewhere else."

During a 50-minute discussion, three neighbors said they were opposed to her aviary and two of Scheybeler's friends defended her. One neighbor played a recording of birds chirping loudly to show what a nuisance they are.

"I do have a problem with the birds because they are loud," said Maria Casanova, another neighbor. "It's the equivalent of 11 dogs barking at the same time."

Scheybeler pleaded with the council to let her keep the birds at home until April. By then, she said, she will have recuperated from a recent heart attack. The council granted her request.

The decision ends a yearlong dispute between Scheybeler and her neighbors. Scheybeler said she lives for the birds. Her neighbors say they cannot coexist with her flock.

Scheybeler, 64, who grew up in various Indonesian jungle villages, has been breeding and selling birds since 1980. Four years ago, she had to leave Baldwin Park after neighbors complained about the birds. She bought a house on Fandon Avenue in El Monte, thinking she could keep her birds because the area was zoned agricultural.

Soon afterward, her business partner, Dick Matern, persuaded her to let him build an aviary in her backyard. They accumulated nearly 140 birds, which produced enough noise to prompt complaints to the city Planning Commission. About a year ago, it found Scheybeler in violation of the city code because the aviary is too large and the birds are too near neighbors' houses.

Her flock is now down to 60, 32 of which belong to Matern.

Still, Casanova said, "We are not going to live how she wants us to live. We will live according to the law."

Scheybeler has said at various public meetings that her birds have been her motivation to fight a recurrence of lymphoma and survive a recent heart attack. She had asked the Planning Commission to waive the restrictions on the aviary and allow her to keep her birds in different parts of her house.

The commission denied her request last month, ordering her to keep the birds at least 35 feet away from her neighbors and remove the 720-square-foot wooden aviary.

Scheybeler said a friend has offered to let her live on his mountain property, but her doctors think she is not ready to face the cold weather and elevation.

"I don't care what the people of El Monte say," she said. "I did my best to keep my birds."

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