Cover story o' the week: Pali rats

RatsExcellent piece by Max Taves in the LA Weekly on elderly identical twin sisters in Pacific Palisades who "had spent years fanatically feeding the Palisades’ rat population. Although the full dimensions of the environmental and health damage done by the peculiar pair are unknown, experts contacted by L.A. Weekly estimate that the ladies’ actions may have added tens of thousands, even 500,000, new rats to L.A.’s Westside." Now that's leaving a legacy. The story is a little bit about the Palisades itself, a little bit about rats, and a lot about the neighbors' inability to get anybody to do anything about what seems to have been an obvious bad situation on Fiske Street for years. Excerpts:

For Tom Hofer, who grew up one house away during the 1960s and ’70s, the house holds a special, scary place in his childhood memories. “That was the house that you just didn’t walk up to on Halloween,” he says.

Siegrid Hofer — Tom’s mother, still lives there and is used to holding her nose as she walks past the stench. “At one time,” Siegrid tells the Weekly, “they had dozens of dogs and cats in their house. Now, they consider rats pets.


After a neighbor, George Kunz, continually complained about their owning at least 10 cats and five dogs, the sisters moved away from the Palisades in 1983 to a 20-acre parcel in Santa Ynez. Marjorie became a full-time steward of their new “wildlife sanctuary” while Margaret kept teaching, supporting her sister and the menagerie at Santa Ynez. But in 2002, the two sisters returned to the Palisades, and feeding feral animals, including rats, became an obsession.

The neighbors who finally got this all moved into court came unhinged when, "the morning after Halloween, the Denhams’ maid caught six rats eating leftover crumbs — in their 4-month-old’s stroller."

Personal privilege: Has anyone seen the older women who appear to be twin sisters who walk around the Santa Monica Airport/West L.A. area dressed alike?

More by Kevin Roderick:
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