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Should Long Beach City Hall Loosen Rules On Keeping Chickens, Goats & Bees? Council Committee To Discuss Hot Button Issue For Fourth Time Today

LBREPORT.com plans LIVE webcast coverage starting at 5:00 p.m.


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(Nov. 27, 2012, 8:50 a.m., latest update 10:25 a.m.) -- Should Long Beach City Hall loosen its rules on allowing residents to keep chickens, goats and bees?

Polarized public testimony on the hot button issue is expected later today as the City Council's Environmental committee -- for a fourth time -- confronts the subject of urban farming. Today's item is agendized as "to receive and file a brief status report on proposed community outreach efforts for potential revisions to Urban Agriculture regulations."

[UPDATE: Two independent sources say the offices of Councilmembers Lowenthal and O'Donnell have separately indicated to them that city staff plans only a brief status update on its efforts to date but won't be presenting a full ordinance to be voted on and forwarded to Council. Nevertheless, we believe public input and Council Committee members statements on the item may well be newsworthy. We presume no voted action can be taken to advance the item today for full Council action since whoever agendized it for the Committee did so (text above) to "receive and file" (take no action on) a status report.]

The proposal to amend LB's Municipal Code to encourage backyard urban farming that includes goats, egg-laying poultry and bees (details below) is supported by Long Beach Grows, which states on its website (www.LBGrows.org) that it has collected over 1,600 signatures on its pro urban agriculture petition.

A number of animal advocates have voiced opposition to the proposal. Various area residents have testified pro and con.

Since City Hall doesn't provide live online coverage of Council Committee meetings, LBReport.com plans to provide our own LIVE VIDEO of today's Committee proceedings on our front page -- www.LBREPORT.com -- starting at 5:00 p.m. today, followed by on-demand access.

The item on today's meeting of the City Council's Environmental Committee (chair Lowenthal, vice chair O'Donnell, member Johnson) stems from a proposal advanced from the Council's Sustainable City Council Commission (public members/advisory body) nearly two years ago (Dec. 1, 2010). The item has since been heard by the Environmental Committee in October 2011, March 2012 and June 2012.

At the June 26 Committee meeting, a motion by Councilman Johnson, seconded by Councilwoman Lowenthal to have city staff return with a draft of proposed city ordinance revisions carried 2-1 (O'Donnell dissenting). Councilman O'Donnell voiced concerns with including concrete specifics; Committee chair Lowenthal replied that the draft would be just one step in the process of refining matters, isn't concrete and would involve further input.

At the June meeting, speakers in support outnumbered those in opposition. Among concerns voiced by members of the public was the issue of bees...and those who are allergic to their stings [for some people causing serious medical consequences].

[UPDATED text, 10:25 a.m.: Currently beekeeping in LB is basically prohibited [details below] and neighbors can report hives/increased bee concentrations as a nuisance and the problem is taken care of by removing the hive(s)...but what happens if beekeeping is legalized and one's yard becomes filled with bees from a neighbor's legalized hives? Some proponents of allowing beekeeping have argued that people allergic to the bee stings should get allergy shots. A quick Google search indicates that in Orem, UT, its city attorney suggested adding nuisance language to address neighborhood concerns over residential beekeeping. A local Orem paper summarized the language as categorizing the beekeeping as a nuisance if bees travel to any neighboring property to such an extent that the residents cannot enjoy the full use of their property without coming into conflict with the bees or if there is a person with a known allergy living adjacent to a lot with hives.]

And there was Committee discussion over geographic boundaries: in what parts of town would the Municipal Code changes be implemented? Some areas? Citywide?


City of Long Beach

Current and proposed policies on the keeping of backyard chickens, goats and bees [source: City of LB website]

Current

Proposed

Chickens

  • Up to 20 may be kept at least 50 feet from 1 and 2 family residences or 100 feet from multi-family (3+) residences or hotels
  • 1 chicken may be kept as pet at least 20 feet from any dwelling
  • Up to 4 may be kept without required distance from neighboring residence
  • 5 to 10 may be kept at least 25 feet from neighboring residence
  • 11 to 20 may be kept at least 50 feet from neighboring residence
  • 5 or more must obtain one-time permit from Animal Care Services

Goats

  • No more than 1 may be kept at least 100 feet from neighboring residences
  • May not be kept south of Anaheim Street
  • 2 female pygmy goats (only) may be kept without required distance from neighboring residences
  • Must be licensed annually by Animal Care Services
  • Milk products produced are for personal consumption only

Bees

  • Hives must be kept at least 100 feet from neighboring residences and public ways (streets and alleys).
  • Must be kept 10 feet above ground
  • Up to 5 hives may be kept at least 5 feet from property line
  • If a hive is less than 15 feet from a property line, a flyway barrier of at least 6 feet high must be maintained around the hive
  • Hives must be registered with Los Angeles County Department of Agriculture

One indication of how high feelings are running (pro and con) on the issue is visible from the lengthy list of speakers (pro and con) at the Committee's June 2012 meeting (source: Clerk's minutes...which don't include the speakers' respective positions):

Donna Marykwas, Long Beach Grows, spoke; and submitted
correspondence.
Mark Vulgar spoke.
Gabrielle Weeks spoke.
Heather Altman spoke.
Heidi Lee spoke.
Jim Danno spoke.
Kate Carp spoke.
Kathleen Irvine spoke.
Lanka Field spoke.
Madeline Burnstein spoke.
Judy Crumpton spoke.
Margaret Carter spoke.
Jessica Brutelee spoke.
Anna Summers spoke.
Henry Carolyn spoke.
Steven Passmore spoke; and submitted correspondence.
Barbara Sinclair spoke.
Suzanne spoke.
Stephanie Smith spoke.
David Shorts spoke.
Barbara Summers spoke.
Wendy Aragon spoke; and submitted correspondence.
Vice Mayor Lowenthal spoke.
Wendy Aragon spoke.
Lee Prettis spoke.
Benjamin Lee spoke.
Bryan Parnell spoke.
Roberta Coxin spoke.
Maya spoke.

And there was colloquy involving Committee members and staff both before and after public testimony.

On its website (www.LongBeachGrows.org), Long Beach Grows states:

We are your neighbors...We believe in everybody's right to make their own "healthy food choices that reduce environmental causes of diet and related illnesses," including raising oneís own poultry and miniature dairy animals.

Please...help us change the Long Beach Municipal code to allow backyard urban farming that includes goats and egg-laying poultry.

San Francisco is doing it! Letís make Long Beach the progressive, inclusive, diverse city that it claims to be.

The website text indicates the above text is from the Marykwas Family in the Rose Park Historic District in Councilwoman Lowenthal's 2nd Council district.

The June Committee hearing triggered an opposing Facebook dispatch from Judy Crumpton, a resident of Councilman O'Donnell's 4th Council district:

ATTENTION ANIMAL LOVERS: The city of Long Beach is currently entertaining the possibility of changing the current ordinance on the keeping of chickens, goats and bees in BACKYARDS THROUGHOUT the entire city of Long Beach! The new proposal for the safety of these animals is extremely weak and incomplete as is the curren...t ordinance. Please go on line and read the proposal. Here are just a few problems that this can create:

1-More animal abandonment in a city that is already "raining cats and dogs" and has animal abandonment issues. Cats, dogs, rabbits, mice, rats, birds, etc.

2-Tremendously burdening to Long Beach ACS. With the lack of staff, how will this be enforced? How will the city provide more staff to handle the over load?

3-Illegal breeding of chickens. What happens to the males? NO breeding must be required.

4-Sale of chickens and eggs.

5-Attracting more coyotes into neighborhoods and increasing safety concerns for pets and small children.

6-Goats and chickens getting loose from yards.

7- Goats require attention and are nervous by nature.

8-Sale of goats milk and cheese.

9- Breeding of goats to make cheese, although the new ordinance specifies 2 female pygmy goats, who will check to ensure the gender not be male?

10-For ownership of chickens, a one time permit only is required verses an annual permit.

11-Odor.

12-Reasurrance that animals will be sheltered properly and according to THEIR needs. Providing fresh food and water daily, keeping the animals and their living area clean.

13- A farm animal educational program be required to be taken prior to residents being allowed to have ownership of goats and chickens. There is a certain way of handling farm animals.Discuss the costs of ownership.

14- Goats and chickens can not get care from a standard veterinarian; they must be treated by a specialist in this area of medicine. Goats are subject to upper respiratory infection, bloat, coccidiosis and a host of other medical conditions. Chickens require frequent routine health checks for excess water, large masses; checking their beaks for any sores or swelling and cleaning their nostrils as needed. They too are subject to coccidiosis and should have routine fecal checks for worms.

15- Back yard slaughter. It happens in other areas, what is to stop it from happening here?

There is more, but these are some of the concerns regarding this issue.

In an emailing, Ms. Marykwas [who we've learned holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology from Cornell University] responded (her comments in bold):

1-More animal abandonment ...

[LBGROWS says: The problem is some cat-owners and dog-owners, not the chicken- and goat-owners. Chickens and goats are already here. Are we raining chickens and goats? Other cities that allow goats still only have a very very very small number of goats compared to the numbers of dogs and cats.]

2-Tremendously burdening to Long Beach ACS...

[LBGROWS says: This is just BS. Phyllis Shulman, the legislative assistant to Seattle's City Council president, assured me that she checked in with the departments that handle enforcement of complaints and animal control, and that there is very little impact to animal control officers and staff, as they put it, "miniscule."]

3-Illegal breeding of chickens...

[LBGROWS says: No roosters are allowed in Long Beach. You can't breed chickens without a rooster. Someone needs a sex ed class.]

4-Sale of chickens and eggs...

[LBGROWS says: Four chickens per backyard are not even enough to feed one family, let alone sell to others. This really isn't an issue.]

5-Attracting more coyotes ...

[LBGROWS says: what attracts the coyotes are the people who let their cats loose in the neighborhood, who feed stray cats, and who feed wildlife like raccoons because they think they are cute.]

6-Goats and chickens getting loose ...

[LBGROWS says: chickens know where home is and who feeds them; they stick to their own yard; goats won't get loose from a properly fenced back yard.]

7- Goats require attention and are nervous...

[LBGROWS says: This is BS. All animals require attention from their owners. Goats are pretty low maintenance as far as animals go. They are not nervous. But they are social animals. Goat owners need to make sure they have two goats, not one. ]

8-Sale of goats milk and cheese...

[LBGROWS says: The proposed changes are for personal use only.]

9- Breeding of goats ...

[Two female goats can't breed. In-tact male goats will not be allowed. It doesn't take a special vet or even a vet degree to tell if the goat is male or female.]

10-Chicken permits...

[WTF. A hatchling chicken costs ~ $3. According to the city's website, the reason for the required annual permit of dogs is to make sure their vaccinations are current. What would be the rationale behind an annual permit for chickens other than to price the poor out of keeping this valuable source of inexpensive, high quality protein- eggs?]

11-Odor...

[LBGROWS says: All animals poop. Four great danes, even four chihuahuas, produce more offensive waste than a handful of chickens or two goats.]

12-Animal care concerns...

[LBGROWS says: Chickens in commercial settings get 2 square feet per bird. Every backyard chicken I know is treated like royalty in comparison. Likewise, most milk consumed in this country is from battery cows that are not treated with the interest of the cow in mind. Backyard milk goats are the same size as a backyard labrador. If it's good enough for the dog, it's good enough for the goat. Goat owners love their goats just like dog owners love their dogs. Everyone who truly cares about animal welfare should be for this change in the municipal code, not against it.]

13- Required (pre-requisite) animal educational program...

[LBGROWS says: Judy [Crumpton] pointed out that she has no experience with chickens and goats, so she should not be dictating best practices for handling these animals. Requiring a farm animal educational program is prejudicical, unless a similar course be required of the owners of dogs, cats, rabbits, snakes, turtles, lizards, parokeets, etc. In any event, Long Beach Grows holds occasional educational workshops at LBGROWS Unity Farm and at Center Space Admiral Kidd Park, and as soon as we can, we will offer workshops on small scale urban animal husbandry.]

14- Goats and chickens can get sick...

[LBGROWS says: The list of potential illnesses she gave is so over-the-top it is just a scare tactic and I would like to suggest a foreign specialist for her problems. Every animal, be it human, dog, or cat, can get sick with a host of medical conditions, cat scratch fever, toxoplasmosis, etc. etc.. These are hearty animals we are talking about; they are not especially prone to illness. If the animals need special veterinary care, the burden is on the owner, that is not a reason to disallow ownersip. I had an uncle who travelled far to bring his sick beagle to a specialist. On the flip side are any potential public health concerns. Phyllis Shulman, the legislative assistant to Seattle's City Council president, assured me that comparing goats to dogs and cats, the health issues "are way less than cat feces or dog issues, it is important to keep perspective. For example, cat feces is a major polluter of our urban streams. Dogs attack people and often bark all night." The bottom line is it makes more sense to get rid of the dogs and cats in the city than to disallow chickens and goats, but we are not suggesting that because we love dogs and cats too.]

15- Back yard slaughter...

[LBGROWS says: There are already restrictions againt slaughter built into the code.]

The item as agendized for today's (Nov. 27) meeting of the Environmental Committee is "to receive and file a brief status report on proposed community outreach efforts for potential revisions to Urban Agriculture regulations."

Today's Committee meeting begins at 5:00 p.m. and will also include discussion of an Urban Forestry Master Plan initiative, Low Impact Development Ordinance (water conservation), State Assembly Bill 811 (AB 811) concerning Solar PV installation financing and Citywide Water Submetering for Multi-Family Dwellings (water conservation)

In the public interest (and with Committee meetings not carried live on City Hall's website), LBREPORT.com plans to provide our own LIVE coverage on our front page -- www.LBReport.com...starting at 5:00 p.m. [If technical problems interfere, we'll have backup on-demand coverage shortly after the meeting.]


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