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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Thoughts on Urban Agriculture

backyard goat
backyard goat (Photo credit: eschipul)
Dear 5th District Resident,

I will be absent from City Council on July 16, 2013 as I had scheduled a short vacation in conjunction with a required meeting in Sacramento at the Medical Board on California on which I serve as a public representative.

On July 16, 2013, the Council is being presented with initial recommendations on the issue of urban agriculture regarding the expansion of the areas where chickens, goats and bees may be allowed. Should the Council support allowing these animals and bees, the City Attorney will be instructed to draft an ordinance that will then be brought back to City council on two separate times for votes.

I am hopeful the Council can strike a balance between allowing residents to utilize their back yards for self-sufficiency, sustainability and an appreciation of nature and growing things, and a concern for the impact upon those residents who do not want residential areas used for such purposes.

I would urge my colleagues to consider adopting similar rules as did the City of Portland, Oregon which require that in order to keep goats, chickens and bees, all property owners and residents within 150 feet of a proposed location for these animals MUST be notified. This prevents conflict from surprised neighbors, allows problem-solving to occur early in the process and reduces complaints. Additionally, Portland has the following requirements related to the animal facilities that must be maintained to house these animals so that the animals can be properly cared for kept in yards (minimizing wild goose chases around the neighborhood).

A planned facility in Portland: is in good repair; won't disturb neighbors; has absorbent ground cover (that can be replaced as often as necessary to suppress odor); has a secure enclosure; provides animals with adequate lighting and ventilation; is 15 feet from residential buildings (not including your own); and uses feeding practices that won't attract unwanted rodents and predators.

A minimum of 2 square feet of floor space (per bird) in the roosting shelter is recommended. Outside, a minimum of 10 square feet of enclosed area per bird is recommended. In addition, a thick replaceable ground cover such as straw or wood shavings must be used.

Animal owners also need a plan for disposing of excrement in a safe manner.

Finally, in those cities that already allow urban livestock, they are experiencing an additional problem that needs to be addressed upfront: the abandonment of chickens and goats after residents tire of them or are unable to care for them.  As an article in E-Environmental Magazine stated: For many urban agrarians, chickens and goats are the perfect addition to a backyard farm, providing eggs and milk to complement bumper crops of tomatoes and peas. But when the novelty of having a chirping chick wears off or adorable kids turn into grownup goats that eat the landscaping, the animals are often surrendered to rescue groups or abandoned. - See more at:
The article also points out that “urban animal shelters are not designed to house livestock” and neither is the City of Long Beach’s Animal Services Shelter.

These issues need to be addressed before any changes are made in the City’s code so that urban agriculture can be supported in a responsible, neighborhood friendly manner.
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