Board of Supervisors Continue to Work on Urban Farm Animals Ordinance, Five Communities Exempt

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On Tuesday, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to continue working on a proposed Urban Farm Animals Ordinance after agreeing to exempt five East Contra Costa communities.

Although the Board of Supervisors agreed for the most part with the ordinance, it was sent back to the planning commission for more work to include the exemption.

The ordinance (shown below) outlines and regulates raising and keeping of farm animals, including fowl, rabbits, grain-fed rodents, honeybees, and livestock on residential properties.

Supervisor Diane Burgis stated that talking with her staff that what their office was hearing from the community was not consistent with the staff report.

“All five of my advisories were against this ordinance,” said Burgis. “I also had an all MAC’s meeting last week that all were unanimous and none of them wanted it.”

According to the Burgis, The Byron MAC, the Town of Discovery Bay, and the Bethel Island MAC passed motions stating a preference that the community not be included in the proposed Ordinance. The Town of Discovery Bay subsequently submitted a letter to the County Planning Commission. Two members of the Knightsen TAC submitted emails stating a preference for not including Knightsen in the proposed Ordinance, and for allowing roosters on agricultural lots of one or more acres.

“The issue I have is who is going to enforce this,” stated Burgis.

Staff replied based on the issues, it would be code enforcement and animal services. Calls could include noise complaints, inhumane activities, inadequate structures, access to water and food. This includes two officers, a sergeant and lieutenant.  With code enforcement, there is just one inspector dedicated to District 3.

“That is a coverage of approximately 165,000-acres compared to the next smallest which would be 52,000 acres,” stated Burgis. “The question I have is can we be exempted from this because the reason are against it is not because we are not against having bees, chickens or goats, its that we have limited resources for people to come out and force people to be good actors.”

Staff explained that the Planning Commission considered a County Wide Ordinance and they could go back to the Planning Commission to prepare an overlay Ordinance to exclude District 3 from the ordinance which would first go back to the planning commission, then back to the Board of Supervisors for final adoption—an estimated two-months.

Supervisor Candace Andersen made the request that when it came to bees, they include in the ordinance that Nucs (a small honey bee colony created from larger colonies) be included in the ordinance to help prevent confusion.  Or, add it into the definition.

Supervisor John Gioia stated he supported the Ordinance and urged the board to move forward with the communities of West County (District 1) since its been out there for a couple of years—Gioia asked staff to expedite this.

Supervisor Karen Mitchoff requested staff name the communities to be included rather than all of District 3.

“I am not sure it’s a good idea to exclude a whole district, I know you have had your communities through MAC’s and that’s fine, but it’s a very big geographic area and you have Clayton, Diablo and Blackhawk,” said Mitchoff who urged the ordinance overlay to name the excluded communities.

Supervisor Andersen agreed saying they needed to be very specific with who is excluded and who was not.

Supervisor Burgis explained this Ordinance was not something she was against personally, but she received an overwhelmingly strong opposition from her constituents.

“I will look at a few other communities to get some additional feedback, but at this point because we have such a large area and limited enforcement we are not going to be out policing this, it’s the people who are bad actors that will be called out on this,” said Burgis.

Mitchoff urged staff to expedite the ordinance with the planning commission and still urged they name the communities excluded from the ordinance versus the entire District.

At the urging of Supervisor Mitchoff and Gioia, they urged Burgis to list out the communities to be excluded from the ordinance.

Burgis listed Bethel Island, Byron, Knigthsen, Discovery Bay and Diablo to be exempted from the Ordinance.

The Board then unanimously agreed to continue working on the ordinance and sent it back to the planning commission and will come back before the Board of Supervisors in April.


Proposed Urban Farm Animals Ordinance  

Urban Farm Animal Raising and Keeping
The proposed Urban Farm Animals Ordinance would regulate the raising and keeping of farm animals, including fowl, rabbits, grain-fed rodents, honeybees, and livestock, on a lot in any single-family residential (R- ) district or two-family residential (D-1) district, or a single-family residential lot in a planned unit (P-1) district. These regulations would not apply in any agricultural district. The following summarizes the regulations contained in the Urban Farm Animals Ordinance related to urban farm animal raising and keeping:

  1. The minimum area of a lot on which fowl (except for hens), rabbits, or grain-fed rodents may be raised or kept is 20,000 square feet.
  2. The maximum number of domesticated female chickens (hens) allowed on a single lot is one hen per 1,000 square feet of lot area.
  3. No more than an aggregate total of 20 fowl (including hens), rabbits, and grain-fed rodents may be kept on a single lot.
  4. The minimum area of a lot on which an apiary (honeybees) may be kept is 6,000 square feet.
  5. The maximum number of beehives allowed on a single lot is determined by lot area, as follows:
Lot Area Maximum Number of Beehives
6,000 square feet or more, but less than 20,000 square feet 4
20,000 square feet or more, but less than 40,000 square feet 6
40,000 square feet or more 8
  1. The minimum area of a lot on which livestock may be raised or kept is 40,000 square feet. The lot must be contiguous.
  2. The maximum number of livestock on a single lot is two head of livestock per 40,000 square feet of lot area.

The ordinance also includes specific location and design requirements for animal structures, such as minimum distances from the front, side, and rear property lines, height limits, and honeybee flyway barriers. 

Click here for the agenda, staff report, Board of Supervisor Discussion. 

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Who even brought this up? The county can’t even take care of illegal trailers let alone chickens. What a waste. Make a law you have no ability to enforce.

  2. Right Animal Services; what a Laugh! Why don’t you try treating the animals you have humanely!

  3. Wow, that’s incredibly idiotic and irresponsible of the 5 bobbleheads who have MUCH BIGGER PROBLEMS TO SOLVE in this county.

  4. I like hearing the neighbor’s chickens cluck and I sure like the rooster crowing at 4 am .. I just listen and then turn over and go back to sleep.

  5. Bees? Did they not know that the bees will live where they want? Beehive or not. Also greatly needed for growing vegetables and flowers- let’s just take away any sensible reason to live in Contra Costa- and yes they can’t even enforce things now- let along having more codes Ugh! I am totally against this.

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