As an urban planner we constantly find ourselves searching through different City Municipal Codes (CMCs), looking for specific regulations related to projects that we are working on. There are times when I find myself ready to scream from the mind numbing madness that can be found layered among the many chapters of a CMC. It is hard not to wonder why some of these codes have not been updated to relate to current needs and trends of the 21st Century.
Lately, the desire for urban agriculture has become a popular topic among residents of Southern California. The Orange County Register published an article on February 2, 2012, about a Santa Ana woman who was forced by the City of Santa Ana to get rid of her five chickens because of the City’s ordinance that requires chicken coops be kept 100 feet from a property line. This article was so disheartening to me, as I am a chicken owner myself. Luckily I live in the City of Orange, and due to the size of my property, which is actually smaller than the property owner from Santa Ana, I am required to keep my coop only 20 feet from a property line, which seems much more reasonable than 100 feet.
It is my opinion that cities should be more forward thinking regarding topics such as urban farming. With scares of GMOs (Genetically Modified Foods) being introduced into our grocery stores, and certain pesticide sprays being linked to cancer, it is no wonder people want the ability to grow and produce their own food. It is important to give residents access to local food in the design of our new communities. By doing so, we cut down on our carbon footprint, we educate our children on the importance of living a sustainable life, and we allow for communities to come together through the production of food.
On January 31, 2012, the City of San Diego voted unanimously to allow chickens, bees and goats as backyard pets so that residents could supply their own food. Instead of turning their back on residents, the City listened and took proactive steps at revising their CMC. They created logical rules, such as only two beehives are allowed per property, roosters are banned (as they are in most cities), and only miniature goats are allowed and they must be de-horned. My hope is that our City will revisit their CMC and a thoughtful conversation around urban agriculture will take place.