(Editor's note. This letter relates to a Patch article summarzing the city's efforts to revise animal control rules.)
Dear Mayor Cassidy and all the members of the City Council,
I am Kristine Konrad, a San Leandro resident and 4-H leader who in January of 2009 showed up at the City Council meeting with my Poultry Project kids and asked that San Leandro make raising chickens legal, so we have been interested in this issue (and urban farming) from the start. My kids and I are delighted to see that things are in motion, but we were a little dismayed at the recent Rules Committee meeting on hearing the current proposal, since it seemed arbitrary, misinformed, as well as missing some key points. We would like to suggest the following:
1. Lot size means very little in ensuring that your hives or coop are a reasonable distance from your neighbors, and penalizing citizens with smaller lots seems discriminatory and unfair. Focus on keeping coops and hives a reasonable distance from neighbors' windows and doors, offer guidelines for cleanliness and odor control, and mention animal health and well being as important parts of owning chickens and bees.
2. The upper limits on the number of animals should be higher, since the great majority of animal owners use common sense in deciding how many animals they can handle, and the occasional owner who goes overboard won't pay attention to ordinances anyway. We don't mind the idea of permits, but they should serve a real purpose and not just be an extra burden on animal owners when dog and cat owners have freedom from official paperwork.
3. The proposal that neighbors need to give permission for a citizen to have a beehive (or possibly chickens or other animals) is abhorrent, having to ask "permission" to do something on your own property is a real infringement on our freedoms.
4. Roosters should be banned.
5. There should be a provision for education in this process, perhaps a brochure for potential owners, or even a page on the city's website would be useful. Topics to include would be good poultry breeds for urban areas, planning coops and other habitation, thinking about location and of course, links for more resources and information.
5. We respectfully suggest that the city not approach the urban farming issue from the enforcement/complaint/punitive side of things, but rather, remove this process from the police department and return it back to city planners and the citizens of San Leandro. We understand there has to be a way to deal with problematic owners - absolutely - but the current proposal is all about the possible problems and not about the benefits that urban farming can afford our community. Ms. Sally Barros' proposal should be re-visited and made public, as it seems likely that her proposed ordinance was done after carefully researching ordinances from the cities all around Alameda County, and therefore takes advantage of what already works elsewhere.
Please feel free to email me with any questions or concerns, and thank you for reading this.
Kristine Konrad, Jack and Luke Boreczky and the East Hills 4-H Poultry Project
(Read more Patch articles about Urban Farming.)