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Urban Agriculture Initiative stirs up some noise

Posted: April 13th, 2012 | Communities, Homes & Garden, Top Story | No Comments

By Monica Garske | SDUN Reporter

Mission Hills resident Rachel Smith is raising two chickens thanks to the Urban Farming Initiative, and a neighbor, Chloe Glaidish plays with them every day after school. (Photo by Rachel Smith)

With District Three Councilmember Todd Gloria’s Urban Agriculture Initiative now in effect, allowing Uptown residents to raise certain farm animals in their backyards, some residents are concerned over the potential increase in noise.

The new initiative allows single-family homes to keep and maintain beehives, a chicken coop with up to five chickens but no roosters, and a shed with up to two miniature goats, provided City regulations for animal care are followed.

City regulations state a chicken coop must be located at least five feet from side property lines and 13 feet from the rear property line. Mini goats must be dehorned, kept in a shed that is easily accessed and cleaned by owners, and male goats must be neutered. Each shed must provide a minimum of five square feet of space per goat.

The initiative touts one significant benefit associated with raising chickens and goats at home: having fresh eggs and milk. Five healthy hens could supply approximately 30 eggs per week, meeting the needs of a family of four, according to City documents.

Gloria said the idea was brought to him at a Coffee with your Councilmember meeting in 2009.

“A couple of North Park neighbors told me about the challenges they faced because they wanted to raise a couple chickens for eggs in their small yard. I looked into the matter further and realized many San Diegans were dealing with similar problems,” Gloria said. “I am incredibly proud that [this initiative] will allow more people to keep small numbers of animals on their property and strengthen their connection to their food.”

Some Uptown residents are concerned about animal noise in their neighborhoods, but Gloria said he does not see that being an issue.

“Chicken and goat noise will be treated the same as cat and dog noise is currently. Noise that is a nuisance would be addressed by the Neighborhood Code Compliance Department,” Gloria said.

Neighborhood Code Compliance Department Project Supervisor Tony Khalil, who handles animal noise complaints, said no farm animal-related complaints stemming from the new initiative have been filed with his office.

If someone wants to file a complaint about goat or chicken noise coming from a neighboring home, Khalil said a formal animal noise complaint form must be completed and turned in, just as someone would with a complaint about a noisy cat or dog.

Khalil said the process requires at least three adjacent property owners to support the noise complaint, at which point the animal noise is considered a “public nuisance.” After the group files the complaint, the City reviews it and the owner is notified. If the proper steps are followed, Khalil said a complaint could be typically resolved within 10 days.

Currently there are no special regulations regarding goat and chicken noise, nor plans to revise the current animal noise regulations to include farm animals, Khalil said.

Hillcrest resident Angela Pennella said she recently finished dealing with a longtime animal noise problem in her neighborhood that left her with a major headache.

Pennella, who works from home, said her next-door neighbor owned a cat that would meow at all hours. She said the cat was kept outside in a cage on the neighbor’s balcony, and everyone in the area could hear it.

Pennella and her roommate called the City to make an animal noise complaint, but she said the process took a long time to get resolved.

“Ultimately someone came to haul the cat away, but for a long time, the noise interrupted my ability to focus and work from home. It was a total disruption to our lives,” she said.

Pannella said she is concerned that if it was complicated to file an animal noise complaint against a cat, taking action against a goat or chicken could be even more difficult for residents.

Mission Hills resident Rachel Smith started raising chickens on her residential property two weeks ago and said she is taking every precaution to keep her coop from disturbing her neighbors.

“I’ve already talked to all my neighbors about our chickens and they’re okay with it. I’m very conscious of the fact that we live in tight quarters and the last thing I want to do is disturb others,” Smith said.

Smith and her husband own two chickens and said their family is looking forward to having fresh eggs.

“A lot of the appeal for us is freshness, but we also want our kids to see and understand where their food comes from. As for the noise, it’s really not an issue for us, other than some mild clucking. I can’t imagine our chickens are louder than the noise a dog, cat or person might make,” she said.

Smith said for now she’s sticking to raising two chickens, but if she gets more backyard space, she might consider adding a mini goat to her family. “I’ve heard chickens are the gateway farm animal, so we’ll see,” she said.

For more information about the Urban Agriculture Initiative, visit sandiego.gov.

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