Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Hayward Residents Says "Leave Our Chickens Alone!"

 
 
HAYWARD -- Stay out of our backyards and leave our chickens alone, a group of residents told city staff at an informal meeting Tuesday.
"Every Hayward neighborhood is full of chickens, and they're not a problem," said Didacus Ramos.

The city's rules for raising hens are so restrictive they effectively ban chickens in most residential neighborhoods. In response to increasing inquiries as the urban farm movement grows, Hayward is considering whether to loosen those regulations.

The city's regulations do not differentiate between larger animals, such as horses, and smaller ones, including chickens; all are classified as livestock.

A stable -- or chicken coop -- must be set back 20 feet from the property line and 40 feet from neighboring homes. But many Hayward backyards are only 20 feet deep.
Chickens are allowed on larger lots in the city's agricultural zones, mostly in the Hayward hills. But a city permit to raise hens is $500, which isn't chicken feed, noted those at the meeting.

"You can require permits, but people are not going to go get them, regardless if it's $500 or $5," Marcy Timberman said.

Ramos and others said the city should drop hen-raising permits altogether. "Having livestock in our backyards, that's our responsibility. I think it's a waste of our money and a waste of your time to issue permits," he said. "The chickens are not a problem; they're not creating a hazard."

Hayward assistant planner Michael Christensen acknowledged many people already are raising hens in the city. "We don't have a lot of properties that have permits, but we have a lot of properties that have chickens. They have had them for years, and we never hear about them," he said.

Most of those at the meeting agreed the ban on roosters should stay. If there are complaints about hens, the city should be able to respond. City planners will discuss revising the ordinance with the Planning Commission and City Council in September. A proposal could come as early as October, Christensen said.

A number of cities allow chickens, including San Leandro, Fremont, Oakland and Berkeley. San Leandro's approval in 2013 came after four years of debate. Some unincorporated areas of Alameda County also allow backyard chickens.

Moraga is considering an ordinance to not only allow chickens, but also let hen owners slaughter their livestock. It is patterned after a similar ordinance in Lafayette.

Some of the 20 or so people at the meeting also asked for the city to lift its ban on bees. Hives only are allowed on lots zoned for agriculture or in some open spaces along the shoreline. "Bees are critical to our survival," said Frank Goulart. Hayward could require beekeepers to register their bees, as Alameda County does, said Rick Hatcher, a beekeeper and member of the Ashland Cherryland Food Policy Council.

"It's the dogs I hear about at our neighborhood association meetings," Goulart said. "Dogs have to be snarling to get a response from the city. And the city is worried about chickens and bees?"

Story courtesy of Rebecca Parr.

 
 
 
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