San Marino lifts ban on backyard chickens

(Times Community News )
January 10, 2013

San Marino residents will now be able to keep backyard chickens after the City Council on Wednesday voted 4-1 to lift the ban, despite one councilman’s concern that it would detract from the “character and ambiance” of the tony community.

Under the new ordinance, San Marino residents who obtain a city-issued “chicken permit” can house up to three of the birds in coops placed at least 35 feet from neighboring homes. Chickens can roam fenced-in yards during the day but must be secured at night.

Roosters are prohibited, as is the slaughter or commercial use of hens.

Councilman Richard Ward, who cast the lone dissenting vote, worried that living near chickens might disturb homeowners.

“I don’t think it’s in keeping with the character and ambiance of the community,” Ward said. “These are farm animals.”

But the majority of his colleagues disagreed.

Councilman Allan Yung said the ordinance’s strict guidelines would prevent the birds from becoming a nuisance.

“Three chickens do not make a farm,” he said. “People keep different kinds of pets. What’s next, banning dogs or cats?”

Councilman Dennis Kneier said he didn’t understand the appeal in keeping chickens, but couldn’t see the harm in a small number.

“You can go down to Costco and buy 18 eggs so cheap it would cost you more to feed the chickens. But my view is if people want to do it and it’s not bothering their neighbors, I don’t have any objection,” he said.

Perhaps the first person to pull a “chicken permit” will be Pam King, the resident who brought the issue to the fore last year in 2011 with a letter to the City Council.

King, an attorney married to a U.S. District Court judge, has already equipped her her homestead with a compost bin, drought tolerant plants and solar panels.

“This is one more step in being cognizant of our carbon footprint and trying to be a smaller consumer,” she said. “Plus, I love the idea of organic eggs and already buy them.”

The new rules were modeled after a 2008 ordinance in La Cañada Flintridge, said San Marino planning and building assistant Amanda Merlo.

Neighboring Pasadena and South Pasadena also allow chickens under strict guidelines.

Since King’s letter in 2011, San Marino officials have held public discussions and received a handful of letters for or against the proposal. Opponents raised concerns that the birds might carry disease or foul odors, fall prey to wildlife or depress property values.

King praised the new ordinance, but acknowledged few may take advantage of it.

“Three chickens might be enough,” she said. “I’ve had neighbors rooting for me, but I don’t know whether it’s because they want to have [their own] chickens."

-- Joe Piasecki, Times Community News

Follow Joe Piasecki on Twitter: @joepiasecki

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