Urban chickens are allowed in most Bakersfield backyards, following a vote by the city council on Wednesday.
In a 4-3 vote, the council, with council members Willie Rivera, Andrae Gonzales, Bob Smith and Jacquie Sullivan, gave the go-ahead for up to 12 chickens to be raised by families in single-family homes.
The local council decided to allow a scaled number of chickens on each property based on the size of the property, and approved an ordinance that only includes four chickens on properties where the barn is 10 feet from an outside residential building. People who want to raise a maximum of 12 chickens will need a property that has a coop 30 feet from an off-site residence.
Several provisions of the regulation attempted to address potential discomfort that could arise from neighbors who own chickens. Loud roosters are still illegal under the ordinance, while the female chickens are allowed. The ordinance also states that the stalls must be kept clean and odor-free, but that chickens can roam the backyards during the day.
The ordinance affected almost all homeowners in Bakersfield. Previously, the city only allowed chickens to be raised within the city, mainly on land designated for agriculture. The new ordinance expanded the households in which chickens can live to R-1 zones or to almost every single-family home in the city.
The Development Services Department estimated that at least 83,335 parcels within the city will be allowed to have urban chickens under the new ordinance.
Initially, a strong number of supporters urged the council to allow chickens in local backyards. However, at Wednesday’s meeting, a sizeable group spoke out against urban chickens.
“We need to think of our entire community, not someone who has a personal need and opinion that having a chicken in their backyard will improve their lifestyle,” said Gary Simmons.
The Bakersfield Association of Realtors opposed the ordinances, saying that insufficient public discussion and evaluation had entered the process.
“The domino consequences and unintended cumulative effects of such comprehensive regulations are far-reaching, and we do not believe that all possibilities have been fully and properly examined,” wrote Association President Ronda Newport in a letter to the council. “There needs to be clearer lot size restrictions, clearer setbacks, and clearer restrictions to protect the integrity and safety of our neighborhoods.”
Despite the recent surge in the opposition, many city dwellers spoke out in favor of urban chickens at the meeting.
“Support for backyard hens is everywhere in our community,” said MT Merickel, who runs a website that campaigns for the legalization of chickens. “Allowing backyard hens in California and our nation is happening in our current situation because backyard hens are safe.”
During the meeting, a long line of speakers advocated backyard hens. Many simply said they attended the meeting to show their support while also promoting the benefits of property such as food independence and camaraderie.
Smith City Council has been firmly in favor of the Chicken Ordinance since it was introduced to the city council a few months ago and continued its support on Wednesday.
“I think we are a family friendly community and this is a great family activity,” he said during the meeting. Addressing complaints that Bakersfield residents were not following the rules set out in the ordinance, he continued, “I don’t like the idea of building a society around the irresponsible people. We are a free society and I believe to build a society around responsible citizens and freedom. “
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