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Encinitas explores neighborhood produce sales

Chickens roam at Coral Tree Farm and Nursery, an example of urban agriculture in Encinitas. A City Council subcommittee and residents discussed ways to encourage residential farming Aug. 25 at City Hall.
Chickens roam at Coral Tree Farm and Nursery, an example of urban agriculture in Encinitas. A City Council subcommittee and residents discussed ways to encourage residential farming Aug. 25 at City Hall.
( / Jared Whitlock)

How might the city make it easier for residents to sell produce they’ve grown on their properties?

The question took center stage during an Aug. 25 Encinitas City Council subcommittee meeting dedicated to shaping an urban agriculture ordinance.

City laws state that residents can plant crops, but selling that produce requires a $1,600 minor-use permit. In response to those who believe regulations like that are too restrictive, the city recently began working on the agriculture ordinance with the aim of relaxing its decades-old laws.

Council candidate Catherine Blakespear, a vocal advocate of reforming agriculture rules, said homeowners should be able to sell their own produce from roadside stands on their property without special permits.

“We have so many people with gardens and access to fruit, and they could sell those things,” Blakespear said.

Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer said sales rules should strike a balance between the rights of farmers and surrounding neighbors.

“Yes, we support agriculture — it is our heritage,” Shaffer said to around 40 urban agriculture proponents at the meeting, which was held at City Hall.

“And we also have people, who are not in this room, who don’t grow food, and want to live peacefully.”

Shaffer added that the subcommittee is looking for traffic, noise and odor thresholds to determine what farmers can and cannot do in residential areas.

For instance, she said trucks rumbling in the morning through a neighborhood to pick up a farm’s goods probably wouldn’t sit well with residents. But people coming by once a week to pick up food would probably be deemed OK.

Feedback from the subcommittee, made up of Shaffer and Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz, will inform the ordinance. Eventually, it will be presented to the council for consideration.

Eric Larson, executive director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau, said Encinitas already has regulations governing traffic and noise. Consequently, he said, the urban agriculture ordinance doesn’t warrant a lot of extra rules to address impacts.

He added that the amount of food harvested on an acre of land in a year could fit within one or two trucks, far from being a disturbance.

Rather than write a host of new regulations, Larson said a better approach is to pass rules saying residential farm stands can sell only what they have grown.

“Don’t go too far over-regulating yourself,” Larson said.

Several other public speakers echoed his sentiments, saying the city should first write rules based on what’s permitted, and not get too caught up in restrictions.

As opposed to a one-size-fits-all set of rules for urban agriculture, city officials said the city could opt for a tiered approach.

For example, in San Francisco, neighborhood gardens of less than an acre require a $350 permit without a public hearing. But for gardens larger than one acre, the fee is steeper. Public hearings become necessary, and additional permits are required for some zones.

Daron “Farmer D” Joffe, director of development at the Leichtag Foundation Ranch, said other cities throughout the nation have recently passed urban agriculture rules.

So, Joffe said, Encinitas doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel, but could instead pull from various cities’ ordinances and tweak where necessary.

“There’s been a lot of good work done and resources expended by cities across the country that we could leverage,” Joffee said.

Along with residential farming, the ordinance will address rules for community gardens and setbacks for bees and livestock. However, those were only briefly touched on during the meeting.

Beehives are permitted in neighborhoods, but must be kept at least 600 feet from surrounding homes. The buffer is 35 feet for chicken coops and goat pens.

The date for the next urban agriculture subcommittee meeting hasn’t been set. For more information, visit ci.encinitas.ca.us.


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