Planning Commission to weigh in on agriculture ordinance


The Encinitas Planning Commission will soon register support or opposition to a proposed urban agriculture ordinance, nearly six months after the commission said the ordinance leaves too many questions unanswered.

On March 21, the city’s urban agriculture subcommittee met to go over the revamped ordinance ahead of the Planning Commission meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. on March 31 at Encinitas City Hall.

The March 21 meeting notably covered the subcommittee’s proposal to take San Diego County beekeeping rules and extend them to more Encinitas households.

County rules passed in October allow two hives within 25 feet of roads and property lines and 35 feet of neighboring homes without a permit. City code only allows beekeeping in areas that are zoned for very low density, but the subcommittee wants these county rules to apply to all single-family residential zones.

Councilman Tony Kranz, who is on the subcommittee with Councilwoman Catherine Blakespear, said the city has traditionally followed the county’s lead on beekeeping, so it’s natural to allow residents to “keep bees per county standards.”

Last fall, the subcommittee reworked the ordinance to focus on making it easier and less expensive to start commercial farms, community gardens and residential farm stands. These operations now require a $1,600 minor-use permit, while the subcommittee is pushing for a simplified $250 agriculture permit.

Originally, the subcommittee sought to ease livestock setbacks — the distance chicken coops and goat pens must be kept from neighboring homes. However, it reversed course and decided to keep current livestock buffers in place. The rules now require a 35-foot setback for raising up to 10 chickens, a distance that means only those who have large backyards can keep chickens without getting city approval.

Kranz and Blakespear have said city livestock rules don’t seem to be broken, and that their main goal is relaxing permitting for upstart farms.

The Planning Commission’s input could prove influential when the matter heads to the full council for a final vote at an undetermined date.

In August, the subcommittee’s draft ordinance went before the commission, and commissioners voted to postpone the ordinance after expressing concern that the ordinance could spur neighborhood conflicts. They also wondered why an ordinance is necessary in the first place.

The subcommittee has said it simply wants to encourage new commercial farmers, as well as bring the benefits of agriculture to more people.

At its March 21 meeting, the subcommittee also reassured a handful of commercial growers in attendance that the ordinance wouldn’t change greenhouse rules.

Commercial growers last year were concerned that the ordinance defines greenhouses, unintentionally triggering the city having to approve new greenhouses or greenhouse repair. That language was struck from the ordinance.