An article in the Contra Costa Times, (“Urban Goats” March 23, 2011) remind me that I am often asked about Richmond’s ordinances related to urban farming.
According to Richmond Municipal Code (RMC) Chapter 9.24, there is no prohibition for keeping any animals as long as they do not cause a nuisance (RMC 9.24.010 and 9.24.020).
A “noise disturbance” is defined as a nuisance.
The only exception is for dogs. There is generally a prohibition on keeping more than three dogs, at which time the premises are defined as a “kennel,” and require a permit (15.04.020(80). “’Kennel’ means any lot, building or dwelling in which more than three dogs, more than four months of age are kept and any building containing two or more dwelling units, including apartment houses and condominiums, in which more than two dogs, more than four months of age are kept in any of the dwelling units. (See also Section 15.04.910.080.F.)”
There has also been an urban myth that it is illegal to maintain a vegetable garden in a front yard, or to cultivate native plants in a front yard that tends to look “seedy” in the late summer and fall. The weed abatement ordinance (RMC 9.50.090(b) defines a nuisance as existing on “Property on which weeds exist outside of a managed landscape or garden area where such plants are purposefully cultivated, propagated, and controlled; or where weeds or other vegetation pose a risk of harm to the public, or constitute visual blight, or reduce the aesthetic appearance of the neighborhood, or are offensive to the sense, or are detrimental to the use and enjoyment of nearby properties, or which reduce nearby property values.”
While one could make an argument about visual blight for a native plant garden gone to seed, as long as it is within a “managed landscape or garden area where such plants are purposefully cultivated, propagated, and controlled,” it would be difficult to prove that it is a nuisance unless it is totally neglected.
There is no specific prohibition on roosters, but it would be hard to imagine a rooster that does not violate the prohibition on noise disturbance. It all depends on the neighbors.
Barking dogs continue to befuddle neighbors. While Richmond, like other Contra Costa cities, has assigned enforcement of animal laws to the County Animal Services Department, the Richmond police Department Richmond can enforce the noise ordinance – including complaints about barking dogs.
The pertinent Code extracts are shown below:
9.24.010 - Premises confining animals and fowl to be maintained in neat and sanitary condition.
Wherever animals, including fowl, may be tethered, corralled, confined, sheltered or fed, the premises shall be maintained in a neat and sanitary condition so that no nuisance due to unsightliness, odor or pest breeding or harborage shall be caused by such animals or premises.
No animals shall be allowed to roam at large on any public street, alley, highway or other public place.
All barns or stables intended for or presently used to shelter livestock which are now erected and maintained, or may be erected, constructed, altered or repaired within the City of Richmond shall conform to the requirements of the zoning ordinance, the building Code, and all other applicable laws of the City. Further, any barn or stable to be erected, constructed, altered or repaired shall be so designed as to be in accordance with the following specifications:
(a) Stall floors shall be constructed with a four inch concrete floor, with a fall of not less than one-fourth of an inch to the foot; each stall floor shall be covered with two inch by four inch, or two inch by six inch planks, laid one-half inch apart on removable frames.
(b) Gutters shall be of cement, with four inch outlets to be connected with properly trapped drain to public sewer or approved private sewage disposal system.
(c) All stables shall be provided with outside ventilation of not less than one square foot of open space for each single stall.
(d) All stall floors shall drain into gutters. Openings from gutters and sumps shall be protected by iron strainers set in iron frames so as to be removable. Drainage pipe shall not be less than four inches in diameter. Catch basins must be constructed of masonry or iron and be at least two feet in any internal dimension.
9.24.020 - Barns and stables—Bins for manure; distance from dwellings.
Every owner, lessee or occupant of a building or premises used for a barn or stable shall provide the same with a fly-tight bin for manure, pending its removal, of such dimensions as to contain all accumulations of manure and barn cleanings, and no manure or barn cleanings shall be allowed to accumulate on floors or adjacent grounds; no such bin shall be built, kept or maintained nearer to any adjoining house than one hundred feet, and then the contents thereof shall be removed from the said bin and said bin thoroughly cleaned at least once every seven days, and oftener if the director of public health shall so direct and order.
No manure or barn cleanings shall be stacked or piled or caused or permitted to be stacked or piled for any fertilizing purposes on any truck farm or garden in the City of Richmond, within one hundred feet of any place used in whole or in part for dwelling purposes, unless stored in a closed bin covered to prevent breeding and access of flies thereto.
No owner, lessee or occupant shall keep in an unsanitary condition or improperly ventilated any barn or stable or premises adjacent thereto or in connection therewith.
No stable shall be erected or constructed within the City of Richmond at a distance of one hundred feet or less from the door or window of any dwelling.
No chicken coop, house or pen, nor any structure used for the containment of fowl, including pigeons, shall be kept at a distance of twenty feet or less from the door or window of any dwelling.
9.52.090 - Prohibited noises. (a)
It is hereby declared unlawful and a public nuisance for any person, firm, association or corporation to cause, create or allow to be caused or created anywhere within the City any noise which is a noise disturbance or any of the following:
(5_ Animals. Keeping or maintaining animals, or permitting animals to be kept or maintained upon any premises owned, occupied or controlled by any person, so as to create a noise disturbance or cause any violation of this chapter.
9.50.090 - Nuisances specified.
It is declared unlawful and a public nuisance for any person owning, leasing, occupying or having charge or possession of any premises in this City to maintain such premises or to permit such premises to be maintained in such a manner that any one or more of the conditions or activities described in the following subsections are found to exist:
(b) Property on which weeds exist outside of a managed landscape or garden area where such plants are purposefully cultivated, propagated, and controlled; or where weeds or other vegetation pose a risk of harm to the public, or constitute visual blight, or reduce the aesthetic appearance of the neighborhood, or are offensive to the sense, or are detrimental to the use and enjoyment of nearby properties, or which reduce nearby property values.
(Amended by Ordinance No. 32-97 N.S.)
(54) "Domestic animals" mean small animals of the type generally accepted as pets that are customarily kept for personal use or enjoyment within the home or yard, such as dogs, cats, rabbits, canaries or parrots.
(80)"Kennel" means any lot, building or dwelling in which more than three dogs, more than four months of age are kept and any building containing two or more dwelling units, including apartment houses and condominiums, in which more than two dogs, more than four months of age are kept in any of the dwelling units. (See also Section 15.04.910.080.F.)
By Jennifer Bleyer
New York Times
Posted: 03/22/2011 10:00:00 AM PDT
Updated: 03/22/2011 11:43:50 AM PDT
When Heidi Kooy bought her two Nigerian dwarf goats last year, she was flush with fantasies of fresh raw milk and homemade cheese, yogurt and ice cream.
Yet she admits that raising them in her San Francisco backyard has its challenges. The goats mangled her white tiger nectarine tree, gnawed her redwood fence posts, gorged on her grapevines, swallowed her Victorian tea roses like candy and tore off the waterproofing mat under the siding on her house.
She lives a half-mile from Interstate 280 in the Excelsior district of San Francisco, up the street from Taqueria La Iguana Azul and Geneva Pizza, on a block of pastel Marina-style houses that stand shoulder to shoulder. Reluctant to attract stares from her neighbors, she regularly loads the animals into her car and drives them to John McLaren Park, nearly a mile away, to exercise them.
And in September, one goat spent several weeks covering Kooy with bruises and scratches whenever she approached its udder, an experience that she described on her blog as "pure milking hell."
Kooy, an ebullient 41-year-old general contractor, is undeterred.
"I think we need to relax our cultural walls that relegate agriculture to the country, and that includes small livestock," she said on a recent Friday morning, clomping in rubber boots through her 1,000-square-foot yard, where she also tends an organic vegetable garden, six fruit trees and four egg-laying hens. "It's part of re-envisioning food production in the urban landscape. You just have to keep things clean."
Dairy goats are becoming the next frontier for some urbanites eager to produce their own food. Although the animals are illegal in many cities, Kooy unearthed a San Francisco health department clause that allows two goats per household. Aspiring goat-keepers in Portland, Ore., as well as Oakland and Berkeley, have been thrilled to discover similar goat-friendly ordinances. In other cities, enthusiasts are lobbying for more-lenient regulations.
Not in our back yards
But despite the best efforts of their boosters, goats seem unlikely to enjoy the popularity achieved in recent years by backyard chickens and rooftop bees. Even in cities and towns where those creatures are permitted, the idea of braying ruminants as neighbors crosses a line for many residents and civic officials, who consider them dirty, noisy, smelly or simply unsightly.
Brooke Salvaggio and her husband, Dan Heryer, both 28, had been farming in the backyard of Salvaggio's grandfather's house in a residential section of Kansas City, Mo., for two years before they introduced three miniature goats to the 2½-acre property in 2009. It was only a matter of months before the city's animal control department showed up and they were fined $300.
The couple requested a variance, which led to a heated hearing at City Hall, where, Salvaggio recalled, "all these neighbors we'd never talked to appeared out of the woodwork and were giving these god-awful testimonies."
One, Kathleen Oades-Kelly, a therapist whose backyard abutted the makeshift farm, said that she was alarmed by the animals' bothersome noise and odor, as well as the chance that there might be as many as nine kids living there each spring after the goats were bred.
John Kelly, her husband, fretted that the goats might bring parasites to the neighborhood, and bemoaned that he could see them from his screened-in porch while he was drinking coffee and reading the newspaper during the warmer months.
Other neighbors worried that the goats might affect their property values. The city voted against allowing Salvaggio and Heryer to keep them.
The goats were exiled to a small farm in rural Kansas. Salvaggio and Heryer, meanwhile, bought a 13-acre parcel next to a trucking plant elsewhere in Kansas City and successfully petitioned the city to have it rezoned from residential to agricultural use. They moved their farm and took their goats there legally in October.
The exact number of cities where it's lawful to keep goats is unknown, although officials at national goat organizations and registries estimate that it's small, compared with the dozens of cities and towns where chickens and bees are legal.
"I would say a trickle of cities have or are trying to get goat laws passed," said Donna Geiser, president of the Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association in Wilhoit, Ariz., a group that promotes a dairy-goat breed favored by those with modest yards. "The stigma about goats is that they're smelly and eat tin cans. People are thinking about them, but they certainly haven't caught up to the chickens yet."
Some city dwellers aim to change that. Three years ago, Jennie Grant, 46, a gardener from Seattle, established the Goat Justice League (motto: "I'm Pro-Goat and I Vote") to lobby for the legalization of goats there.
She succeeded in persuading the City Council to change the rules, and since then, 36 goats have been licensed in Seattle. They include Grant's own Oberhasli runt and miniature LaMancha, which scamper around a 400-square-foot pen in her yard facing Lake Washington, where they look across the water at Bill Gates' estate ("I wonder if Bill Gates ever looks at my goats") and fill her Mason jars with two gallons of high butterfat milk a day during their production peak, much of which she makes into chevre.
"Suddenly, you have a quart of goat cheese every three days," Grant said, chronicling some recent creations from her dairy bounty: pizza with caramelized onions and goat cheese, rosemary goat cheese souffle, goat cheesecake with a hazelnut crust. "It really changes your cooking."
It ain't hay
Inspired by Seattle's victory, goat fanciers across the nation are pursuing similar campaigns. But many would-be goatherds never maneuver such mazes because they abandon the idea of keeping goats as soon as they learn what it entails.
In Berkeley, a one-day workshop called Urban Goats 101 has filled up since BioFuel Oasis, a farm supply store and biodiesel station, began offering it last year. Novella Carpenter, who teaches the class, said it "is about managing expectations and really kind of scaring people."
Among dairy goats' needs are access to a livestock veterinarian, a consistent supply of high-nutrient hay and a stud service for breeding -- none too easy to come by in a city, said Carpenter, who has raised goats at her Oakland home for three years and chronicled the experience in her book "Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer."
Most pressing is that they typically need to be milked twice a day, every day. The animals' hooves and horns must be trimmed, and Carpenter recommends a secure pen with walls about 5 feet high to prevent them from bounding away and "destroying the things you love."
"I'm not just saying 'Goats are great, go get some,' " Carpenter said "It's so much work to have goats. At the end of my class, people say, 'Oh, my God, I had no idea it was so complicated.' "
Urban Goats 101
Berkeley's BioFuel Oasis offers a variety of classes in urban farming, including beekeeping and raising chickens, rabbits and goats in your backyard. The next urban goat class will be May 22, but other upcoming workshops include an urban farm tour April 3, and backyard beekeeping April 17. For details, visit www.biofueloasis.com.