ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council has taken the first step toward enacting an ordinance that would craft new urban agricultural policies in the city.
And after two years of debate and discussion, the council was still divided on its passage.
The City Council voted 3-2 to approve the introduction of the ordinance, which, among other things, creates a new administrative permit for urban agriculture activities and spells out the following agricultural activities that property owners could do by right or with the new ag permit, including:
• Have farms smaller than an acre
• Host farmers markets with 15 or fewer vendors at churches, schools and community centers,
• Set up fruit stands of 120 square feet or smaller and operate them 12 hours a week.
Council members Catherine Blakespear, Tony Kranz and Lisa Shaffer voted in support of the ordinance, which they said was both a nod to Encinitas’ past and present, as urban agriculture has become en vogue throughout the country.
Mayor Kristin Gaspar and Councilman Mark Muir voted against the ordinance. The two said there were aspects of the ordinance they could support, such as the streamlined permitting process, which is cheaper ($250) and less arduous than the minor use permit that residents traditionally had to obtain for these activities.
But it was other aspects of the code — namely the expansion of where people could have beehives in the city — that concerned both council members. Beekeeping is currently only allowed in rural residential areas of the city, largely in Olivenhain.
The new code expands the county’s beekeeping regulations to all residential areas, which Gaspar and Muir said would expose residents to potential danger. Shaffer, however, likened the potential for danger of bees to living next to someone with a vicious dog.
“I think the analogy to dog keeping is the same, you don’t know what vicious dog or gentle dog you might be moving in next to,” Shaffer said. “What happens next door you don’t get to control… Dogs bite and bees sting.”
“Dogs certainly aren’t flying around, it’s a little bit different scenario,” Gaspar said. “We are relying on people to maintain their hives and I believe there is a portion of people that would maintain them and a portion of people that would not, and then it becomes a public safety issue.”
Gaspar also expressed concern with the allowance of roadside stands in residential communities, which she said, without design standards and shorter amounts of time, could become problematic.
“Now I am going to have to look at my neighbor’s roadside stand seven days a week and that’s not OK with me,” she said.
City officials have grappled with the issues surrounding urban agriculture for several years, as they have tried to craft rules that would strike a balance between encouraging agriculture while protecting the suburban values of neighbors.
Currently, the city’s rules and codes are largely silent on agriculture, which for years played a role in the delay of one group’s attempt to create the city’s first community garden and caused a months-long controversy in 2014 between Coral Tree Farm, a farming operation on Park Lane and the surrounding neighbors.
The council began formally crafting the ordinance in 2014, around the same time the Coral Tree Farm controversy had reached its height.
The council also directed staff to return with a proposed change to the city’s grading ordinance, which currently hamstrings certain agricultural activities that require the importation of soil, which under the current ordinance would trigger the need for a minor-use permit.
Officials have discussed the agricultural ordinance at more than a dozen meetings at the planning commission, subcommittee and city council levels since 2014.