Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Perseverance: The Lesson of the City Chicken

Back in December of 2007, when we were in the thick of post production and racing to meet the film festival deadline on our documentary Mad City Chickens, we were contacted by Doreen Proctor. She was asking for help as she was being told by her County Supervisor to get rid of her small flock of chickens. As we have for people facing similar situations in other communities, we wrote a letter of support but never heard what happened--until now. Here's Doreen's recent email...

Hi Tashai and Robert,

This has taken me a long time to get back to you with the good news.  However, it took almost two years to accomplish my goal.  The goal was to be able to keep my chickens.

You may not even remember me, but a neighbor complained that I was raising chickens.( Filed a complaint anonymously, but I figured it out pretty fast)

I was told by the County Permit and Resource Department that because the zoning code said nothing about having chickens, it meant I couldn't , even tho' they were all over my unincorporated county neighborhood. After many letters to the Editor, phone calls, visits to the County planner, code enforcer and zoning departments, and calls to the County Supervisors, I got a call from the two local newspapers.  They sent out a reporter to collect information on my situation.  also a photographer came out and took front page color photos of me and my chickens.

One of the editors took my case under his wing and got on the phone and got the same answers I got.  Then he talked to the County Supervisor for our area.  He wrote a fantastic editorial about the little community of El Verano that I live in and in which everyone that lives anywhere near here knows that there are many feral chickens roaming the neighborhoods. This area has a rural atmosphere, there are no sidewalks, people have chickens and assume it is okay in the county outside of city limits.  (Ironically you could and can, have chickens in the City of Sonoma)

Several well known people from Sonoma, came out with the Code Enforcement Officer to see my chickens and discuss the issue.  The "enforcer" was adamant.  No chickens. I got a notice giving me 30 days to get rid of them.

Then came a phone call from the Supervisor's office.  She had convinced the Board to make an amendment to allow 6 hens on an R1 zoned lot, low density one unit.  My lot is 7500 Sq. feet.  I just about fainted, I was so happy, and notified the papers.  More interviews, more pictures, in color "Chickens can stay".  I owe this to the Editor of the Index Tribune, because he pursued this cause and now everyone in the county can have the 6 hens, if they are on an R1 zoned lot.

So now my neighbors that have chickens also can breathe a sigh of relief.  I did have to find homes for my roosters, which were very nice guys, real pets and the young ones are real clowns.  I enjoy my chickens so much and am so grateful.

If someone is in my situation, they should not give up, they should, as you mentioned, find chicken friendly people in local government, and in newspapers to help you fight your fight.  It works.

Thanks for your letter of December 6, 2007.  It was about a year ago that the amendment took effect.

Doreen Proctor
Sonoma (El Verano), California

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