Status Report, Discussion of Issues
On July 31, 2007, Planning Department staff received a referral from the Monterey County
Board of Supervisors requesting that staff make recommended amendments to the Zoning
Ordinance to limit the number of roosters in residential areas.
Issue: Presently, County Ordinance allows “Small Livestock Farming” and “Animal Husbandry”
without permits in the Medium Residential District (MDR), Low Density Residential District
(LDR), Rural Density Residential District (RDR), and the Limited Agricultural Zoning District
(A). The County’s present definition of “Small Livestock Farming” allows the raising or keeping
of small animals which may include up to 499 of the following: chickens, pigeons, hogs, rabbits,
ducks, geese, guinea fowl, peafowl, goats, sheep, or similar fowl or animals. Present code does
not distinguish roosters from hens, nor does it identify “Crowing Fowl,” which may include
peafowl or others. Numerous complaints of noise and nuisance arising from the keeping of
roosters in residentially zoned areas have been called into the County.
Location of Noise Complaints. The problems in residential neighborhoods are mostly in the
Salinas and North County areas, with complaints concentrated in the Boronda area, Middlefield
Road, Fontes Lane, El Rancho Road, Vierra Canyon, Mallory Canyon, Prunedale and other
Process and Discussions
In the lead up to a Planning Commission Hearing April 9, 2008, staff prepared a Draft Ordinance
and Initial Study/Negative Declaration for proposed amendments to Title 21 (Zoning) of the
Monterey County Code to amend Chapters 21.06, 21.12, 21.14, 21.16, 21.48 and 21.60 to
regulate the keeping of roosters in residential districts and the Limited Agricultural District. (See
Exhibit D). The draft ordinance would have modified sections within each of these chapters to
allow no more than two roosters in these residential districts and the Limited Agricultural
District for the purpose of protecting the public health and welfare from undue noise and
nuisance from crowing roosters in residential areas. A definition for “Rooster” would also be
needed and added to Chapter 21.06 (Definitions) of Title 21. The proposed draft ordinance was
not intended to infringe upon legal farming, permitted commercial operations or be applicable in
the Coastal Zone.
Planning Commission Review:
o At a noticed public hearing on April 9, 2008, the Planning Commission received
extensive public testimony, considered the matter and continued the item to a date
uncertain with direction to staff to convene an Ad Hoc Committee to further explore
Ad Hoc Committee Review:
o Planning staff assembled an Ad Hoc committee of agency representative who have
some jurisdiction over issues related to the keeping and use of roosters and
enforcement. This included the Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney’s Office,
Environmental Health Department, SPCA, Code Enforcement Department, Animal
Control, Animal Services, Agricultural Commissioner’s Office, the Water Resources
Agency and the Planning Department.
o The Ad Hoc Committee met on May 4, 2008, May 19, 2008, June 16, 2008 and July
21, 2008 and discussed the limitations and opportunities of each agency’s authority in
the matter and explored examples of actions and ordinances adopted by other
municipalities within the State of California.
o On August 4, 2008, the Ad Hoc Committee convened an open public meeting
discussion and workshop to discuss the matter. Invitations to the workshop were
given by e-mail, direct mail and by telephone to those persons who had spoken for
and against the matter during the Planning Commission hearing. These persons
included hobbyists, Buena Vista 4-H representatives, the Monterey County Farm
Bureau, and persons who gave testimony that they have been negatively affected by
undue noise and nuisance from crowing roosters in residential areas.
o On August 4, 2008, during the open discussion and workshop, the Ad Hoc Committee
and interested persons discussed how many roosters should be allowed without
permit, what costs would be incurred, how the ordinance would be implemented, and
how a new ordinance would be enforced.
Agriculture Advisory Committee.
o Agriculture Advisory Committee direction from August 29, 2008: After presentation
of the draft ordinance and taking public comment, the Agriculture Advisory
Committee continued the item until September 25th.
o The committee asked that staff consider a reduced fee for an Administrative "rooster
permit;" whether a new and stronger Noise Ordinance would be more appropriate
than rooster control (would include barking dogs, motorcycles and other noise
nuisances, etc.); whether the ordinance should expand to other loud fowl such as
peacocks, etc.; requested that staff meet with breeders to determine how many
roosters they need to continue or practice their hobby; and explore a graduated fee
Other Jurisdictions’ Efforts
Staff and the Ad Hoc Committee researched and staff has attached information addressing how
several other jurisdictions address the keeping of roosters. For example:
In Sacramento County, chickens for personal use are allowed on parcels greater than 10,000
square feet in the Agriculture, Urban Reserve, Industrial Reserve, Agricultural-Residential,
and RD1-7 zones. Single-family homes may apply for a conditional use permit to keep
chickens as a hobby for personal use or food; the application cost is about $4,500 per address
and does not guarantee the application will be approved. (See Exhibit E).
In San Luis Obispo County, in zoning districts that allow fowl, a minimum of 1 acre is
required for fowl and the allowed number varies according to parcel size. A $3,400 Minor
Use Permit issued by management level staff is required to allow more than 20 fowl. (See
In Napa County, prominent livestock owners and leaders formed the Napa County Livestock
Council following a November 2008 Planning Commission hearing that drew 300 persons.
The Napa County Livestock Council proposed steps that would be an alternative to banning
or restricting roosters. The protocol or “steps” to resolving “livestock” complaints involve:
County notification back to the complainant of the Right to Farm Ordinance, Department of
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Health assessing human health and water safety, Animal Control investigating animal
welfare abuse or neglect issues, the Planning Department for Code violations, and then
continued consultation with the Council, who may impart additional recommendations on fly
control, manure management, dust abatement, etc. (See Exhibit G)
In Santa Clara County. An Ordinance was adopted that provides that no person can keep,
maintain or harbor five or more roosters within unincorporated Santa Clara County without
first obtaining a rooster coop permit from the Animal Service Manager, and subject to the
provisions of the County Ordinance. The annual fee for the permit is fixed by resolution of
the Board of Supervisors. No permit is required to keep, maintain or harbor four or fewer
roosters. However, the roosters must be reasonably confined to the property, maintained in a
sanitary condition, and not be creating a public nuisance. (See Exhibit H)
Discussions with the public have not yielded consensus. Various options will result in differing
unknown administrative costs to the County of Monterey.
Hobbyists and animal husbandry organizations, such as 4-H, have resisted any numerical
limits. The first suggested draft ordinance had a numerical limit of two roosters without a
permit. A subsequent discussion to allow four roosters also met resistance.
Fixed numerical limits of roosters may be easier to administer and enforce, rather than
developing a ratio proportionate to property size and acreage. Either approach would
require that a permit be reviewed and enforced by the County.
There are unknown and potentially substantial administrative costs to apply and enforce a
new Ordinance. Applicants wishing to exceed the numerical limit would have to present
plans and make formal applications with the Planning Department.
Presently an Administrative Permit costs approximately $4,300. A customized, possibly
lower fee could be developed, but would involve study and revision of the present fee
ordinance in place.
Exempting certain populations from permit costs, such as 4-H and Future Farmers of
America, may raise objections from others.
A “noisy” rooster maintained by a hobbyist, 4-H member, or other citizen, is still a noisy
Potential Costs to the County.
o There are potential new public costs in the application and enforcement of a new
ordinance, as many agencies with varying degrees of authority, may be needed to
enforce the new ordinance: Code Enforcement, Animal Control, Sheriff’s Office,
Environmental Health, County Counsel, and the Planning Department.
o There may be opportunity for administrative cost recovery for enforcement
actions against violating property owners under new County Code Chapter 1.22.
o Numerous communities have had their “rooster” and “crowing fowl” ordinances
challenged in court. This results in expense to the challengers as well as the
Options, Opportunities and Constraints
With the Board’s concurrence, there are several options. The Board of Supervisors could direct
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1. Put forward an Ordinance, much as it has been presently drafted and suggested, to allow as
many as two or four roosters in any residential district without need for permits. To request
more than two or four (whichever number is decided upon), an applicant would need to apply
for an Administrative Permit that would include a plan to protect the public from undue
noise and nuisance from crowing roosters in residential areas and the Limited Agricultural
Overlay Zone. The opportunities and constraints are:
a. Allows an applicant the freedom to practice and implement their own techniques to
reduce rooster noise sources from adjacent neighbors by their own site plan design.
b. Allows an applicant/hobbyist to demonstrate his or her own techniques and practices
to being a “good neighbor” without undue government restriction. Such measures
may include “taking in” the roosters in the evening in a barn or garage like structure
c. An Administrative Permit costs an applicant approximately $4,300 to process the
application. Additional fees may be applicable if there are environmental concerns
and the need for environmental review and mitigation.
d. The Board could direct staff to revise the County Fee Resolution to craft a reduced
fee or base the fee on actual time spent.
e. Such an Ordinance can be administered and enforced by County agencies and would
give clarity in reducing the allowed number of roosters from 499 to two or four
f. This approach may meet resistance from hobbyists, 4-H and others for the expense
and reduction of current allowances on private property.
2. Put forward an ordinance that allows a ratio of roosters to property size in the Residential
and Limited Agricultural Districts of the County. The opportunities and constraints are:
a. To craft such an ordinance, the Agricultural Commissioner’s office, Environmental
Health Department, and Animal Control division would need to continue to assist the
Planning Department in determining hard and fast numbers and the appropriate
number roosters on a given property size.
b. The opportunities and constraints as listed in the above statement (1.a-f) would also
still apply as to the need for review or/and Administrative Permit subject to the
submittal of site plans, applicant proposals and payment of fees.
3. Develop an ordinance that addresses all “Crowing Fowl,” whether that be roosters,
peacocks or others. The opportunities and constraints are:
a. This could be modeled after the Ordinance that was recently challenged and
overturned in San Benito County. Monterey County could remove or modify the
provisions that were invalidated by the court (allowing the County to physically enter
such properties without prior consent) (Source: Hollister Freelance News April 2009).
b. The opportunities and constraints as listed in the above statement (1.a - f) would also
apply as to the need for review or/and Administrative Permit subject to the submittal
of site plans, applicant proposals and payment of fees.
4. Develop an ordinance that ties the number of roosters to the number of hens on the
property. For example, if a “proper” ratio of roosters to hens is 1:20 or 1:25, then this
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would mean that in order to allow 10 roosters on a given property, 200 to 250 hens would
need to be present. The opportunities and constraints are:
a. This may encourage persons to add hens to their property and thereby increase the
overall numbers in a given situation, which may be counter to the purposes of
reducing noise and nuisance in residential zoning districts.
b. May not be supported by hobbyists and others who wish to breed show cocks or just
c. Could be combined with another ordinance. The County may choose to allow the
1:20 or 1:25 ratio without permits or further review – and then provide an
Administrative Permit process as described above for those persons who wish to
exceed those ratios.
d. The opportunities and constraints as listed in the above statement (1.a-f) would also
still apply as to the need for review or and Administrative Permit subject to the
submittal of site plans, applicant proposals and payment of fees
5. Work with the Environmental Health Department to revise and enhance the County’s
Noise, Nuisance or Animal Control Ordinances under the Health Department’s authority.
The opportunities and constraints are:
a. Early Board direction was to take a land use approach, and develop zoning
b. The Health Department and Animal Control services are very constrained fiscally.
6. Follow the Santa Clara County example. The opportunities and constraints are:
a. The Santa Clara Ordinance allows up to four roosters without need for permits.
b. The Santa Clara Ordinance requires an Administrative Permit for five or more
c. Their ordinance is succinct by design, and they have approached the ordinance
strictly as a noise abatement issue.
d. The Santa Clara Ordinance has been in effect for more than a year. As of May 2008,
they had received no applications for permits and no requests for administrative
hearings to maintain more than four roosters. They have successfully abated four or
five rooster operations.
e. Currently, the Santa Clara Ordinance is complaint driven. A notice is placed on the
property advising the property owner they have 30 days to either obtain a permit or
abate the noise problem (remove roosters from the property). This posting is followed
with a letter. The property owner is advised that they have the right to an
(Source: Lisa Hoefler, Director of Operations, SPCA Monterey County).
7. A blend of any the above approaches.
Staff recommends that the Board of Supervisors direct staff to follow the Santa Clara County
example and direct staff to customize a Monterey County ordinance to be specific to the Medium
Density, Low Density, Rural Density Residential and Limited Agricultural Districts. Such an
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ordinance should also include the specific performance standards that can be used as criteria for
approval or denial of an Administrative Permit, such as:
o Require manure management plans and practices that are clean
o Demonstrate that water runoff will not violate any codes or become a nuisance
o Noise / crowing shall not be a nuisance to the neighbors and neighborhood. This
criteria would be tied back to or directly mimic animal nuisance noise provisions in
Title 8 of the Municipal Code.
o Minimum property sizes for the keeping of roosters by district.
o Setbacks of coops from property lines or adjacent residential structures.
Once drafted, the Initial Study reflecting the effects of the new draft ordinance would need to be
revised and updated by staff and recirculated for public review and comment.
This staff recommendation for Board direction is supported by Lisa Hoefler, Director of
Operations, SPCA Monterey County.
o Direct staff to customize an Administrative “Rooster” Permit fee by suggesting a
revision to the present fee resolution in place.
o Direct staff to explore or revisit the Code allowances for other poultry county-wide
that presently allow up to 499 chickens, pigeons, hogs, rabbits, ducks, geese, guinea
fowl, peafowl, goats, sheep, or similar fowl or animals.
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