After the city’s new Sustainability Commission is assembled, one of its first tasks will be to dive into what it might take to expand beekeeping opportunities in Glendale.
If the city ultimately adds to those opportunities, they’re likely going to be at additional public spaces, and perhaps on properties large enough to accommodate the insects without creating a nuisance for neighbors. Because they would constitute a zoning amendment, the Planning Commission also will have to sign off on any changes that the council would consider.
The discussion this past Tuesday was born of an issue from July, when a resident reported a neighbor’s illegal beehives that she claimed were wreaking havoc on home life and comfort because she is allergic to them. Because the council elected to consider policy amendments as a result, enforcement of the violation has been suspended since that time.
“I know it really stings to have no resolution this evening,” Councilman Ardy Kassakhian said, “but I think so be it. Let’s have that process with the Sustainability Commission and then planning, and stay the enforcement until then.”
Presently, recreational beehives — apiaries — are only allowed in the city’s Special Recreation Zoning districts, which include city parks, the Oakmont and Chevy Chase golf courses and most of the open space hillsides along the Verdugo Mountains, Glenoaks Canyon and Chevy Chase Canyon. In those spaces, there are three apiary sites — Freeway Site A, which is next to the Glendale Sports Complex; Freeway Site C, which is next to Mayor’s Bicentennial Park; and an open space off Camino San Rafael.
The staff report for this item indicated that these sites were selected for being away from residential areas, sufficiently distant from active or passive parks or trails, having limited access or for having vehicular access away from trails. All three sites have tenants and there are five applicants on a waiting list, including the resident whose violation spurred this discussion.
Sites can have up to 100 boxes of beehives, which can peak at 80,000 bees at a time and each produce up to 25 pounds of honey each year. In addition to procuring honey, beekeeping has grown in popularity on account of the reduction in honeybee populations globally.
“In 2006, there began a decline in the numbers of honeybees, which has more recently generated an increased interest in not only bees but in beekeeping,” explained Kristen Asp, a principal planner for the city.
Most of the council was willing to explore additional beekeeping opportunities in town, though not at the expense of the comfort and safety of residents.
“I don’t think we realize how important bees are to our ecosystem and to Earth in general,” Councilman Ara Najarian said. “Global warming has devastated the bee population, which is incredibly important for nurturing flowers and nurturing food.”
Najarian initially suggested tasking the analysis with the Sustainability Commission. Councilwoman Paula Devine, who first asked to examine the issue, said she remained “ambivalent” while knowing enforcement of any regulations was paramount.
“I understand the impact on the agricultural success of our community and the environmental issues,” she said, “but if we do this, we have to be sure that the beekeepers are certified. We have to make sure they’re responsible.”
Councilman Dan Brotman, whose election campaign last year was buoyed by environmental advocacy, suggested echoing cities like Los Angeles, Santa Monica and San Diego in Glendale’s policy.
In L.A., one hive is permitted for every 2,500 square feet of land. Hives cannot be in front yards, must be at least 5 feet from lot lines and 20 feet from public rights-of-way or private streets. A 6-foot-tall barrier or hedge must divide the hives from adjacent lots, or hives must be elevated 8 feet above ground level of the adjacent lot. Their entrances must face away from adjacent lots, water sources must be provided at all times and keepers must register with the county.
“Biodiversity is a critical issue that requires our attention and bees play a positive role,” Brotman said. “At the same time, of course, we don’t want rogue operators and we don’t want problems.”
Kassakhian agreed it was probably in the city’s interest to increase usable space for apiaries in town. The council voted unanimously to send it to the Sustainability Commission.
“We should look at ways of encouraging people to keep bees, but we have to do it as safely as possible,” he said. “Just like we have community gardens, we can allow people to raise bees in more than just the three locations that we have allocated.”
In the meantime, the city will continue non-enforcement of the apiary operation in violation.
“We’re a little stuck between a rock and a hard place,” Community Development Director Philip Lanzafame said. “The family that has the apiary has spent quite a bit of money to erect that, so to ask them to take it down and then, should the council allow it at some point, they’ve got to recreate it. At the same time, we want to address complaints, but our policy has been that if you’re considering it, then we’ll suspend it.”