Personal Beekeeping Viewed as a Honey of an Idea

Glendale zoning officials are now working on an amendment to municipal codes that would allow personal beekeeping in most of the community’s residential zones, based on recommendations by the Sustainability Commission and the City Council.

Under the new code, homeowners with lots smaller than 10,000 square feet would be able to have up to two apiaries, while those with larger lots may be able to have up to five. Various other measures would deal with the placement of the hives in terms of distance from neighboring properties and ground clearance.

The decision saw unanimous approval by the council last week, nearly a year after the panel first considered the issue in response to a complaint filed against a resident.

“I’m a supporter of people having apiaries in this city, obviously within reason and taking into consideration certain things,” Councilman Ardy Kassakhian said.

When enacted, the code change is expected to require apiaries, or hives, to be placed at least 8 feet higher than the elevation of adjacent properties, and also to have a 6-foot barrier installed around the hive. The apiaries will have to be at least 5 feet away from the property line in any direction and at least 20 feet from public rights of way. The city also will likely require them not to be visible from rights of way or private streets.

Hives, “to the extent feasible,” should be placed to minimize interactions with neighboring residents, the Sustainability Commission also recommended. Those with the apiaries also will be permitted to raise only European honeybees and must obtain certification from a beekeeping program requiring at least six hours of training.

Although the specific recommendations largely apply to single-family residential properties, the Sustainability Commission also recommended eventually considering how to apply to permissions to certain multi-family properties.

Glendale has long allowed beekeeping at some locations zoned for recreation, including places near the Sports Complex, near Mayor’s Bicentennial Park and at an open space near Camino San Rafael. Each site has a tenant, and five others are on a waiting list for space to open up.

However, the current discussion was provoked last July, when a resident claimed that a neighbor’s apiary was disruptive. The council quickly began a discussion about permitting a certain level of residential beekeeping, which would allow officials to inspect and regulate sites as well as guide residents on doing it responsibly.

Council members have largely approached permitting the practice through the lens of helping to curb the effects of colony collapse disorder, which has disrupted the global honeybee population since 2006. Falling honeybee populations threaten eco-stability, as the insects are responsible for pollinating about a third of the world’s flowers as well as food-producing plants.

“I think we need to support bee populations and that it’s going to be good for the city,” Councilman Dan Brotman said. “We know biodiversity is critical, and we’re losing it.”

As a result, a National Strategy to Promote Pollinator Health was produced in 2015 by then-President Barack Obama’s administration, according to the city report on this item. Personal apiaries can house up to 80,000 bees, which will travel up to 5 miles to forage flowers and produce an average of 25 pounds of honey in a year.

“I think it’s a positive step toward fighting a major crisis with bee colony collapse,” Kassakhian said. “Bees are incredibly critical to our ecosystem and our communities and having them is a benefit. I do understand the health concerns and safety issues, but living next to someone who just has one or two hives and follows the rules and guidelines won’t cause any harm.”

A number of public commenters phoned in during last week’s meeting, all in support of the ordinance and of beekeeping culture. Neighboring cities such as Los Angeles, Pasadena and Santa Monica also allow residential beekeeping.

“This is one of the rare occasions that every email I have gotten has been in favor of this ordinance,” Mayor Paula Devine noted, prior to last week’s vote.