San Diego city planners have released proposed law changes that would make it easier to be a farmer within city limits. They include allowing backyard chickens, miniature goats and a new kind of business called a retail farm that is combination between a farm and store.

The new rules are intended to promote urban agriculture within city limits, and planners will present them to a City Council committee on Wednesday.

They’re the city’s latest effort to encourage local food production. Earlier this year, the council approved a law that allows community gardens to be planted on most vacant land in San Diego. Local food advocates had been pushing the city to eliminate the almost insurmountable hurdles that had limited gardens citywide.

Here are the latest proposed changes, which require full council approval:

Chickens: Current rules allow 25 chickens on single family lots as long as they’re kept 50 feet away from the nearest home, including the owner’s. That makes them illegal across much of the city. The new rules would allow up to 15 chickens with less strict distance requirements. Sorry, roosters, you wouldn’t be allowed.

Goats: Only miniature goats would be allowed on single-family properties, and the owner would be required to have only two (for the goats’ sake — they’re social beasts). They would have to be de-horned, the males neutered, and kept in a shed or enclosure without objects that would allow the goats to climb out. Milk and cheese they produced could not be sold because of city concerns about raw dairy products.

Retail Farms: The rules would create a new kind of business that is a mix between a farm and a store on commercial property. Farmers could grow produce and sell it on site as long as they didn’t use pesticides and had a structure for selling what they grow. They could also allow customers to pick their own. The farms could not exceed four acres.

Produce Stands: The new rules would allow full-time produce stands on private commercial property, or on public property if the owner had liability insurance.

Farmers Markets: Weekly farmers markets would be allowed on private property one day per week, Monday through Friday, with the property owners’ permission. Current rules require expensive permits for farmers markets on private property, but the new rules would not. Markets are easier to start on public property, which wouldn’t change.

Bees: Planners are still researching what kinds of restrictions should be in place for keeping honey bees, including minimum lot sizes and safety rules. They haven’t proposed specific rule changes yet.

The changes have been in the works for several months, since local food advocates started working with planners to loosen restrictions that make it hard for city residents to produce their own food.

On Wednesday, they plan to get feedback from city council members, with the hope of getting the rule changes approved by the end of January.

The public hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 5, on the 12th floor of City Hall, 202 C St.

Adrian Florido is a reporter for He covers San Diego’s neighborhoods. What should he write about next?

Contact him directly at or at 619.325.0528.

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Adrian Florido

Adrian Florido is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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