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Would it be okay if an O.B. resident kept a couple chickens in their backyard? Rachel Hiner of the Urban Food Network posed that question last week at the monthly meeting of the Ocean Beach Planning Board. Hiner made a presentation that proposed a variance on current San Diego code.

Article 2, Section 42.0709 of San Diego’s municipal code says that as long as you keep your coop at least 50 feet from any residential structure, the law in San Diego allows for the keeping of up to 25 fowl. But for most houses (especially in O.B.), a distance of 50 feet from your neighbor’s house — and yours — may not be possible.

A movement is afoot in a few parts of the U.S. to reduce the legal distance to 20 feet from the nearest neighbor's house and no distance buffer to the owner's house — but that would be for a coop with five hens or less (no roosters).

Members of Urban Food Network and Urban Chickens have been making the rounds to community planning groups, armed with information touting the backyard hen as a green pet. Owners say chickens remove garden pests naturally, provide a family with wholesome protein (in the form of a near-daily egg) and promote self-reliance. And they're even cute.

“I could watch them scratch around and wiggle their butts for hours,” said Hiner, who owns three chickens at her Narragansett Avenue residence in Ocean Beach.

The planning board declined to take a position, preferring to let the information incubate until a later meeting.

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