A proposal to allow hobbyist beekeepers in Los Angeles to maintain hives in their backyards won the support of the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee today.
The panel approved a draft ordinance setting up rules for urban beekeeping, but under council rules, the City Attorney’s Office still needs to prepare a final version.
Councilman Jose Huizar, who chairs the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, said he plans to waive the ordinance out of committee once the final draft of the ordinance is prepared, so it will go directly to a vote by the full 15-member City Council.
Under the draft ordinance, beekeeping would only be allowed in certain areas of a single-family property, essentially restricted to the backyard.
The rules also call for beekeepers to raise walls or hedges that are high enough to keep bees within their hive area and to maintain a water source near the hives so the bees would not need to venture outside of the beekeeper’s backyard to get hydrated.
If the City Council approves the ordinance, Los Angeles would join Santa Monica in legalizing so-called “backyard” or “urban” beekeeping. The hobby also is allowed in other urban areas such as New York City and Denver.
The Los Angeles Planning Department and the City Attorney’s Office created the proposed rules after the City Council ordered a study last February into ways to legalize backyard beekeeping.
The council action came in response to a growing chorus of Angelenos advocating for “urban beekeeping,” including from some residents in the Mar Vista area who said increased beekeeping helps to fight a troubling, downward trend in the bee population that could threaten the health of local agriculture.
Some council members voiced concerns, however, that the bees could pose a danger to residents, with then-Councilman Bernard Parks referring to the National Geographic documentary “Attack of the Killer Bees,” about a dangerous variety of bees that appear to be encroaching into southern United States.
Planning officials who consulted bee experts over the last year wrote in a recent city report that the variety of honey bees used in beekeeping are “non-aggressive,” but may “sting in self-defense of their hive if it is approached.”
The report adds that when the bees leave their hives to collect food — potentially coming in contact with humans — they “do not become defensive or aggressive or have reason to sting.”
The report also noted that Los Angeles already averages about 8 to 10 feral bee hives per each square mile. The addition of backyard honey bees would not cause a shortage of bee food supply in the city due to the area’s steady climate, but if there were a shortage, the feral populations would likely leave the area to find alternative sources of food supply, according to the bee experts consulted by planning officials.