Rules that would allow Atherton residents to keep a small flock of hens on a half-acre or larger lot will be considered by the City Council when it meets Wednesday, March 16, starting at 7 p.m. in the town's council chambers, 94 Ashfield Road.
Currently, no chickens are allowed on lots of less than two acres. Residents of larger lots can have up to 40 chickens.
The proposed regulations would allow, with a permit, three chickens on lots of between a half-acre (21,780 square feet) and one acre, 10 chickens on lots between one and two acres, and 20 chickens on lots of more than two acres. Schools with an educational program and on more than two acres could keep 40 chickens.
The proposed rules say chicken coops must be set back from property lines at least half the distance of the required side and rear setbacks for a main house. They must also be at least 8 feet away from the main house. The example in the staff report says that on a 200- by 200-foot lot, the chicken enclosure must be at least 25 feet from the sides, and 30 feet from the rear, of the property.
Chicken enclosures, including the coop and run, can't be bigger than 120-square feet and 6-feet tall. Chickens aren't allowed outside the enclosure and roosters are not allowed.
By comparison, in next-door Menlo Park, residents are allowed to keep 50 chickens (or any other poultry including geese, ducks, turkeys, peafowl, guinea fowl, pigeons, squabs and doves) per quarter acre, with no minimum lot size.
Town Planner Lisa Costa Sanders' report laid out a major issue: "While the town seeks to maintain a rural character ... developed properties often tell a different story," she wrote. "While residential in character, many properties are large, expansive, and in many cases, decidedly non-rural."
In other business, the council will also consider whether the town should hire a consultant to design an underground storm water detention basin to go under a new athletic field at Las Lomitas School.
The school is soon to undergo major construction, including a new field, and the district has indicated that it might let the town add the detention basin if it doesn't interfere with the use of the athletic field.
Adding a detention basin to deter flooding was recommended in a recent update to the master plan for the town's drainage system. The town would pay all design and installation costs.
The council will look into moving the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission's water main that's now under town land.
When Atherton started planning a new civic center, planners realized a 36-inch steel water main, owned by the SFPUC and nearly 100 years old, runs through the town's property. The town has since been negotiating with the SFPUC to move the pipe.
The current civic center design avoids placing any buildings over the pipe, so it could remain where it is. However, the SFPUC is now saying it would like to move and replace the pipe, and to have the town help pay the costs.
Town staff recommends Atherton pay the design costs for moving the pipe, estimated at $100,000 to $120,000. Moving the pipe could cost up to $2 million. The new location would be under the road the town plans to build near the train tracks as part of the civic center project.