Backyard chicken advocate proposes Ridgeview CC&R changes
Roger Taylor wants chickens allowed in El Dorado Hills back yards, and not just on the grill.
He proposes softening rules that currently prohibit the fryer-friendly fowl, citing successful backyard chicken ordinances in exurban communities throughout the state, including the upscale enclaves Orinda, Walnut Creek and Danville.
Taylor, 67, is a retired dentist, a successful real estate investor and co-founder of American River Bank. Locally, he’s best known as board president of the El Dorado Hills Vision Coalition, the nationally top-ranked youth service organization.
At first blush, the man seems like an unlikely advocate for backyard chickens. The back deck of his Ridgeview Village home looks out at Folsom and its lake. A terraced yard beneath that deck has become a regular stop on the garden tour, and has been featured in toney magazines three times in recent years. None of those articles mentioned the lush organic vegetable garden or chicken coup on the bottom terrace.
Taylor and his wife Farah live with one foot in “Valley Living” and “Sacramento Magazine,” and the other firmly planted in the fertile soil of “Mother Earth News” and “Sustainable Living.”
They are “locavores.” They want to know where their food comes from (the closer the better) and also what’s in it (the less additives the better).
Farah is a Phd molecular nutritionist and toxicologist. “We have no idea how many poisons we ingest today,” she said, citing research that links diabetes, early onset puberty and many cancers to antibiotics, pesticides and hormones in the food chain.
“Commercial eggs are produced indoors in factory farms,” she said. “They’re full of that stuff.”
By comparison, the eggs Roger’s eight hens crank out at a rate of about one a day, each, are a virtual super food, she said. “These eggs have one-third less cholesterol, one-quarter less saturated fat, two-thirds more Vitamin A, twice the omega 3 fatty acids, three times more Vitamin E, seven times more beta carotene, and up to six times more Vitamin D.”
The Taylor family fowl are antibiotic and hormone free, and are exposed to minimal residual pesticide, she added.
Roger is a cancer survivor, but said his organic roots predate his prostate problems.
He grew up on his family’s North Sacramento dairy in in the 1950s, and became an avid skier and a regular on Sierra Club outings.
He took up dentistry, established a practice in Fair Oaks and eventually purchased the old Fair Oaks Dairy property on Winding Way, three beautiful acres complete with barn and outbuildings.
As a busy bachelor, he recalls putting cattle on the property simply to keep the weeds down, keeping chickens for the fresh eggs and putting in a garden. He boasted “tomatoes as big as grapefruit and cantaloupes the size of basketballs.”
Chickens are a gardener’s best friend, Roger said. They generate terrific organic fertilizer. Their bedding becomes compost. They eat bugs, and provide a pleasing clucking soundtrack to garden toils.
Roger claims that some of the wild chickens still roaming Fair Oaks Village are descendants of his flock.
Over time he married and raised a family on the old dairy site, replacing the drafty farmhouse and landscaping the entire property before selling it in the early 1990s.
He discovered El Dorado Hills’ Ridgeview neighborhood and eventually purchased a view home on Powers Drive with a back yard full of poison oak and rattlesnakes. It took four years to create the terraced lawns, flower beds and koi ponds, all nestled between dramatic rock outcroppings. A double-high, raised bed organic vegetable garden anchors the bottom terrace.
The hens that now call the garden home generate far more eggs than Roger and Farah can consume. Neighbors enjoy the excess, along with whatever seasonal bounty the garden offers.
But some have complained that his backyard cluckers violate Ridgeview Village 8’s covenants, conditions and restrictions.
Early in 2011 Roger set about getting the rules changed, pitching the benefits of backyard chickens to former CSD General Manager John Skeel, before the matter was subsumed in the tsunami of Skeel’s suspension and eventual firing.
Roger returned to the CSD last month, appealing to the CC&R subcommittee, who gave him six months to get his village CC&Rs amended.
He’s crafted simple changes to the “no livestock” rule. Hens would be allowed — no roosters or other livestock — on lots at least 10,000 square feet, with a minimum 25 foot setback from neighboring homes.
The proposed language prohibits commercial livestock operations, but contains no strict limit on the number of hens, only that they be maintained in sanitary conditions.
The change would only affect the 45 parcels in Ridgeview Village 8, which includes all of Mossridge Way, all of Muse Drive, minus the four parcels at either end, plus 10 homes along Powers Drive near Mossridge.
The approval process requires Roger to convince 33 of his Ridgeview Village 8 neighbors to sign on.
Roger said he hopes his village can lead by example, and points to successful backyard chicken ordinances in San Mateo, Palo Alto, Redwood City, Sunnyvale, San Francisco and Oakland. Closer to home, Sacramento, Roseville and Elk Grove allow chickens.
Urban chicken ordinances typically include rules that ensure the cluckers don’t become a nuisance to neighbors. Taylor must also comply with his own CC&R nuisance clause, boilerplate language often cited in El Dorado Hills’ neighborhood disputes.
He must convince his neighbors that chickens won’t become “an annoyance or nuisance to the neighborhood,” and that nothing the hens do will constitute a “noxious or offensive activity.”
Standing in his garden, Roger gestured to the hens scratching at his feet and opined, “It’s all about sustainability. These guys are just one piece of the puzzle, but they’re a good start.”