City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

August 30, 2011
Sacramento on the verge of allowing backyard chickens

It appears Cowtown is about to become Chickentown.

The City Council seems poised to approve an ordinance tonight that will allow residents to keep laying hens in backyards. That's sure to please members of the "slow food" movement and those already keeping chickens.

While some residents still have their reservations, one person who has changed his mind and now supports backyard chickens is Mayor Kevin Johnson. And all it took was a chat with one of Northern California's best-known chefs.

Johnson spoke Monday with Alice Waters, founder of Berkeley's Chez Panisse. Waters is a chief member of the slow food movement, which advocates for locally-grown products and healthy, organic food.

According to the mayor, Waters told him Monday that he "will absolutely vote yes on this item."

Waters told Johnson there should be "a strong commitment to healthy food and understanding that a community can raise its own food and eat its own food that's healthy and affordable, and her point is that Sacramento should be leader (in that movement)."

Johnson and Waters speak often. The mayor attended a 40th anniversary party for Chez Panisse on Friday, during which he sat at the same table as Carlo Petrini, recognized as the international founder of the slow food movement. Petrini also extolled the virtues of local food.

"That's like sitting with Jesus when it comes to the slow food movement," the mayor said.

As for whether Johnson will keep backyard chickens of his own at his new digs in east Sacramento?

"Let me be really clear," he said. "My house will not have any hens in the backyard."

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About City Beat

Ryan Lillis has covered the city of Sacramento, its 108 neighborhoods and its politicians since 2008. Prior to that, he covered crime at The Bee. A native of upstate New York, Lillis has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact reporter Ryan Lillis at rlillis@sacbee.com

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