City council, Mar. 4, 2013

The March 4 city council meeting was a fairly short housekeeping meeting. Short items included an introduction from BART Director Zakhary Mallett (Dist. 7), the city’s plan to participate in Earth Hour 2013, an announcement that due to the federal government sequester the Passport Day in the USA 2013 has been cancelled (the city has a passport office).

The council’s choice to fill one slot on the Berkeley-Albany Mental Health Commission Vacancies was not approved because our choice was a part time city employee.The Mental Health Commission does not allow employees of either city.


We heard an update on the city’s plan to allow internet-style comment features similar to those on blogs. The council was cool to the proposal, because members believed it would duplicate existing email communication. The staff continues to look for news ways to use the internet and social media to communicate with voters in a way that is consistent with open meeting laws.


The big discussion at the meeting was animals, in particular, goats and turkeys. A petition was presented to allow goats in Albany as pets. The staff will review, seek out information from El Cerrito, which does allow goats on large lots, and report back.

Based on my own experience working on a hog farm one summer many years ago, and from conversations with both large- and small-animal veterinarians, I am skeptical that goats belong in Albany’s tiny back yards. An exception might be the Gill Tract, if UC is interested in some sort of animal husbandry program as part of its urban farm. But let’s see what the staff finds out.

As for turkeys, they are a non-native feral species, similar to feral hogs, and they displace native birds and animals and damage habitat. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will no longer relocated turkeys due to the possibility of transporting animal and plant diseases along with them.

Fish and Wildlife will issue depredation permits to allow the capture and extermination of the birds. This is left to property owners if the birds are causing damage, usually by roosting in trees. This is the case for one family in Albany.

I believe it is important to maintain the separation of wild species and humans. There are mountain lions and coyotes (and probably bobcat and fox) in the East Bay hills. A mountain lion was shot in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto several months ago. Another one was sighted in Kensington just a few months ago, and a female has been raising cubs on LBNL property.

On Mt. Diablo, I’ve watched coyotes trotting down the road behind my bicycle in broad daylight. Coyotes have been discovered in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Turkeys are prey (like deer) and where there are prey, there will eventually be predators. If the predators get habituated to humans, they will begin to look for other things to eat, usually small dogs and cats. This has been problem for years in the hills outside of Los Angeles. Mountain lions also occasionally kill people.

In addition, turkeys have caused at least one serious bicycle accident that I am aware of, and I am concerned that it’s just a matter of time before they start causing auto accidents as they become more plentiful and brazen.