Mission Viejo residents might be able to perform beekeeping activities on their properties as city officials consider an ordinance to allow bees in residential areas.

Editors’ Note: This dispatch is part of the Voice of OC Collegiate News Service, working with student journalists to cover public policy issues across Orange County. If you would like to submit your own student media project related to Orange County civics or if you have any response to this work, contact Collegiate News Service Editor Vik Jolly at vjolly@voiceofoc.org.

Homeowners would be able to have bees on their properties under certain conditions if Mission Viejo joins several other Orange County cities that allow beekeeping.

High school student Maya Cappellino first asked the city last year to adopt regulations for beekeeping. The city’s Planning and Transportation Commission voted unanimously in October to recommend that the City Council adopt the proposed ordinance. 

At a March 9 City Council meeting, the panel voted 4-1 to postpone a decision on the ordinance to a future date, with  Mayor Trish Kelley dissenting. The panel asked staff to make modifications to the law, including a beekeeping education requirement, as well as requested more research into the specific types of bees that would be allowed. 

These proposed modifications came after push back on the ordinance from several people, including Jerry Bryant, a Mission Viejo resident who owns a business that performs professional bee control services.

“They are animals, they are wild, they do not belong in public areas,” Bryant told the council during public comments.

Bryant mentioned his admiration for bees, but explained they are not to be messed with, noting he has seen them kill animals and put people in the hospital.

Liz Savage, a Fullerton resident and president of the non-profit Orange County Beekeepers Association, commented that she was in favor of residential beekeeping.

“I very much advocate for the ordinance. We have worked very hard with Maya in her goal in trying to get Mission Viejo authorized for this. It is our goal to get most all cities authorized so that there’s not this stigma out there where people are deathly afraid of something that they don’t really know about,” Savage said. 

About half of the cities in Orange County, including Mission Viejo, Irvine, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Laguna Niguel, currently prohibit residential beekeeping, according to the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The City Council appeared divided on the topic, with Mayor Kelley saying “I would not be happy if my neighbor put a beehive in their yard … I’m not okay with this. I will oppose this.” 

She also noted that not enough residents know of the proposed ordinance to contest or support it and requested staff to engage in much bigger public outreach regarding the topic. 

Council member Ed Sachs proposed a “beekeeping 101” education requirement. He said he is in support of the ordinance, but wants an educational component that ensures responsibility for those that partake in residential beekeeping. 

Council Member Brian Goodell agreed with Sachs’s proposal, and suggested a possible alternative: a community garden of beehives in one central location instead of in individual yards.

While staff does more research on the item, it isn’t yet known when the matter will again appear on the City Council’s agenda.

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