Legal status of beekeeping in Alameda County

Legal status of beekeeping in Alameda County and some nearby cities

Some jurisdictions require that beekeepers register their hives, or impose other restrictions. This page attempts to track those laws. The information below is an attempt at a summary that could be incorrect or outdated, and you should read the full law if it applies to you. If you have additions or corrections, please send them to webmaster@alamedabees.org.

Here’s a summary map that is believed to be correct as of July 11, 2023. See your city or area below for links to specific details, though.


California state

California law requires that beekeepers register their apiaries with their local County Agricultural Commissioners. You can do this on the BeeWhere website; there’s a PDF explaining how to do it (and a paper version of the Alameda county registration form if you prefer).


Counties

Alameda county

Alameda county requires annual registration of all apiaries; you can do this on the BeeWhere website. There is no charge. There’s there’s a PDF explaining how to do it (and a paper version of the county registration form if you prefer).

The unincorporated Fairview area has a limit of one colony per 10,000 square feet of lot space (section II F). Other unincorporated areas have a minimum lot size of 1 acre.

Contra Costa county

Contra Costa county requires annual registration of all apiaries; you can do this on the BeeWhere website. Free for 10 colonies or fewer; $10 fee for 10 or more colonies.


Cities

Berkeley

No requirement for registration beyond Alameda County laws.

The Berkeley Fire Code section 4911.9 states that “Lighted and smoldering material shall not be used in connection with smoking bees in or upon Wildland-Urban Interface Fire Areas except by permit from the fire code official”. Wildland-Urban Interface Fire Areas are defined as zones 2 & 3 on this map.

El Cerrito

The laws are fairly restrictive. In addition to Contra Costa County laws, see section 7.08.020 J of the El Cerrito municipal code:

  • If the lot is over 5,000 square feet and contains a single-family dwelling unit, a single hive is automatically allowed, as long as the property owner holds a honeybee keeping clearance. A “honeybee keeping clearance” is an “over-the-counter, administrative check to ensure that honeybees are kept in compliance with this title”.
  • With the written consent of the owner of “every property which directly abuts the property on which Honeybees would be kept”, one beehive can be kept on properties less than 5,000 square feet, and three beehives can be kept on properties more than 5,000 square feet.
  • Hives must be located behind the principal structure on the property. Hives must not be located closer than twenty feet to dwellings on adjacent properties or five feet from a property line.

Emeryville

Alameda County laws apply. In addition, Emeryville Municipal Code section 6-1.108 requires “a permit from the Police Department or other authorized licensing authority” for any animal that is not a domestic pet.

Fremont

No requirement for registration beyond Alameda County laws.

Hives must not be within five feet of any property line, and other reasonable guidelines about water and so on apply. See section 6.10.140 of the Fremont Municipal code for more details.

The removal of previous, more restrictive Fremont laws in 2023 was thanks to the efforts of ACBA members who worked hard for this change (particularly Phil Stob), as well as Nickie Irvine of the Bee Legal Project.

Hayward

Alameda County laws apply. In addition, Hayward Municipal code section 10-1.2735(f) requires:

  • Minimum lot size of 4,000 square feet.
  • Maximum of two hives on any lot under 40,000 square feet.
  • Hives may not be located in front of a primary structure.
  • Hives must be 5 feet from any property line and 6 feet from any dwelling.
  • If the hives are less than 100 feet from any other residence, you’re required to apply for a Zoning Conformance Permit, described in section 10-1.2735(f)(10)(b). This permit requires notifying neighbors, and can be denied if an individual who is allergic to bees resides within one hundred feet.

Livermore

In addition to Alameda County laws, Livermore requires a city Animal Fancier’s Permit. Section II(2)(a) of the Animal Fancier’s Permit Rules and Regulations also requires that:

  • Maximum number of hives is 2 per half acre, with a minimum lot size of half an acre for any hives.
  • Hives must be placed on the rear half of the lot, where the flight pattern will be directed up and away from immediate neighbors.
  • Measures must be employed to prevent the bees from swarming.
  • Water must be available near the hives at all times.
  • Hives must be colored white only.

Newark

Alameda County laws apply.

Newark Municipal Code section 6.32.010 allows “other animals which are [not] exotic animals” to be “kept upon any parcel in any zoning district where the principal use upon the parcel is residential use, so long as such animals do not constitute a nuisance”, and section 6.08.140(E) specifically states that “honey-producing bees” are not exotic animals.

Section 6.32.030 separately requires a city Animal Fancier’s Permit for bees “upon parcels zoned but not developed for commercial or industrial purposes, and upon parcels zoned for agricultural (except open space) purposes”. It also restricts the number of hives in these areas based on the lot size, beginning at one hive for lots greater than 6,000 square feet and increasing to five hives on a one acre lot.

Taken together, these suggest that a permit is required for bees kept on commecial / industrial / agricultural property, but not on residential property. However, the law is not clearly written.

Oakland

No requirement for registration beyond Alameda County laws.

While Oakland laws generally prohibit “the cultivation of animals, animal products and/or livestock production”, Municipal Code section 17.10.610 and several other parts of the code specifically exempt “beekeeping involving no more than three hives”.

Pleasanton

Alameda County laws apply. In addition, Pleasanton Municipal Code section 18.103 requires a beekeeping permit and has several other requirements, including:

  • Notice to all neighbors living within 100 feet.
  • No more than two hives in the R-1 zoning district, RM zoning district, and Downtown Specific Plan Area; and no more than 10 hives within the A zoning district.
  • No hives in the front yard.
  • Hives must be 5 feet from away from any property line.
  • Hives must have a “flyway barrier at the opening of the hive that forces the bees to cross the property line at a minimum height of six feet”.
  • Swarming bees are considered a “public nuisance” that may result in enforcement action.

Anecdote: A Pleasanton beekeeper reports that when he tried to register a hive and get a permit, he was told that almost nobody has ever done that and that the city doesn’t enforce it. We obviously don’t recommend ignoring laws, so we encourage Pleasanton beekeepers to ask their city representatives to drop parts of the law that don’t make sense.

Richmond

No specific laws, but Contra Costa County laws apply.

San Leandro

Alameda County laws apply. In addition, San Leandro Municipal Code chapter 4-11, section 14 requires a beekeeping permit and has several other requirements:

  • Minimum lot size of 6,000 square feet.
  • No more than three hives.
  • No hives in the front yard.
  • Hives must be 5 feet from away from any property line and 50 feet from any dwelling.
  • Hives must be surrounded by a fence at least 6 feet high and no further than 30 feet away.

East Bay Regional Park District

It’s possible to get a permit to host your hives on EBRPD land, although the insurance requirements are significant. This page explains the process.