By: Tara Duggan
San Francisco officials showed how serious they are about urban agriculture by announcing a new Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone Ordinance that will would allow land owners to take advantage of a property tax break when they allow a parcel of land to be used for agriculture and educational purposes.
San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, Assemblymember Phil Ting announced the ordinance in a press conference this morning at the 18th and Rhode Island Permaculture Garden, which will probably be the first piece of land to take advantage of the tax break. Converted into a garden from an empty 5,000 square foot lot in 2008, the garden is full of vegetables and fruit trees. Produce gets donated to local food banks and neighbors, and the garden hosts camps for kids and workshops.
Property owners who take part in the program will have to guarantee the land will stay in agricultural use only (it can’t be on land with a house for example) for at least 10 five years. Assemblymember Ting, who represents part of San Francisco, wrote the state bill which allows for the tax break partly as a way to prevent urban blight, since gardens are added to otherwise empty lots, to increase green spaces, and to offer opportunities for education about healthy food.
You can even raise bees and livestock in these agricultural zones — maybe all the city’s chefs will soon have an even more local source for their charcuterie?
Update: 6/18 10:15 a.m.: The ordinance that Chiu and Ting announced earlier this week was actually the first step in the legislative process that will allow San Francisco land owners to take advantage of state’s new Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act (AB 551) and turn empty lots into urban farms in return for a tax break. It still has to be approved by the Board of Supervisors, which could happen as soon as mid-July.
“It’s not likely to be controversial. We think there will be broad support,” says Judson True with Supervisor David Chiu’s office.
If the Board of Supervisors does give it the go-ahead, land owners would still be able to apply for the tax break for the 2015 tax year by October 1.
While the ordinance probably wouldn’t affect a huge amount of land in San Francisco — mostly just empty lots that can’t be developed for housing for whatever reason–Chiu and Ting hope it would give other California cities a way to implement AB 551.Source