SF Approves First "Neighborhood Urban Agriculture" Permit

by Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
April 5, 2012
Image courtesy Eli Zigas

On March 9, 2012, San Francisco issued its first zoning permit for “neighborhood urban agriculture.”  The change of use permit, given to Little City Gardens, allows the small urban farming business to grow produce for sale at its three-quarter-acre market garden in the Mission Terrace neighborhood. It is the first permit issued under San Francisco’s pioneering urban agriculture zoning guidelines, which Mayor Lee signed into law in April 2011. 

The permit is both a victory for Little City Gardens and the culmination of a multi-year effort to legalize commercial urban farming in residential neighborhoods in San Francisco. The permit, is, at its core, a simple recognition that the previously vacant lot is now being used to grow food according to basic guidelines. Securing the permit, however, was not simple. The process involved:

  • four visits to the permitting office
  • plan review by the Planning Department, Department of Building Inspection, Public Utilities Commission and Central Permit Bureau
  • a $300 fee
  • hours of conversation between the applicants and the various agencies about the new zoning law and the practice of urban farming

Little City Gardens has been at the forefront of trying to find a legal path to sell what it grows in the city.  Now, having set the precedent of successfully securing a change of use permit, the path ahead for other aspiring urban farmers in San Francisco will be a little smoother.