SF Takes Steps Toward New Urban Ag Program

by Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
June 14, 2012
Photo by Eli Zigas

San Francisco may soon have a new urban agriculture program. On June 11, the Land Use and Economic Development Committee of the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed legislation introduced earlier by Supervisor David Chiu that seeks to increase the coordination, efficacy and breadth of city support for urban agriculture. Based on recommendations from SPUR's report Public Harvest as well as calls for change from community organizations including the San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance, the ordinance now moves to the full board for two consecutive votes, with the first vote likely on June 19.  

The version of the legislation that passed the committee included a number of amendments to the original version. Some of the notable changes include:

  • Strategic plan: The strategic plan for implementation of the legislation must be presented to the board for approval
  • Funding: For the coming fiscal year, the urban agriculture program should have funding sufficient for at least one full-time staff person
  • Timelines: The strategic plan may set new target dates for the goals listed in the legislation
  • Job training: The program needs to find ways to link urban agriculture with job training and employment opportunities, especially in the private sector
  • Land Use: The program must ensure that existing urban agriculture spaces are fully utilized

Though the board agreed to numerous changes, they retained the core components of the legislation. Given the support demonstrated at the hearing by both the supervisors and community advocates, including SPUR, the ordinance appears headed toward passage.

Assuming the legislation becomes law, the most pressing issue becomes how to translate the text of the ordinance into meaningful change.  Prime among the questions of the law’s implementation is how the urban agriculture program will be funded.  The mayor and Board of Supervisors are in the process of negotiating the city budget, and it is not yet clear what funding, if any, will be included to support the new program and ensure that the ordinance’s call for at least one full-time coordinator is reinforced with budget dollars. The city administrator and mayor will face another large question: Which city agency or nonprofit should manage the program and ensure that the goals of the legislation are met? They have until December to evaluate the various options and submit an answer to the board and public.

The Land Use Committee’s approval of the ordinance has moved the legislation very close to becoming law. And it has moved city agencies, nonprofits and community advocates into the more difficult conversation about how, exactly, the city will create a program that better serves San Francisco’s many gardeners and farmers.  

Read the urban agriculture legislation passed by the Land Use and Economic Development Committee >>

Read the SPUR report Public Harvest >>