A New Season for San Francisco’s Support of Urban Agriculture

by Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
August 2, 2012

Photo courtesy of Treasure Island Job Corps Farm

San Francisco will soon have a new urban agriculture program. On July 17, the Board of Supervisors passed legislation — introduced by Supervisor David Chiu and co-sponsored by Supervisors Avalos, Cohen, Mar and Olague — that sets clear goals and timelines for how the city government can better support urban farmers and gardeners.

The following week, the board put funding behind the program when it included $120,000 for the initiative in the 2012-2013 city budget. 

The supervisors made two amendments to the version of the legislation that passed out of committee before giving it the final nod:

1.     The goal of reducing wait times for a garden plot at community gardens to less than 1 year by 2014 was changed to a goal of developing a strategy to reach that same target by the end of this year.

2.     The language regarding creating resource centers was altered slightly to prioritize that the resource centers should be hosted at existing sites rather than opening new facilities.

Now that the ordinance is law, the following timelines and goals go into effect:

·      To complete and publish, by January 1, 2013, an audit of city-owned buildings with rooftops potentially suitable for both commercial and non-commercial urban agriculture;

·      To develop, by January 1, 2013, incentives for property owners to allow temporary urban agriculture projects, particularly on vacant and blighted property awaiting development;

·      To develop, by January 1, 2013, a streamlined application process for urban agriculture projects on public land, with clear evaluation guidelines that are consistent across agencies;

·      To create, by July 1, 2013, a “one-stop shop” for urban agriculture that would provide information, programming and technical assistance to all San Francisco residents, businesses and organizations wishing to engage in urban agriculture;

·      To develop new urban agriculture projects on public land where residents demonstrate desire for the projects, with at least 10 new locations for urban agriculture completed by July 1, 2014;

·      To provide garden resource locations in neighborhoods across the city, at existing sites where possible, that provide residents with resources such as compost, seeds and tools, with at least 5 completed by January 1, 2014; and,

·      To analyze and develop, by January 1, 2013, a strategy to reduce the wait list for San Francisco residents seeking access to a community garden plot to one year.

While the above timelines and goals set an overall vision for what the new program must do, another crucial deadline in the legislation is December 31, 2012.  By that date, the city administrator and mayor must present to the board a strategic plan for how the new program should meet its goals and a recommendation regarding who – meaning which agency or non-profit – should manage the program.

SPUR’s focus on urban agriculture will now shift from the legislation to its implementation. Many questions remain to be answered between now and the end of the year, and we will be working to ensure that the new urban agriculture program is as effective as possible.