SF Approves California’s First Tax Incentive for Urban Ag

By Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
August 5, 2014

Tenderloin People's Garden.  Photo by Sergio Ruiz.

On July 29, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance that created California’s first urban agriculture incentive zone. The new law allows a tax break for SF property owners who dedicate their land to agricultural use for at least five years. For more background on the legislation, see our earlier blog post.

The final legislation included a few important amendments and changes:

A threshold for revenue loss 
To ensure that the program doesn’t lead to large revenue losses for the city, the Board of Supervisors created a new threshold for review.  If a proposed contract would push the combined annual revenue loss from all incentive zone contracts over $250,000, the contract must go to the Board of Supervisors for review. This threshold is in addition to a $25,000 per parcel maximum revenue loss threshold and a 5-acre contiguous land threshold that existed in the first version of the ordinance.

Supervisor review for any proposed contract
To provide an additional check and balance for the program, the Board of Supervisors adopted an amendment that allows them to review any contract that has been recommended for approval by the agricultural commissioner.  The board has a 10-day window after receiving the list of recommended contracts to request a hearing to review any contract. If the board does not request a hearing, a recommended contract can be approved administratively.

Application cycles rather than a rolling application process
To help reduce the administrative burden of the application process, the administrative review will happen in three cycles rather than on a rolling basis.  For 2014, applications will be due October 1.  In subsequent years, applications will be due by March 1, June 1 and August 1.  The timelines for agency review outlined in the ordinance will begin after those deadlines.

The law will go into effect by early September, and city agencies are already beginning to work on drafting the application materials.  Anyone interested in applying for an urban agriculture incentive zone contract should contact the city’s Urban Agriculture Program Coordinator.

Watch a KPIX news piece about the ordinance >>

Read the final version of the ordinance >>