SF Urban Agriculture Ordinance — NYC should follow suit

On July 17, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a local ordinance to establish a formal urban agriculture program for the city that would coordinate the work of a wide range of agencies to “generally enhance and increase urban agriculture in San Francisco” (San Francisco Administrative Code Chapter 53). This is a big step forward for a city that has had a long tradition of supporting urban food production, including recent zoning changes to legalize gardens and farms throughout the city.
 The new ordinance requires city agencies to advocate for state and federal funding, collect data related to urban agriculture, support gleaning programs, identify opportunities to use urban agriculture for job training and employment, and ensure that existing farm and garden spaces are used fully. It establishes an urban agriculture coordinator for fiscal year 2012-13.
 The local law also requires a strategic plan for urban agriculture that includes target dates to achieve specific urban agriculture goals, an “assessment of resident, organization, and business needs,” a projected budget, and potential funding sources.  The plan must be completed by December 31, 2012, with an annual progress report by January 1, 2014. The goals established by the ordinance include:

An audit of potential city rooftops suitable for agriculture;
·      Incentives for temporary agriculture projects on vacant land and stalled development sites;
·      Streamlining of urban agriculture procedures;
·      At least 10 new urban farms/gardens by July 1, 2014;
·      The creation of garden resource locations across the city to provide compost, seeds, and tools;
·      And a strategy to reduce the wait list for community garden plots to one year.

The San Francisco ordinance contains policies similar to those recommended for New York City by the Design Trust for Public Space.  In its report (“Five Borough Farm“) released on July 24, (which I co-authored) the Design Trust urged New York City to adopt an urban agriculture policy and plan that establishes goals, objectives, a citywide land use scheme for garden and farm development, and adequate agency budgets to support existing and future urban agriculture activity.

Recognizing (as San Francisco did in its ordinance) that many agencies already support or affect urban agriculture, yet there is little to no coordination among city agencies to ensure that services are provided efficiently and effectively, the report also calls for better integration of urban agriculture into existing plans, programs, and policy-making processes in city government. (Two examples of how an agency can support agriculture while also fulfilling its core mission is the use of the NYC Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Infrastructure Program to support farm creation, or the Department of Sanitation’s compost production program to supply gardens and farms with soil amendments.)
 One need not addressed by the San Francisco ordinance that was highlighted by the Five Borough Farm report is the importance of reducing disparities in access to funding, information, and other resources by creating more transparent and participatory processes—such as a citywide Urban Agriculture Task Force—to enable gardeners and farmers to influence policy and decision-making. In particular, our research in New York City revealed race- and class-based inequities within the urban agriculture system that could be addressed through capacity building among underserved groups and action to address structural racism within the urban agriculture system.

One thought on “SF Urban Agriculture Ordinance — NYC should follow suit”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s