Thursday, February 24, 2011

Will Long Beach follow San Francisco’s lead towards local food security through urban agriculture?

San Francisco is leading the way as an example of a big city successfully embracing urban agriculture as part of its approach towards food security.

Urban agriculture in San Francisco’s mainstream began as a vision of former Mayor Gavin Newsom, who in January of 2009 issued an executive directive “Healthy and Sustainable Food for San Francisco” in which he declared
“Access to safe, nutritious, and culturally acceptable food is a basic human right and is essential to both human health and ecological sustainability.”
In his directive, Mayor Newsom essentially mandated permitting backyard urban agriculture. An outcome of this executive directive was an audit of unused land that can contribute to urban agricultural practices including gardening and farming. The directive stated
“Food production and horticulture education will be encouraged within the City and to the extent feasible, on City owned land, through urban agriculture including community, backyard, rooftop, and school gardens; edible landscaping, and agricultural incubator projects.” 
 The directive further stated that residents must be allowed
“the opportunity to make healthy food choices and reduce environmental causes of diet and related illnesses.”
Since the directive, the city of San Francisco has updated its zoning code to be more compatible with urban agriculture. Most recently, at a hearing held February 17, San Francisco’s planning commission voted unanimously to support an urban agriculture zoning proposal that allows Neighborhood Agriculture activities ≤ one acre in size to grow and even sell produce in all city zoning districts. Neighborhood Agriculture is defined to include backyard gardens, community gardens, community supported agriculture, market gardens and small private farms.

One “healthy food choice” that people might want is to raise one’s own poultry and other small livestock such as dairy animals. Indeed, San Francisco is also leading the way in this aspect of local food security. For example, the San Francisco municipal code allows residents to keep two female goats per any city lot. There are no lot size restrictions, no setback restrictions, no zoning restrictions, and no special permits or exceptions are needed. 

In an interesting interview embedded here from YouTube, Rebecca Katz, Director of San Francisco's Department of Animal Care & Control, illustrated how mainstream urban agriculture including small scale animal husbandry is becoming in her city. When asked about the future of home farming of small livestock in the Bay Area, and whether it's here to stay, Rebecca Katz, Director of Animal Control in San Francisco, said
"I see it growing, certainly with vegetable gardens. The Mayor [former Mayor Gavin Newsom] has called for this here in San Francisco and he had the garden at the Civic Center Plaza for quite some time and he has asked people to do this and it seems that it's a growing trend, it's not a fad. AND AS FAR AS ANIMALS GO THEY ARE GOING TO COME WITH IT [emphasis added]. Like I said, people are coming to take chickens out of our care all the time, they want fresh eggs."
Author of "Farm City" Novella Carpenter's response to the same question
"It's a growing trend and its gonna be building community."
Interviewer Leslie Sbrocco's summary
"Absolutely here to stay.
The Long Beach municipal code currently has several provisions that stand in the way of urban agriculture in our city. However, recently the Sustainable City Commission unanimously supported a recommendation by the Office of Sustainability “to forward a report on Urban Agriculture Ordinances to the appropriate City Council Committee for consideration.” Also forwarded was an independent report prepared by a Long Beach resident who has been working to change the code of Long Beach to allow backyard urban agriculture including chickens and goats. For more information, view her [my] presentation that was entered into the record on December 1, 2010.

Long Beach is one step closer to food security through urban agriculture in Long Beach. Hopefully, the city’s leaders will agree with all of the other major cities who have seen the benefits of urban agriculture and with a recent signer of the pro urban agriculture petition who said that
“Now is the time to think about the future.”
Presentation to Long Beach, CA Sustainable City Commission December 1, 2010

Highly recommended additional reading:
Urban agriculture zoning proposal hearing February 17.

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You might also be interested in Donna’s other work as National Science News Examiner, Long Beach Urban Agriculture Examiner and founder and executive director of Long Beach Grows.

Copyright © 2011 Donna Marykwas; All rights reserved.

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