The Ecology Center is a big booster of local food production and removing barriers to urban agriculture. We eagerly support the Urban Agriculture Package that the Berkeley City Council will be considering on July 12th.
Berkeley’s Climate Action Plan states that “the City and its partners must do more to build a resilient and sustainable local food system.” Urban agriculture helps strengthen the health and social fabric of communities while creating economic opportunities for farmers and neighborhoods. It improves food security and reduces the miles that food travels to our plates.
The Urban Agriculture Package recommends a few amendments to Berkeley’s Zoning Ordinance: It provides a definition for urban agriculture consistent with Oakland’s, San Francisco’s and Sacramento’s (“the production of food or horticultural crops for harvest, sale, and/or donation”), and makes it a “by-right” land use activity on lots smaller than 40,000 square feet. It would also allow the sales of non-processed edibles or plants that comply with the State of California Homemade Food Act.
The recommendations contained in the Urban Agriculture Package help Berkeley catch up with neighboring cities that are at the forefront of fostering urban ag. As it currently stands in Berkeley, the lack of definitions or permitted uses for either “urban agriculture” or “community garden” has made existing urban farms and community gardens in most zones technically illegal. These zoning changes will set the stage for future possibilities, such as incentivizing property owners to allow food production on their vacant lots.
We urge you to write letters and emails of support to the Mayor and City Council Members for the Urban Ag Package. Submit by July 5th, 5pm. Communications to the City Council that are submitted via e-mail may be sent to email@example.com.
You may email the Councilmembers individually by visiting the Council Roster webpage, or you may email the full Council using firstname.lastname@example.org. Passionate supporters can also attend the July 12th City Council meeting, when the item will be considered.
[Photo credit: TCDavis on Flickr]