Berkeley Edible Gardens Initiative: Report back from April 4th Planning Commission Meeting

Thank you to everyone who came out to the Berkeley Planning Commission’s hearing on the Edible Gardening Initiative.

Here is a recap of what happened:
Two options were presented to the Planning Commission: option A would allow people to sell and trade their homegrown edibles with no zoning certificate, while option B would require that people apply for a $180 permit to do so.

Most of the commission seemed in favor of option A, except for commissioner Gene Poschman, who was concerned that people’s backyard businesses would become very successful, with a lot of money changing hands. If this occurred, the City could not impose a fee retroactively, so people would get away with not paying fees. For this reason, he was in favor of option B.

The Commission asked a lot of questions about soil toxicity, which Daniel Miller from Spiral Gardens answered eloquently. They were very interested in how other local city governments like San Francisco, Oakland, and Sacramento were handing this issue.

The original list of unprocessed food items being considered included raw produce, eggs, and honey. Honey has now been taken off this list of allowable goods. According to the Planning Department’s Jordan Harrison, the Berkeley Public Health Department views honey as a processed good, and therefore should not be listed in the allowable items.

People who spoke in favor of the exemption option included Ecology Center Executive Director Martin Bourque, Dana Perls from East Bay Urban Ag Alliance, Daniel Miller from Spiral Gardens, and Rae Graber from Urban Adamah. The consensus among supporters of option A is that the transactions in this economic activity are small and the profits limited: there is only so much that one can produce within the confines of a typical Berkeley lot. More importantly, there is the concern that the requirement of a zoning certificate and fee would dissuade or prevent people from engaging in the activity of selling their surplus.

In the end, the motion was passed that a public hearing should be held as soon as possible with both options on the table. The date of the public hearing was not announced, but we will let you know when it is. Stay tuned!

Thank you to Dana Perls for reporting back!

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