Kudos to San Francisco for being the first city in the country to creatively implement financial incentives for turning vacant urban plots into abundant food-sheds.
Pursuant to a new ordinance adopted by the city’s board of supervisors, as of September 8 owners of empty lots have the option to save thousands of dollars in property taxes each year in exchange for “lending” their land for agricultural use for five years or more.
This ordinance is part of California’s Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act, which was passed by the California legislature as a way to encourage urban farmers to turn empty parcels into gardens by assuring them they won’t be required to leave abruptly. This is all too often the fate of beautiful and abundant urban gardens. Such was the case for the South Central Garden in Los Angeles which was the subject of the 2008 documentary The Garden.
In addition to providing a source for local food, urban gardens offer a huge spectrum of benefits for the city as a whole, including spaces and opportunities for community organizing, leadership development, family connection, and youth education. Their presence has proven to be a significant factor in crime prevention. In addition, they provide opportunities for all to cultivate deeper connections to and appreciation for the beauty of nature, which leads to a greater sense of well-being at every dimension of the individual and the community at large.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports here that cities with even more open space, including Los Angeles and Sacramento, have a close eye on what happens in San Francisco. Hopefully they and cities with any and all open space will follow suit, sooner than later.