ARCHIVES: This is legacy content from before Sustainable Cities Collective was relaunched as Smart Cities Dive in early 2017. Some information, such as publication dates or images, may not have migrated over. For the latest in smart city news, check out the new Smart Cities Dive site or sign up for our daily newsletter.

New Urban Agriculture Regulations Sprouting in Los Angeles, California

Personally inspired by the documentary "Plant This Movie," as well as the many other urban farming short films shown at the New Urbanism Film Festival, it appears that urban agriculture is in full swing in Los Angeles. In particular, several innovative pieces of legislation regarding urban agriculture have recently come onto the political horizon.

An urban school garden located at The Accelerated Schools, Los Angeles

Urban agriculture has made a major resurgence in cities. Proponents explain that urban agriculture serves to not only provide better access to local and healthy food, but to also create a sense of community and to add to the aesthetics of the city by reducing blight. Like former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom once said, "urban agriculture is about far more than growing vegetables on an empty lot. It's about revitalizing and transforming unused public spaces, connecting city residents with their neighborhoods in a new way and promoting healthier eating and living for everyone."

So why haven't we seen more legislation promoting urban agriculture?

All cities in California are required to have a sustainability component in their general plan, but this doesn't necessarily include anything about urban agriculture. A study conducted by UCLA graduate students reveals that regulations regarding urban agriculture differ between different cities in LA County – in fact, for some cities those regulations are non-existent. In addition to a lack of regulations promoting urban agriculture, the existing policies make practicing urban agriculture very difficult. Citizens who practice urban agriculture seldomly refer to the Municipal Code due to technical jargon, or simply because no regulations have been written regarding urban agriculture.

Introducing AB 551 (the Californian Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act) and a recent amendment to the Municipal Code. For many residents in LA who have always wanted to garden closer to home (without violating the law), these two pieces of legislation are considered to be victories. AB 551 was recently signed by Governor Brown, and it allows for municipalities to lower the property tax on plots of land under 3 acres in size given that the owners dedicate a minimum of 5 years to growing food on that piece of land. This provides a great opportunity for landowners to use their land for urban agriculture rather than for development. In a similar vein, a recent amendment to the Municipal Code was adopted, allowing for edible plants to be planted within the parkway in areas zoned for residential use (a parkway is simply the area between the curb and the sidewalk).

Flourishing parkways line the street in Frogtown, Los Angeles

What urban agriculture policies exist in your community? Do you need permission to plant your garden or urban farm? Share your city's story in the comments below.

Credits: Images by Victor Tran. Data linked to sources.