The hearing this Monday went very smoothly. There was a solid group of SF Urban Ag Alliance members and a few of us got up to the podium once again to share our opinion. The Land-Use and Economic Development Committee, which is comprised of three Supervisors, Eric Mar, Mahlia Cohen, and Scott Weiner, passed the updated zoning legislation unanimously after very little discussion. The few comments that were made suggested that they felt it was a win-win change to the city’s land-use policy. The full board will vote on April 5th.
In a recent Examiner article about the hearing, David Chiu (District 3 Supervisor, co-sponser of the legislation and Candidate for Mayor), is quoted as saying: “Our legislation would place San Francisco at the forefront of urban agriculture policies nationwide… My hope is that this is the first of many changes the City makes to increase the viability and scale of urban agriculture in San Francisco.”
I also hope that this is just the beginning of the policy that we are able to shift in our city regarding urban agriculture. I think we have a long way to go to make small-scale agriculture truly viable and economically/culturally encouraged in our city. One issue we would like to push forward next is the importance of securing a number of agricultural plots of land, in and on the perimeter of the city, through agricultural easements. Unless we are able to collectively decide to hold agriculture as “highest use” (as opposed to the traditional “highest use” of real estate development) for the few remaining plots of vacant and fertile land, then we will have a city full of temporary and displaced urban farms and an urban agriculture movement that won’t be able to fully take root or flourish.
It has taken us the better part of a year to transform our overgrown vacant lot into an organized, prepared growing space and to install the basic infrastructure we need to do our work, not to mention the time it has taken to develop an integrated relationship with our neighborhood. In fact we are still at work every day on the hardscaping, the invasive weed excavations and the infrastucture building. But our tenure here is shaky. The property is privately owned and if the owner wants to develop we would have to leave our hard work and start again somewhere else. I have a feeling that we will need two to three more years here, at least, before our business could be in its prime, before we we would be able to showcase an efficient, developed and successful commercial urban agriculture model. So in short..we feel our success is based on our ability to secure our land tenure.
This is going to take some creativity. Let’s work on this next San Francisco!