Public Harvest: Expanding the use of public land for urban agriculture in San Francisco
SPUR offers 11 recommendations to expand and coordinate the city’s institutional support, increase funding and provide more access to public land.
By SPUR – San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association
April 2012, 36 pages
Excerpt – Executive Summary:
Urban agriculture has captured the imagination of many San Franciscans in recent years. Two dozen gardens and farms have sprouted across the city since 2008, and in 2011 the city changed its zoning code to permit urban agriculture in all neighborhoods. Interest in urban agriculture stems from its numerous benefits. City farming and gardening provides San Franciscans with vibrant greenspaces and recreation, education about fresh food and the effort it takes to produce it, cost savings and ecological benefits for the city, sites that help build community, and a potential source of modest economic development. But the city will not fully capture these benefits unless it responds to the growing interest and energy behind the issue.
The demand for more space to grow food is strong. Surveys since 2005 have consistently demonstrated long waiting lists at many of the city’s community gardens. In most cases, residents must wait more than two years to get access to a plot. The launch of more than 20 new urban agriculture projects in the past four years, some of which are communally managed and involve greater numbers of people than traditional plot-based gardens, is another indication that the current amount of land dedicated to urban agriculture is insufficient.
The challenge ahead is matching residents’ interest with public resources. Private land and private funding alone are not sufficient to meet the demands for urban agriculture space in our dense city. Instead, the city must improve its existing programs and expand the availability of public land, funding and institutional support.
Currently, at least seven city agencies provide monetary support and 11 agencies provide land to city gardeners and farmers. Though well-intentioned, their support is largely uncoordinated, understaffed and, as a result, inefficient. While city funding for urban agriculture has increased during the past five years, it has decreased from a peak a decade earlier and is in the middle range when compared to other large American cities.
For San Francisco to reap the many benefits of urban agriculture, SPUR recommends that the city expand and coordinate its institutional support, increase funding and improve funding efficiency, and provide more access to public land.