Oakland plowing a path for urban farming on vacant lots
Property owners who want to temporarily turn their land over to urban gardeners can contact the Oakland Food Policy Council for assistance
By Carolyn Jones
October 20, 2014
After four years of planning, the city is poised to eliminate bureaucratic roadblocks for urban gardeners, making it easier for residents to turn the city’s 3,000 vacant lots into fields of arugula and marigolds.
“We can’t feed everyone by doing this, but it’s a start,” said Lara Hermanson, owner of Farmscape, an urban gardening and landscaping company in Oakland. “This will really give a leg up for nonprofits, businesses and people who just want to grow their own food.”
Until now, gardeners could raise vegetables on vacant lots, but they needed a permit if they intended to sell those veggies, either at farmers’ markets, to restaurants or even to neighbors. Conditional use permits could cost up to $3,000 and take up to six weeks to obtain.
The proposed changes are meant to simplify and clarify the rules, and ultimately make it easier for gardeners to grow and sell veggies just about anywhere in the city without a permit, as long as they have the property owner’s permission. The only places off-limits for vegetable gardens would be public parks and heavy industrial zones, because of contaminated soil.