Berkeley’s Mayoralty Candidates Spar Over Urban Agriculture Package
Ben Gould criticizes Councilman Jesse Arreguín’s Urban Agriculture Proposal
Items from The Daily Californian
(Must see. Mike.)
Excerpt from Gould:
The Urban Agriculture package, meanwhile, does propose specific incentives to encourage farming. It proposes bypassing public review and approval entirely, to automatically allow farms on up to nearly an acre of commercial-zoned land, or of unlimited size on unoccupied residential land. The Urban Agriculture package expands this by-right approval to construction of greenhouses, sheds, and fences; community gatherings and group class instruction; and sales of both raw and processed foods. It imposes no limitations on use of GMOs, pesticides, fertilizer, or industrial farming equipment.
Excerpt from Arreguin:
Mr. Gould’s attacks on the urban agriculture legislation are even more bizarre. He suggests that allowing property owners to voluntarily use their land for agricultural uses, especially during the short term before redevelopment, is anti-environment. Berkeley’s zoning is outdated and needs to adapt to climate change. Existing barriers to urban agriculture are just one example of antiquated rules prohibiting important environmental initiatives. Innovative projects like Urban Adamah’s new farm in West Berkeley face unnecessary barriers to permitting. Mr. Gould recently expressed support for the by-right building of market rate units in most of Berkeley’s residential areas, without any citizen review, but somehow growing vegetables and fruit in manufacturing and commercial areas is so onerous that complicated permits should be required?
Excerpt from Oatfield:
His other main critique about Arreguín’s proposal was basically that we should be prioritizing development of more housing, not urban farms, implying that housing and farms are competing with each other for land. The truth is that land is so expensive in Berkeley that there are not many cases in which a community garden outbids a housing developer for land. I don’t believe that’s ever happened actually. Unlike housing developers, community gardens and urban farms are typically volunteer efforts with little money, or organized by small nonprofits. Furthermore, most of the existing community gardens in Berkeley are located on non-standard, often triangular or otherwise oddly shaped lots (many are along the former Santa Fe train tracks), and these lots are not appropriate for housing development typically because of their small size and odd shapes. Some community gardens are in parks — again, not in competition with housing development (unless Ben Gould thinks we should build housing on top of our parks).