When Urban Agriculture and Food Justice Are at Odds
Antonio Roman-Alcalá and Erin Havens on AB 551
By Ari Eisenstadt
Jan 1, 2017
FT: If the bill is implemented at the local level, what are the consequences for urban agriculture and local communities?
AE: The implementation of the bill offers varying consequences, depending on the character of implementation and those involved. In Oakland, with implementation having been pushed by the for-profit firm Farmscape, with the help of real estate lobbyists, the effect would likely be unhelpful for local poor communities, and would potentially contribute to the gentrification of their neighborhoods by allowing white-led and white/middle-class-serving urban farming projects to expand and elevate property values. In L.A., where community organizations have pushed for particular conditions on incentive zones permits (such as community consultation about each project, preference for projects led by grassroots people of color organizations, and resources made available for low-income community projects), the consequences could be more amenable to food justice outcomes.
FT: What other policies would you suggest instead of or in addition to AB 551?
AE: Urban farming just like other urban land use decisions is subject to the economic whims of investors and developers (and to a lesser degree, small property owners), and their political power within local governments. As such, no single policy could meaningfully address the challenges of low-income and working class communities seeking land access and stable land tenure (whether for urban agriculture or other uses such as affordable housing).