Promoting Urban Agriculture is Policy in San Francisco

Promoting Urban Agriculture is Policy in San Francisco

San Francisco has long been a leader in urban agriculture. But recent legislation by the city’s Board of Supervisor’s takes that reputation even further, allowing for property tax reductions if owners dedicate their land to agricultural purposes for at least five years.

One of the primary roadblocks to agriculture in urban areas is a lack of available space, a concern echoed by David Chiu, the member of the Board of Supervisors who championed the cause locally. "I have heard from literally hundreds of residents who would like to have the opportunity to farm, but the waiting lists for a lot of our community gardens are over two years long." The hope is this new legislation would relieve some of that pressure.

The local policy change takes advantage of a relatively new state law, the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act, which permits city governments to designate agricultural zones that will benefit from tax breaks.  Any municipality in California that is considered by the United States census to be an urban area with 250,000 or more people is eligible to offer the incentive, but San Francisco is the first to adopt it. The tax reduction comes in the form of a lower assessed property value, since a farmed parcel’s worth is based not on its market value, but on the average price of irrigated farmland in the state. Not every property in the city would qualify, however.

A cap is set on both the size of parcel {no more than three acres) and property tax reduction per property (no more than US$25,000). No permanent structures are allowed on the parcel and all applications are subject to local review.

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