The California Neighborhood Food Act

We are embarking on a state-wide campaign to reduce zoning law and other barriers to urban and suburban agriculture with our friends at Ubuntu Green and Slow Food California!

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Purposes

The purposes of the California Neighborhood Food Act are to:

1) Increase access to fresh, local produce for all Californians regardless of location and socioeconomic limitations;
2) Allow individuals to supplement their incomes through sale of produce grown at home or on other urban or suburban land;
3) Reduce the carbon footprint of our food system by enabling the increased cultivation of produce in or near places it is consumed;
4) Efficiently use water for irrigating food instead of lawns and plants that are purely ornamental.

Summary

The Act will achieve these purposes by ensuring the rights of individuals and groups to cultivate and, in certain cases, sell edible plants. The Act will remove a handful of barriers arising from local zoning laws, private land covenants, and lease restrictions. Producers must, however, still comply with any and all relevant health, agricultural, and environmental regulations.

There are hundreds of city and county zoning laws around California that present barriers to people who would like to sell fresh produce they grow on their residential property. Many California cities and counties also have zoning laws prescribing what kind of landscaping is allowed in front yards of homes and these laws often are not compatible with vegetable gardens or fruit trees, even if residents maintain these plans very well. Local campaigns to changes these laws in cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego have been successful but have often taken countless hours of local citizen advocacy, often supported by nonprofit organizations to make basic updates to bring local laws affecting urban agriculture up to speed with the 21st century. We at the Sustainable Economies Law Center believe that the right to grow food should be considered a basic right and protected by the State of California.

The proposed Neighborhood Food Act requires that local governments in California allow for the cultivation and sale of plant crops, including fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and nuts. The Neighborhood Food Act does not in any way require local governments to allow animal husbandry at this time because keeping animals raises more complex issues than plants do, so we believe the matter of raising animals is better left to local governments. Because the cultivation of plant crops raise almost no problems to neighborhoods and other parts of cities and towns, we believe the right to grow plants as food is a basic right that should be protected.

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