September 26, 2014
Today Governor Jerry Brown signed SELC's Neighborhood Food Act, AB 2561, and several other bills seeking to promote local and sustainable food systems in California.
AB 2561 guarantees tenants’ and members of homeowner’s associations’ rights to grow food for personal consumption by voiding contrary language in lease agreements or homeowner’s association agreements.Read more
September 26, 2014
Today Governor Jerry Brown signed Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC)'s Neighborhood Food Act, AB 2561, and several other bills seeking to promote local and sustainable food systems in California.
AB 2561 guarantees tenants’ and members of homeowner’s associations’ rights to grow food for personal consumption by voiding contrary language in lease agreements or homeowner’s association agreements.
AB 2561 preempts landlords from restricting tenants who live in single-family or duplex residences from growing food for themselves in portable containers in their backyards. The bill allows landlords to determine the location of containers, restrict the use of synthetic chemicals, and enter into separate agreements with tenants regarding excess water use or waste collection. Common interest developments are also preempted from restricting members from growing food for personal consumption or donation.
Some 25 organizations supported the bill, including Sustainable Economies Law Center (sponsor), Slow Food California, Social Justice Learning Institute, and Ubuntu Green. Neil Thapar, Staff Attorney at the Sustainable Economies Law Center, said, “As Californians continue to face significant economic and environmental uncertainty, the Neighborhood Food Act is a great step forward towards equitable access to healthy food, developing resilient food systems, and strengthening local economies. People have the right to grow their own food, and this law clarifies that right.”
The bill as originally drafted by SELC, and as introduced in the State Legislature by Assemblymember Steven Bradford, also contained provisions that would overturn local zoning ordinances that prohibit growing food in front yards, back yards and vacant lots in residential neighborhoods and other city zones. This section of the bill was removed in the Assembly Local Government Committee due to opposition from the local government lobby. SELC hopes for future state legislation that addresses the widespread conflicts between city zoning codes and the urban agriculture movement in order to increase access to fresh, healthy and local food for many more Californians.
While there is much work ahead to remove legal barriers to small-scale, sustainable and local agriculture in California, we are pleased with the increasing interest among the State Legislature in addressing these critical issues. Today we are extremely grateful to the many farmers, gardeners, legislators and their staff, nonprofit organizations and community organizers who supported the Neighborhood Food Act.
Neil Thapar, Staff Attorney
Phone: (510) 398-6219
2323 Broadway, #203 Oakland, CA 94612
After the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture cracked down on a seed bank in the Joseph T. Simpson Public Library in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, hundreds of seed libraries in the U.S. are suddenly wondering if they are breaking the law.
There are seed laws in every state that regulate the sale and transport of seeds within state lines. At the federal level, seed laws govern interstate commerce in seeds. These laws exist to restrict the introduction of invasive species, protect consumers from unscrupulous businesses, and ensure fair competition in the seed industry. But should they apply to non-commercial, non-profit, community-based seed libraries? We don't think so, and we think that seed libraries have the laws on their side.
Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC), along with our friends at Shareable and the Center for a New American Dream, published this article laying down the legal argument why seed libraries shouldn't be subjected to seed laws intended to regulate the commercial seed industry.
The Neighborhood Food Act is flying through the Senate, passing out of the Transportation and Housing Committee yesterday by a vote of 10-1. Though the opposition continues to push for narrowing the scope of the bill, we are grateful that Assemblymember Bradford is standing firm to maintain the important protections that exist for homeowners and tenants to grow their own food. We are also excited at the level of support AB 2561 is receiving in the Senate and are working to ensure this momentum stays with the bill as it continues through the legislative process.
Wasting no time, the bill will next be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, June 24th at 1:30pm in Room 112 at the State Capitol.
We continue to hear from legislator's offices that they are receiving calls in support of this bill so we know that all your calls are making a difference. You can keep the pressure on by calling in to the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee before June 24th to let them know they need to show support. We've created a list of the committee members with their contact information. Remember to be polite and sincere. You can use the phone script below when you make the call.
"Hi, my name is (your name),
I am a (renter, member of an HOA, gardener, homeowner, landlord, etc.) and I wish for the State Legislature to pass AB 2561, the California Neighborhood Food Act.
Assemblymember Steven Bradford introduced the California Neighborhood Food Act (AB 2561), to increase access to fresh food throughout California. Many Californians NEED more access to fresh food. What better way than to grow it on their own? As a California resident seeking increased access to fresh, local food, I'm calling to urge (Senator's name) to vote YES on AB 2561 at Tuesday's Judiciary Committee hearing. Thank you!"
If you live in the Sacramento area and are interested in attending the hearing, please email neil (at) theselc (dot) org, for more information on joining us to advocate for the Neighborhood Food Act in committee.
On Wednesday, April 30, the Neighborhood Food Act passed out of the Assembly Local Government Committee by a narrow margin. Assemblymember Bradford worked with the Committee to make some tough decisions to address concerns raised by opponents and some members of the Committee. Assemblymember Bradford agreed to remove the city zoning component of the bill and make some further adjustments to the tenants’ rights section, limiting the growing space to the backyard. We do not believe the bill would have passed out of the Committee without these agreements.
We've been working towards this groundbreaking moment for two years. California State Assemblymember Steven Bradford has introduced AB 2561, the California Neighborhood Food Act, which, if passed into law, will remove zoning law barriers and other obstacles to growing produce for personal use or for sale throughout California.
It's time to legalize front yard and backyard gardens, community gardens and farm micro-enterprises! It's time to bring fresh, local produce to all communities in California, regardless of geographic limitations and socio-economic status!
Now we need your help to ensure the Neighborhood Food Act will become law.
The Sustainable Economies Law Center partnered with the Social Justice Learning Institute, Slow Food California and Ubuntu Green to pass AB 2561, the California Neighborhood Food Act in 2014. This law is supported by many other organizations and enterprises as well.
If you sign the petition below, we can keep you updated on SELC's current urban agriculture advocacy that builds on our success with the Neighborhood Food Act and furthers our right to grow and sell food in our communities.
The California Neighborhood Food Act, signed into law in 2014, removes barriers to growing food for personal consumption. The law provides rights to grow food in certain circumstances. As a signatory to this petition, you can show your support for urban agriculture as a strategy to increase access to fresh food, promote food security for vulnerable Californians, and reduce environmental impacts of water-intensive lawns. We'll keep you updated on our other work to promote urban agriculture. Below are descriptions of the key provisions of the law:
The law requires that tenants of single family homes and duplexes have the right to grow produce in their backyard in portable containers as long as it does not create trip-and-fall risks or other hazards. It allows the landlord to place restrictions on the location and number of containers.
Homeowners' Association member rights:
The law makes it illegal for a homeowners’ association contract to prohibit or unreasonably restrict the use of backyards of private (not shared) property for growing produce.
Click here to download model Neighborhood Food Act legislation (note: this is NOT what was actually signed into law in California).
Please email Neil@theselc.org.
Legal Eats - A Legal Guide for Food Justice Enterprises (updated March, 2016)
This is a 77 page guide that covers many legal topics related to starting a small to medium scale food enterprise including restaurants, farms, grocery stores, and more! This guide primarily covers California law. It does not cover inter-state food sales. Click here to download the pdf onto your computer.
Food and Agricultural Regulations for Urban, Suburban, and Small Scale Agriculture:
General Guide to Selling/Donating Produce in California (including new laws as of 2016): Click here for a 3-page pdf.
Guide to Selling Produce in San Jose (for farmers and retailers): Click here for info and free pdf download.
Legal Bite on Organic Certification is a two page overview of the rules that apply to Certified Organic California farmers.
Legal Bite on Accessible Gardens is an overview of the Americans with Disabilities Act as it applies to gardens, with tips on making gardens more accessible.
Legal Bite on Selling Eggs in California is an overview for small-scale producers and sellers of eggs in California. Requirements covered in this resource apply to egg producers with 3,000 laying hens or fewer and those selling eggs within the state of California only.
FAQ on the Neighborhood Food Act provides an overview of the law's provisions, who the law applies to, and how you can take advantage of the new law to increase urban food production where you live. You might also want to check out this video recording of our Food and Farm Attorney, Neil Thapar, speaking about the law (see video at 21:00) at the 2014 Urban Agriculture Law Conference at University of Maryland, Francis King Carey School of Law.
Homemade Food Enterprises:
See our California Homemade Food Act page for lots of detailed information on the law that we helped shepherd through the legislature in 2012.
Be sure to check out the Frequently Asked Questions page if you have a specific question that is not answered in our general summary of the law.
Check out our Food News Blog for updates on the latest legislative developments around homemade food sales.
Finance for Food and Agriculture Enterprises:
See our Grassroots Finance Guide for California Farmers which details the laws food and farm enterprises must navigate when raising "community capital" (ie raising investment money from ordinary people, not banks or other financial institutions). Released in September, 2017
See also generally our Grassroots Finance Program page for more finance ideas and other resources.
We've created a series of resources on employment laws for small-scale food and farm enterprises. Click here to learn more.
Employment Law Projects: From 2011-2013, our staff and volunteers worked with Hmong farmers in and around Fresno, CA and Chinese farmers in Morgan Hill, CA to address common employment law barriers encountered when the farmers engage in cooperative farming practices and involve family and friends in the labor of their farms. These employment law issues are key legal barriers in the creation of sustainable localized economies, and they impact communities far beyond Fresno and Morgan Hill. For more information on this project, see our webpage on Employment Law Projects.
General Information for Small Businesses:
See our CommunityEnterpriseLaw.org. This contains articles about employment, land use, corporate, and finance laws. Note that this is a work-in-progress and more content is continually added.
Workshops: With our partners at the Community Economic Justice Clinic at the East Bay Community Law Center and students at Berkeley Law School we put on workshops about legal topics related to food enterprises and worker cooperatives. Check out our events page for information about upcoming workshops. Click here to see all 14 videos from a previous Legal Eats workshop in West Oakland.
Legal Advice: The Sustainable Economies Law Center offers donation-based legal advice sessions for small-scale food enterprises and other community-based enterprises through our Resilient Communities Legal Cafe. Check out the schedule, which rotates around various East Bay Area locations, and then either schedule an appointment or just show up. Some Legal Cafes are also accompanied by facilitated discussions about various legal topics. Check the schedule for more information. As a small nonprofit organization, unfortunately, we do not have the resources at this time to provide legal advice over the phone or through email to food entrepreneurs who contact us outside the Legal Cafe. Please check out the resources listed above for your legal information needs, and if you still have questions or are unsure about anything, come to our Legal Cafe or contact an attorney who is familiar with the law in your area.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Yassi Eskandari-Qajar / email@example.com
New report details what cities can do now to benefit from a sharing economy
San Francisco, CA (September 9, 2013) — A new report released today by the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) and Shareable details policy steps that city governments can take to benefit from the growing sharing economy by supporting innovations such as ridesharing, carsharing, cohousing, cooperatives, and urban agriculture.Read more
The Sustainable Living Research Ordinance (SLRO) provides Goleta local government with a regulatory pathway to enable residential sustainability projects and designs otherwise illegal under current law. The ordinance does so by designating a property as a "Sustainable Living Research Site," where practices including natural building, onsite wastewater treatment, and self-sustaining agricultural villages would be permitted uses.Read more