Sustainable Economies Law Center on CBS Bay Area Focus

Watch SELC build the legal roots of resilience before your eyes!On Sunday, January 25th, the Sustainable Economies Law Center's Janelle Orsi and Ricardo Nuñez were interviewed by CBS' Bay Area Focus! They spoke about the work SELC does and why legal resources are needed in every community to support the creation of cooperatives, renewable energy, shared housing and transportation, and more! Watch the video below!

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The Viability of the Commons


Interview with Commons Transition

First published at and republished under a Peer Production, P2P Attribution-ConditionalNonCommercial-ShareAlikeLicense

Can you define Commons Transition, tell us what it means to you?

Chris: To me, a commons transition speaks to the process of communities progressively controlling and self-governing more and more of their collective resources, by and for themselves and future generations. The “transition” implies that we are moving from one system of organizing society – in this case, global capitalism – to a wholly distinct socio-ecological paradigm rooted in age-old practices referred to as “the commons.” What’s particularly interesting about this transition is that, in many ways, it’s a return to principles of managing our homes that evolved over millennia before the onslaught of industrial capitalism. Our contemporary context is obviously much different from the indigenous and peasant cultures that sustained commons-based societies for thousands of years, but we have much to learn from them in how to undertake this transition.

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Check out our new FAQ for the Neighborhood Food Act

Today, the Neighborhood Food Act is officially in effect. So what does that mean for you? Find out by reading through our Neighborhood Food Act FAQ.

In the FAQ, you'll find answers to questions including:

  • Why do we need this law?
  • What does the law really do?
  • Who does the law apply to?
  • Can I sell food that I grow at home?
  • And more!

Click the link above to download a PDF copy of the FAQ, and visit our Food Resources page to find the FAQ and plenty of other food law and policy related educational resources.

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Duluth Library's Seed Sharing Program Hits A Hurdle

printLogo.gifBy: Dan Kraker, Minnesota Public Radio

(Originally published November 30, 2014)

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has given a thumbs down to a Duluth seed-sharing program that allows members to borrow vegetable seeds from the library in the spring and later return seeds they collect from their gardens.

State agriculture regulators say the exchange — one of about 300 in the United States — violates the state's seed law because it does not test seeds.

Read the full article on

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Owning is the New Sharing

By Nathan Schneider, Shareable

shareablelogo.gif"There are many ways to own. Simply giving up on ownership, however, will mean that those who actually do own the tools that we rely on to share will control them. People who want an economy of genuine sharing are coming to recognize that they must embrace ownership — and, as they do, they're changing what owning means altogether."

Read the full article on Shareable

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SELC Celebrates Victories and Launches Seed Library Campaign

Originally posted on on November 21, 2014

By Cat Johnson

On Tuesday, the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) hosted its annual Fall Celebration and Showcase. Now in its fifth year, SELC is a driving force for the new economy, doing pioneering work around worker cooperatives, home-based food businesses, alternative currencies, legal guides for sharing, legal apprenticeships, accessible legal cafes, renewable energy, the commons, seed libraries and more.

At the celebration, the SELC team gave an overview of what they’ve accomplished this year, including removing many legal barriers to people growing and selling home-based food; legalizing alternative currencies in California; removing one of the biggest barriers to cooperative housing; and launching the Worker Coop Academy. As Executive Director Janelle Orsi put it, “This September, the governor was just signing our bills left and right.”

Shareable and SELC recently partnered up to support seed sharing and seed libraries. With a grant from the Clif Bar Family Foundation, SELC and Shareable are launching a nationwide campaign to educate legislators and the public about the essential need for and legality of seed libraries, and to clarify and protect the legal status of seed libraries, which have come under pressure from regulators recently. Shareable will be publishing articles on seed issues, including seed sharing, seed libraries, seed saving and more. We will also promote the campaign, activate grassroots networks, and advocate for a seed library exemption law in California.

On Tuesday, the SELC team also painted a picture of a very bright future; and they did so in true SELC form with lots of laughs, cartoons, smarts and silliness. With the help of a community-supported time machine, we traveled into a future complete with healthy, thriving, sustainable communities. Here’s how it plays out:

2015: The Year of the Seed

In 2015, there are seed libraries in almost every city in the country. From these libraries people can check out free seeds, grow them, harvest the food, eat it, and share seeds back to the library. People have free access to seeds, there are thriving local food systems, and we have a diverse seed commons. SELC contributed to this bright seed future by creating a seed law tool shed, launching a national seed law petition, and legalizing seed.

2016: The Year of Local Investing

In 2014, communities realized that they needed to move money out of Wall Street and divest from fossil fuels, but there weren’t many options to invest elsewhere, due in large part to legal barriers preventing investing in local businesses. In 2016, investment portfolios include cooperatives, credit unions and small businesses. SELC’s Sustainable Economies Securities Act enabled people to invest locally and became a model for other states throughout the country.

2017: The Year of Home-Based Food Business

In 2014, giant corporations with underpaid workers controlled much of the nations agriculture. People who wanted to start a small food business couldn’t because there were so many legal barriers. By 2017, SELC has made it possible for just about anyone to start their own farm or home-based food business by legalizing these entities, pioneering legal structures that help new farmers obtain access to land, and supporting the growth of worker owned farms.

2018: The Year of the Worker Cooperative

In 2014 there were only 300 to 400 worker cooperatives, and many barriers to creating them. Businesses and law schools didn’t educate their students how to advise or operate worker owned businesses, business incubators and development agencies didn’t provide resources to worker cooperatives, and, in fact, most people didn’t even know what a worker cooperative was.

In 2018 there are thousands of worker cooperatives because of SELC’s pioneering research, education and advocacy. SELC remains at the forefront of building an ecosystem of support services and laying the legal foundation for community ownership and democracy in the workplace. They partnered with the East Bay Community Law Center and Project Equity to create the first ever Worker Coop Academy in the Bay Area; there are now accredited worker cooperative courses in colleges across California and the country; and SELC’s model city policies, that prioritize worker coops, have been passed in cities across the country.

2019: The Year of the Transformed Legal Profession

In 2014, no one could afford an attorney because most attorneys were working for the very rich. The attorneys that came out of law school couldn’t find a job in 2014 and attorneys working for corporations were helping people build bigger and bigger corporations which was ruining the planet and widening the wealth gap. This was a failure of the legal system which is supposed to help people build a just and equitable society. By 2019, SELC’sResilient Communities Legal Cafes, which offer down to earth legal help for people doing real things in real communities, have caught on all across the country and there are legal cafes everywhere. SELC also supports individuals who are opening their own legal practices to build sustainable societies, and there's a network of a million lawyers, all over the world, who are helping to build sustainable societies.

2020: The Year of Apprenticeships

In 2014, attorneys were graduating from law school $200,000 in debt—not a good position to be in if they wanted to serve society's needs. By 2020, because of widespread legal apprenticeships however, a new generation of legal attorneys are able to roll up their sleeves and help cultivate sustainable societies. Legal apprenticeships have revolutionized the legal system and legal professionals now have a deep culture of teaching and learning. SELC created resources for legal apprentices to navigate their way through the legal apprenticeship, they blogged about their experiences, and they got the word out. They were even featured in the New York Times. They also introduced legal apprenticeships laws all over the US, so people everywhere can take the apprentice route to becoming an attorney.

2021: Year of the Awesome Nonprofit

In 2014, there were tons of big nonprofits where things happened very slowly. Funding sources diminished, organizations spent more on fundraising than they did on programs, staffers were overworked and always buried in paperwork, and highly paid executives and administrative staff were weighing nonprofits down. With all this, nonprofits weren’t changing our communities as fast as we needed them to. In 2021, the age of the agile nonprofit, tens of thousands of nonprofits have adopted SELC’s organizational model:

  • Everyone gets paid the same living wage
  • Every staff member is a leader and takes sense of own over the organization’s work
  • Everyone has the flexibility to continue to build their skills and knowledge
  • Everyone can bring proposals on ways to improve the impact of the organization
  • Staff are encouraged to work 30 hour work weeks, to be creative, and, of course, to put on silly shows.

2022: The Year of Renewable Energy

In 2014, people were doing crazy stuff: injecting poisonous chemicals into the ground to extract gas, cutting mountaintops, burning everything and taking over land with industrial-scale solar farms. By 2022, communities have placed solar systems on every possible rooftop. People and communities now own and control their energy needs. SELC helped pass regulation to make sure people could actually invest in things that sustain these community solar, and other renewable energy, projects. SELC also developed legal structures to enable community solar projects and cooperatively owned solar projects that brought energy independence to every community across America.

2023: The Year of the Freelance Owned Cooperative

In 2014, freelancers were forced to bid on jobs and giant companies such as Task Rabbit and Uber were making millions off of freelancers. In 2023, there are freelancer-owned cooperatives, including Bay Area-based freelancer-owned cooperative Loconomics, everywhere. It’s because of the legal blueprint that Loconomics and SELC created that freelancers are allowed to share in profits, decision making power, tools and resources.

2024: The Year of the Commons

Before global capitalism, most land and water resources were managed by the people who used them. Communities everywhere managed their land and water resources as a commons. In 2014, these resources were highly concentrated in the hands of large corporations. But we learned from commoners and researchers including Elinor Ostrom, the principles to manage our commons. SELC created the first legal structure to collectively own and manage our farmland as a commons and has started creating more commons-based legal structures for land, water, housing, the Internet, banks and more—all things can be managed as a commons. In 2024, they're stewarded forever in the commons legal structures.

The Wrap

As the SELC staff and the audience were all basking in the glow of the vibrant, thriving future of sustainable communities, Orsi offered a reminder.

“You guys could stay here in the future,” she says, “but if you don’t go back and do your work, then none of this will exist.”


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Toward a True Sharing Economy

Commentary on Juliet Schor's "Debating the Sharing Economy", by Chris Tittle 

Chris's Commentary, and Juliet Schor's full article "Debating the Sharing Economy," first published at Great Transition Initiative.

Schor-email-hackerspace_7f50b41523f34ef75f87c0f3ec02454c.jpgJuliet Schor offers us one of the most lucid, insightful, and well-researched analyses of the so-called "sharing economy," examining the self-proclaimed social and environmental transformations that for-profit companies have claimed, and concluding, rightly I think, that the capacity of sharing economy users to organize themselves is a central factor in truly unlocking the potential of the sharing model.

Read the full essay at Great Transition Initiative

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Worker Owned Pedal Express Job Opening

WHAT?! Become a worker owner!

Pedal Express is looking for a new worker-owner to start training in December, 2014.  This position is part time, 24 hours to 32 hours per week plus a bimonthly 2 hour meeting.  Must be available to work Wednesdays and Fridays - the rest of the schedule is otherwise flexible. Work hours are 9am-5pm.

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Gov. Brown Signs Neighborhood Food Act

Sunset Community Garden

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.

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Food Program Newsletter, Fall 2014

Happy Fall! Here at the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC), we've been hard at work sowing the seeds for a more resilient food system. Here's a brief update on some of our accomplishments, on-going projects, and upcoming events. Check it out!

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Governor Brown Signs Cooperative Housing Bill

housing.jpgOver the weekend the Governor signed another bill that Sustainable Economies Law Center helped create! This bill, AB 569, will facilitate cooperative housing development in California, especially the creation of Limited Equity Housing Cooperatives (LEHCs). LEHCs provide residents with a unique form of equity stake in their home that restricts the resale value of shares to keep the prices low when regular market forces would otherwise drive them up.

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Governor Brown Signs Cooperative Housing Bill!

housing.jpgOver the weekend the Governor signed another bill that SELC helped create! This bill, AB 569, will facilitate cooperative housing development in California, especially the creation of Limited Equity Housing Cooperatives (LEHCs). LEHCs provide residents with a unique form of equity stake in their home that restricts the resale value of shares to keep the prices low when regular market forces would otherwise drive them up.

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JOB OPENING at Mariposa Gardening & Design

Mariposa_Gardening_After.jpgThis is a full time position. We offer health benefits, and the potential to work toward becoming a worker-owner. 

Mariposa Gardening & Design is an award-winning landscaping design build company dedicated to building beautiful ecologically sound gardens. Our gardens are designed and built using Permaculture methods. We are looking for the right person to manage the installation of our gardens. We seek someone with the ability to manage a small crew, who can communicate with several entities regarding a job site, and stay organized. Someone with a background in Permaculture is a plus.

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Governor Brown Signs the Neighborhood Food Act!

UPDATE: Click here to read our FAQ on the Neighborhood Food Act


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.

Contact Information
Neil Thapar, Staff Attorney
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (510) 398-6219
2323 Broadway, #203 Oakland, CA 94612


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Upcoming Fall Events!

Join_Us_SELC_.jpgOn Sunday, September 21st, over 300,000 people from across the globe gathered in the streets of New York to demand action on climate change. Here in the Bay Area, we're co-creating a solutions-based movement to transform our economies - read on for all the ways to get involved in the coming months! 


A Fall Celebration, Conferences, Workshops, Happy Hours, Oh my!

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Thanks to our Partners and Collaborators: