Workshops: For a list of our upcoming workshops, click here to see the events page.
Legal Advice: We offer donation-based legal advice to small-scale food enterprises and other community-based enterprises through our Resilient Communities Legal Cafe. Locations rotate weekly to different San Francisco Bay Area locations. Click here to see the schedule and RSVP.
Creative Financing: Check out our Grassroots Finance page.
Bite-Sized Guides: We are constantly creating new easy-to-understand legal guides on a variety of topics, including food and farming! Click here to visit see all of our bite-sized guides.
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
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.
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.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Yassi Eskandari-Qajar / firstname.lastname@example.org
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