Thursday in the City- Zoning Codes and Little City Gardens

little city garden, originally uploaded by sodiumsquared.

I have been hearing a lot of discussions regarding zoning; whether it is beekeeping, goats, wind generators, solar panels, etc. The laws can be ambiguous or antiquated. I have not had to deal with this yet. I really want to learn more about this topic over the next few months. Perhaps, I will use this blog as an outlet for that research.

When I started writing for this blog, the first urban farming lecture I attended was by Little City Gardens at Studio for Urban Projects. What Caitlyn Galloway and Brooke Budner are accomplishing is so inspiring to me. I learned a lot about generating funds, creative energy, determination and hard work. What these two women are doing, an urban farm for profit, is a remarkable model for others. Check out the previous post for more information. Since, I attended their lecture a few months ago, Little City Gardens has met their financial goal on Kickstarter and obtained a lease for their additional land. Below is an update from Brooke Budner discussing their current issues with zoning codes in San Francisco.

The following is via Little City Gardens blog originally posted May 10, 2010 at

Let’s Clarify SF Zoning Code!
May 10th, 2010 by brooke

We need your help!

The Zoning Administrator at the SF Planning Department is currently looking at the case of Little City Gardens to determine whether or not it is legal to run a market garden in a residential neighborhood without first obtaining a Conditional Use Authorization (CUA), a costly and lengthy process. Our project has no contemporary precedent in San Francisco (although there are many examples in other cities), therefore the zoning code does not have clear language that incorporates market-gardening.

Generally businesses are not permitted to operate in residentially-zoned areas without a CUA. However, we believe that if the city government wants to encourage the urban agriculture movement to flourish, it must encourage market-gardening. In order to create hospitable conditions for growing and selling healthy organic food in the city, zoning code must make an exception for market-gardening in residential neighborhoods and eliminate obstacles. CUA is a typical procedure for businesses seeking to use space in a manner that is outside of its zoning designation, however, the process could be prohibitive to would-be market gardeners operating on a low budget.

Most of the city’s open spaces that are easily accessible to individuals (especially those who are not affiliated with city programs or non-profits) are backyards and vacant lots in residential neighborhoods. Because of traffic and pollution, parcels of land in Mixed Use, Business, or Industrial zoning areas are often less appropriate for market-gardens. Market-gardens are not a typical commercial enterprise, as often they are also open/green spaces that attract natural habitat, absorb storm water, and provide food and educational opportunities for the community.

In July of 2009, Mayor Newsom issued an Executive Directive, entitled Healthy and Sustainable Food for San Francisco, in which he declares a commitment to promote and support more food production in the city, “including community, backyard, rooftop and school gardens: edible landscaping, and agricultural incubator projects.” The directive also declares that it “shall promote economic opportunities in the food sector that create green jobs and local food businesses.”

This language suggests that Little City Gardens is explicitly modeling some of the Mayor’s stated goals. We need the mayor and the planning department to recognize the inconsistencies between the Executive Directive and the current zoning code. We need the city to eliminate antiquated and unnecessary obstacles to building a grassroots, healthy food economy.

In order to make change on the city level we need a broad base of support. Right now we need you, our supporters, to raise your voices. Help us encourage the Zoning Administrator to rule in our favor (that we can operate our market garden without a CUA) and set the precedent for a more gardeners to join the local food economy!

What you can do: Write a letter to the acting Zoning Administrator, Craig Nikitas, as well as Mayor Newsom, or make a phone call letting either of them know that you think we need code that allows for market-gardening or micro-farms in San Francisco.

San Francisco Planning Department
Attn: Acting Zoning Administrator Craig Nikitas
1650 Mission Street, Suite 400
San Francisco, CA 94103-2479
Phone: 415.558.6378
Fax: 415.558.6409

Mayor Gavin Newsom
City Hall, Room 200
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: (415) 554-6141
Fax: (415) 554-6160

Please contact Little City Gardens for more information regarding their work. They have posted a letter to the SF Planning Commission on their blog. If interested, you can find it at the before mentioned link.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email