New California Law Promotes Urban Gardens By Allowing Municipalities To Lower Property Taxes
From the Los Angeles Times – California cities and counties eager to encourage community gardens and small-scale farms in urban pockets have a novel tool at their disposal. Legislation recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown will allow municipalities to lower the assessed value — and property taxes — on plots of three acres or less if owners pledge to dedicate them to growing food for at least five years.
The legislation authored by Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) arose from this city’s rich blend of urban ag interests: community gardens with long waiting lists, nonprofits that offer hands-on nutritional education, and small enterprises like Galloway’s that took root when officials here changed zoning laws.
The program is voluntary: Interested cities can now move forward to create “urban agriculture incentive zones.” County supervisors must then sign off. (Counties can also directly create their own zones.)
It passed the Senate unanimously and garnered just six no votes in the Assembly.
Ting, a former San Francisco assessor, described it as “a subsidy with a very limited fiscal impact. We’re trying to drive better land use for people who might have a parking lot or an empty lot they’re waiting to develop.”
For years, Ting had backed cutting-edge San Francisco policies that helped transform eyesore parcels, raising property values on entire blocks. The idea spread.
“We started to see a movement in cities all over California that have really decided they want to be growing their food,” he said. “They want to have access to agricultural space.”
The concept for the zones is a hybrid of the Wiliamson Act, which offers tax subsidies to owners of rural land maintained for agricultural purposes, and the Mills Act, under which cities may enter into contracts with private owners who receive subsidies in exchange for restoring and preserving historic buildings.
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