Push for more urban gardens

San Francisco is trying to increase the number of urban gardens and agricultural space available throughout The City. Under proposed legislation, The City would designate an employee to be in charge of helping create urban gardens on underutilized City property.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who proposed the legislation, said the new employee would deal solely with the urban agriculture process and assist organizations in getting required approvals. Chiu thinks the current process is “uncoordinated, uncentralized and understaffed.”

A recent report released by the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association calls on city agencies to provide more land to urban farmers and organizations. SPUR identified more than 70 properties in The City, each around an acre or less in size. The slightly unconventional sites range from strips of dirt next to city buildings to street medians and rooftops.

The City hopes these tiny unused areas would be better maintained by communities and various organizations interested in beautifying SF’s neighborhoods.

But don’t forget about the bureaucratic red tape. Several city agencies own the land that is in question, and the approval process differs from agency to agency. Theoretically, the new city employee would help groups navigate this system.

The City already has nearly 100 food-producing gardens that have sprouted up on both public and private land. With increased interest from residents, waiting lists for patches of soil can take up to two years.

The legislation emerges from a recommendation made in the SPUR report, which said The City needed more organization and a dedicated employee to handle the urban agricultural spaces.

Chiu said The City will benefit from increased agriculture and a streamlined approval process:

“It reduces consumer costs, increases public health and even certain economic developments benefit from urban agriculture. It builds local economy and provides better use of public lands.”

Until then, residents will continue to come up with their own unique ways of urban farming.