City Council makes it easier to farm in LA

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Los Angeles may not be known for its agriculture (these days), but a new program could change that—encouraging the growth of fresh produce on vacant lots around the city.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a measure providing tax breaks to property owners who lease their land to farmers.

The new ordinance sets up a local framework for the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone program passed by state lawmakers in 2014. It allows property owners to enter into agreements with the city under which they will make land available for “small-scale agricultural purposes” in exchange for reduced property taxes.

According to Councilmember Curren Price, the measure is designed both to put LA’s many vacant lots to better use and to provide residents with healthy food options.

Breanna Hawkins, who is the policy director for the Los Angeles Food Policy Council, says the program will help to end what she calls the “food apartheid conditions” found in “low-income areas and communities of color that have been divested and under-resourced for decades.”

Back in March, we caught up with Emily Gleicher and Arlan J. Wood, who founded the nonprofit organization Farm LA to advocate for more urban gardens across the city. The couple has already planted 12 sidewalk gardens and helped advocate for implementation of the new program.

“There are plots everywhere, plots that are empty,” Wood told Curbed. “For the Average Joe homeowner, they’re not really usable. So this would give an awesome incentive for them to go, ‘Oh my gosh, yes, take my hillside for blank number of years.’ It saves them a lot on property taxes, and it’s a win-win for everybody.”

To be eligible for the program, parcels must be less than three acres in size and be free of exposure to toxic substances. Fortunately for aspiring farmers, city officials estimate that around 57,000 lots in LA fit this description.

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