Urban farm bill could help transform South LA’s empty lots


A patch of dirt and weeds in an empty lot in South L.A. | Jordyn Holman

More farms might begin cropping up around South Los Angeles thanks to a proposed bill by the Los Angeles City Council.

Council members Curren Price and Felipe Fuentes recently introduced a motion to provide a property tax adjustment for private landowners who convert their vacant plots into “urban farms,” which the city council defines as commercial ventures that sell food.

The authors of the bill, entitled the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act, said they see the property tax adjustment as a way to encourage landowners who are not using their property. Parcels of land between 0.10 and 3 acres in size would be eligible for the tax breaks.

The Los Angeles Food Policy Council, which has supported previous green initiatives taking place in South L.A., estimates 8,600 parcels in the city could be eligible. To get the tax adjustment, the land must be used for agriculture and educational purposes.

See also: Green alleys to take root in South LA

Councilman Price, who represents some of the poorest communities in South Los Angeles, said the bill could impact both the area’s environment and its economy.

“This action will help us transform underused and blighted plots of land—that often attract crime—into thriving green spaces,” Price said in a statement.

He also said urban agriculture could help to supplement the dearth of grocery stores in South L.A. that sell fresh food.

“Representing a food desert community, I understand firsthand the need to expand food options for our residents,” Price said. “I have also seen the impact that urban farming and gardens can have on our neighborhoods, helping to bring communities closer.”

In addition to the urban farms, many in South Los Angeles are laying the groundwork for other green initiatives. This year, the neighborhood has launched a program to transform the alleyways into clean and communal areas.

Urban gardens such as Ron Finley’s guerrilla gardens and L.A. Green Grounds, a grassroots company that plants gardens at low-income homes, have also begun to flourish.

The urban renewal projects align with Price’s “Clean & Green” initiative in District 9, which aims to restore damaged sidewalks and remove large amounts of trash to make way for more beautification efforts in the area. The bill also mirrors San Francisco’s Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act, implemented last month.

The bill is awaiting approval form the County Board of Supervisors before it can move forward. If approved, city departments will need to coordinate with county officials to set up urban agriculture zones.

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