Yesterday, the SF Planning Commission met to discuss the Urban Agriculture Proposal that will codify for-profit food production in our fair city. While some city bureaucrats worked behind the scenes, others testified in favor of the proposal, and the room was filled beyond capacity with supporters (all wearing green) spilling out into the hall. The SF Planning Commissioners were sympathetic and thoughtful in their questions and concerns... democracy in action.
Here's my public comment. I shortened it while standing at the microphone, and only read the part in bold ('cause by then, everyone else had said everything else).
Madame President, Commissioners:
Madame President, Commissioners:
Thank you for allowing so many of us to speak today in support of the urban agriculture proposal.
My name is Anne Hamersky and I live in Glen Park. I’m a photographer who has focused on food and farming stories for more than ten years. As a member of SF Urban Ag Alliance, I am here to show my support for the urban agriculture zoning proposal along with a few important amendments.
I’ve had the opportunity to visit urban ag efforts, in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Chicago. All of these farms boost their local economies by providing sorely needed green jobs. As well, they mitigate urban decay by beautifying their city’s vacant lots, and enhance their neighborhood communities by being gathering places to educate people about food production. I’ve seen first hand how these food-producing green spaces can be a source for much social, visual, and economic goodness. While all these efforts have great civic benefits, the fact is, all of them are non-profit organizations. I work closely with many non-profits and know that they rely on foundation grant money, donations, and volunteer power. Not the most sustainable revenue stream.
We all care about sustainability, in these days of climate change and dwindling resources. As you know, former Mayor Newsom’s Healthy Food Executive Directive commits to local food production as a path to a more sustainable future. If the City wants to encourage successful, sustainable urban ag, I respectfully ask that you amend the proposal under consideration to create city policy that makes it economically sustainable to grow more food locally. Thank you.
First, I ask that you waive the fence requirement. It is an expensive and unnecessary prerequisite. Small-scale neighborhood farms are often less noisy than a large apartment building. Frankly, I think most people want to see what’s growing in the ground. I would absolutely welcome a green farm operating next door to me.
Second, allow these growers to develop an economy of scale by aggregating their produce and collectively selling it in a central location. Allow them to sell value-added products at this central location, as well. Value-added products are a way for urban farmers to make a go of it, because, simply put, their profit margins are greater. I, myself, want to buy pickles and farm fresh condiments from the source. Why not?
And finally, waive or modify the $300 “change of use” permit fees for urban agriculture businesses. Encourage these urban farmers to go legit. Make it more financially feasible for them to be urban ag trailblazers. We need them to be successful so they can implement the mandate to grow more food right here. As a small business owner in San Francisco myself, who pays the city business tax every year, I support reconsidering this additional permit fee.
These changes to the proposal will encourage more urban ag businesses to get their seeds in the ground. Show the world that San Francisco continues to be forward thinking and innovative, and that we support for-profit, financially-sustainable businesses that grow local food and local economies.
Because we love this town. Thank you.