Photo credit: Irene Florez (website www.flickr.com/photos/ireneflorez/)
By Victoria Endsley and Lotta Chan, CFJC Interns
At last night’s public meeting for the City of Oakland, community members and public officials gathered together to discuss zoning issues in the City of Oakland that pertain to urban agriculture. From the turnout alone, with the auditorium at North Oakland’s Senior Center entirely full and standing room only at the back, it is clear that this is a hot-button issue for Oakland.
With outdated, vague, and conflicting existing legislation on this issue, Oakland is now beginning the reform process on codes dating back to 1965. Urban agriculture is an important issue for Oaklanders as it provides fresh, healthy food to our communities at affordable prices; opportunities for community building and greener neighborhoods; allows us to reclaim vacant lots and reduce greenhouse gas concentrations; and provides entrepreneurial opportunities for our community members.
Yet, there are questions that need to be resolved in the legislative process, as urban farming has potentially negative impacts on our community. Among the issues mentioned last night are noise, odor, sales and health issues that may arise, especially as urban agriculture continues to increase within city lines.
While there are many health and safety codes set forth on the federal, state and county level that the City of Oakland does not have the power to change, we can legislate the zoning regulations for urban agriculture that determine the location, size and intensity as well as when and where the sales take place. Additionally, the community can weigh in on the permitting processes and standards as well as the noise and odor impact control. Many community members were able to provide their input last night during breakout sessions surrounding animal husbandry, crop growing, sales, and farm management.
After last night’s meeting, the City will move forward with a draft proposal based on community impact and then will go on to a minimum of four or five public hearings with the zoning committee, Planning Commission, CEDA committee and then ultimately the City Council. If you can’t join these meetings to share your feedback, please email the City of Oakland at StrategicPlanning@oaklandnet.com.