The process of creating urban gardens on underutilized San Francisco property could be streamlined under a new city employee if legislation to be introduced today is approved.
The proposed legislation by Board of Supervisors President David Chiu would add a position in The City that would deal solely with the urban agriculture process, helping organizations receive approval to use land and even get started.
“We need to do better as a city,” Chiu said. “It’s uncoordinated, uncentralized and understaffed.”
There are nearly 75 San Francisco property sites, each an acre or less in size, that are not being used, according to a report released by the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association. Many of them are small strips of land next to libraries or medians on major streets that could be better maintained by communities hoping to beautify their neighborhoods through gardens or other urban agricultural uses.
City agencies, including the Department of Public Works, the Recreation and Park Department and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, all own land that could be used for urban agriculture, but the process for approval differs from agency to agency.
Chiu’s legislation is in response to the SPUR report, which highlighted the need for more organization within San Francisco government.
“Depending on who you talk to, you might hear a different thing on how to get started,” said SPUR food program and urban agriculture manager Eli Zigas. “This legislation would dedicate a staff person to coordinate it, which was one of our recommendations.”
Urban garden backers say some neighborhood initiatives have taken up to two years to get projects started because of approvals needed before work can begin.
“Those who have time and are tenacious will succeed,” Zigas said.
Chiu said increased agriculture and a simpler land acquisition process will ultimately benefit The City.
“It reduces consumer costs, increases public health and even certain economic developments benefit from urban agriculture,” he said. “It builds local economy and provides better use of public lands.”