Urban farming report overdue, long-awaited in San Francisco 

Local gardening and sustainability efforts are growing rapidly in The City, and residents and city officials would like an easier way to help such efforts take root. But with 84 gardens already in existence and dozens of other potential locations still available, there is no clear way to start such projects without creeping from one city department to another to learn which oversees the site.

As many as 11 city departments, two state agencies and three federal agencies own San Francisco land currently used for communal or plot-based gardens. Having so many agencies involved in such efforts can hold up the process, according to a San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association report released last year.

But that could change if The City creates a position to oversee all urban agriculture in The City, as is recommended in a draft report that has not yet been released.

“Right now you have to go to different agencies,” said Eli Zigas, SPUR’s food systems and urban agricultural program manager. “A one-stop shop has not been set up yet. One key feature of the strategic report focuses on where or who should oversee urban agricultural programs. Once that’s set and established, hopefully it will be a better coordination of resources.”

The report was due from the City Administrator’s Office in December. It is the result of legislation requiring analysis of how The City handles urban agriculture and whether a new position should be created to oversee its operation.

According to the City Administrator’s Office, the report is completed. Officials are just waiting on an agreement from city departments on how to staff the position. The proposed staffer would act as a point person to help the public open new gardens and answer related questions.

Board President David Chiu, who introduced the legislation last June, is frustrated things are taking so long.

“I completely share the community’s frustrations, which is why we passed our legislation last summer,” Chiu said. “We need our city agencies to work together to move our city’s urban agricultural agenda forward.”

Elan Segarra, co-coordinator of  San Francisco’s Urban Agriculture Alliance, said the report should help make the confusing bureaucracy easy to navigate.

“It’s very decentralized,” Segarra said. “And it can be very frustrating at times. We need something. The program is moving forward and the city administration is dragging their feet. ”

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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