Long Beach, California: Landowners spurn tax breaks to convert vacant lots to urban farms

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Community gardens and small urban farms like this could become more common under an incentive offered by local governments. Here, Makadu Labeet is in Vermont Square Community Garden, for which he’s the “unofficial caretaker.” Labeet says the garden is a “sacred ground” for him. JOSÉ MARTINEZ/KPCC

The city has also worked out rules regarding livestock like goats, chickens and bees, setting per-parcel limits that would apply to any newly created urban farms, he said.

By Sharon McNary
SCPR
November 28, 2017

Excerpt:

Starting this month, Long Beach landowners who don’t convert their vacant parcels to small urban farms or community gardens will be billed a monthly fee to pay for city code enforcement officers to monitor the lots so they don’t turn into illegal dumping grounds or havens for crime.

The city will be charging owners a $53 dollar monthly fee to cover oversight of some 618 vacant lots, said Larry Rich, manager of Long Beach’s office of sustainability says.

“People will end up having to pay an additional fee to the city to have a vacant lot,” Rich said. They can avoid that fee if they do urban agriculture there instead.”

California’s largest cities and counties — including Los Angeles County and the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego and San Jose — all passed ordinances to offer the tax breaks enabled by AB 551, which became law in 2013.

Parcels up to 3 acres on land zoned for industrial, commercial or multi-family residential use can get their property tax assessments dropped to the lower agricultural valuation in exchange for a commitment to convert to organic farming of produce or animal husbandry for five years. (Marijuana cultivation not included.)

Read the complete article here.

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