I found out today that it’s true that it’s illegal for me to grow chard on my lot.
I wish that was an April Fool’s joke.
Triggered by the San Francisco Chronicle’s story about me, a really cool guy came by from the City of Oakland Planning Department and walked me through the issue. This is what I wanted from the beginning–direct communication from the city. What I found out is kind of sucky, but better than that feeling of not knowing, or facing a complete shut-down of my farmlette.
The deal is that growing any food on an “empty lot” in the City of Oakland is illegal. I’m supposed to have applied for a conditional use permit to grow vegetables. What’s crazy is this law is on lots of books throughout America. Now that just ain’t American–can’t we do what we want on our private property? After 8 years of flouting laws by squat gardening in the lot, I lost my punk renegade status when I bought the lot, but now, paradoxically, my outlaw status was regained by buying it and continuing to be a farmer. Shoulda stayed punk, I guess.
Water under the bridge, though. I asked the City guy what I should do. Luckily, in two weeks, April 14, the Phase 1 of Oakland’s new urban ag laws will take effect, making it legal to grow vegetables on empty lots. What will still be illegal is my bodacious chicken/duck/rabbit palace–Phase 1 doesn’t cover livestock.
If I want to keep livestock (which I do, very important to have manure for the garden, but also a great source of eggs and meat and happiness), I have to apply for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) which will cost $2500. That’s sucky. If I want to sell produce, I should apply for a business license which costs $40 (no worries). I’m going to do all of this and become so sparklingly legit I can’t be targeted by haters.
What good can come out of this? I guess people should learn from me and apply for the CUP. Or learn from me, and just live under the radar, don’t blog about farmstands (they are watching you), stay undercover and enjoy the outlaw status. If you’re interested in getting involved with legalizing local food production in Oakland, the guy from the City urged people to get involved with the next stages of planning for urban ag in Oakland–Phase 2 will be unveiled in 6-8 months, and they need people to show up and tell the city which direction to go. Should they allow livestock on property like mine without a CUP (that would be nice…who can afford $2500?), how many animals should they allow and what kind? what else should they allow–the sale of homemade products? what about animal processing and classes? If you’re interested in going to meetings and shaping the new laws, email the woman in charge of organizing this dialogue (this includes you rabbit fanatics–I agree that everyone should have a say in their government, but please, don’t be such wack-a-dos and recognize that the worst contributors to animal pain are large factory farms, why don’t you spend time fighting them instead? we have more in common than you think.): firstname.lastname@example.org
Now I’m going to go take a nap, because all of this has been really stressful and exhausting. Thanks for your support. Oh, and yeah, I need to raise $2500–anyone have any ideas? Guess the nap is going to have to wait.
Big love to you all.