Oakland Takes First Step Toward Embracing Urban Agriculture



At last night's city planning commission meeting, Oakland quietly took its first steps toward allowing commercial urban agriculture on private land. Tucked amidst a packed agenda featuring fifteen separate items was a provision to amend the city's Planning Code to allow crop-growing as a home occupation — meaning it would be legal to sell produce grown on private residential land, provided the activity did not result in noise, traffic, or smell nuisances. Three members of the public delivered opinions, all in favor, and the planning commission issued its stamp of approval and moved the item along to city council.

"Currently, the city’s home occupation regulations allow the manufacture of products, but only if the manufacturing occurs within a dwelling unit," explained city planner Heather Klein in an email. "This restriction has made the growing of vegetables, fruits, and other crops for sale impossible as a home occupation. Staff proposes to lift this restriction for the home production of crops."

The move was the first in a projected series of meetings and planning code revisions designed to overhaul Oakland's rules about raising crops — and potentially animals — for consumption and sale on private residential land. In the coming months, the city plans to hold a series of meetings with community members, advisory committees, and the Oakland Food Policy Council to address related issues including the raising and sale of livestock within the city.

In a high-profile case in March, the city threatened to fine urban ag advocate Novella Carpenter $5,000 for selling produce and animal products raised on her residential plot in West Oakland. In order to avoid the fine, she was forced to close her pop-up produce stand. If approved by council, the city planning commission's decision last night will allow Carpenter to resume selling produce from her home. Now we'll have to see what the city wants to do about her goats, rabbits, and pigs.