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Long Beach Urban Farming Initiative Targets Vacant Lots

A California policy lets cities offer tax incentives to landowners who put vacant lots to use as urban farms or gardens. Long Beach is the latest comer, but the uptake has been sluggish elsewhere.
December 16, 2017, 9am PST | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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By HildaWeges Photography

Long Beach, writes Nina Feldman, is the latest California city to "offer an Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone to landowners, giving tax breaks to those who agree to use their vacant lots for urban farming or gardening for at least five years."

"The state of California passed enabling legislation for such zones in 2013. Since then, San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento and Santa Clara have put programs into place, but only a handful of landowners have taken advantage of the tax break in those four cities [...]"

The policy sounds swell on paper, but landowners have had challenges lining up the necessary parties and budget. "For the program to work, you need a community-minded property owner with a vacant lot and no plans to develop in the next five years, plus an urban farming nonprofit that's sophisticated enough to come prepared with a budget, all its own equipment and labor, and a five-year plan."

To spur on its own program, Long Beach is taking the added step of penalizing eligible landowners who don't take part. "Effective simultaneously with the opportunity for the UAIZ tax breaks is a $53 monthly penalty for all owners of vacant lots to help cover cleaning fees for plots that become dumping grounds."

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Published on Friday, December 1, 2017 in Next City
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