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Tax Breaks for Urban Farms Bill Goes to Governor

For immediate release:

Sacramento – A bill by Assemblymember Philip Y. Ting (D-San Francisco) to give property tax breaks to owners of vacant or blighted property who allow urban farming on their land earned final approval in the legislature today, and now heads to the Governor’s desk for signature.

The bill, AB 551, allows localities in urban areas with a population of 250,000 or more to offer reduced assessed values to property owners who transform their properties into urban farms. It passed concurrence in the state Assembly today with strong bipartisan support.

“My bill will generate more local economic activity, greater access to healthy foods and less pollution for residents of California’s urban cores,” Ting said today. “Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones are an essential part of sound planning for the future of our state’s largest cities.”

AB 551 sets up a voluntary model program allowing owners of small properties (3 acres or less) to enter into contracts with local governments for the right to operate an urban farm in return for reduced assessed rates used to determine property taxes.

Ting said his bill is based on California’s historic Williamson Act which incentivizes rural property owners to maintain working agriculture and avoid development. He cited 20-year New York City study that found $503 million was generated in additional tax revenue as a result of public gardens near private properties. Another study by nonprofit group Policy Link found that every dollar invested in urban agriculture returns $6 worth of food to the community.

Supporters of Ting’s legislation say the benefits of this proposal go further, helping reduce crime, offering job training skills to youth, and creating new venues for programs offered by community groups. San Francisco’s Dearborn Community garden has seen a 78% decrease in neighborhood crime.

Assemblymember Ting is the Chair of Assembly Democratic Caucus and the Assembly Select Committee on Asia/California Trade and Investment Promotion, and he serves on the Budget, Business, Professions and Consumer Protection, Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials and the Revenue and Taxation committees.