Gov. Brown Signs Bill to Extend Property Tax Breaks for Community Gardens

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) that extends local governments’ ability to provide property tax breaks to owners of vacant urban plots transformed into community gardens for ten years.  Ting authored the original law in 2013, which expires in 2019.

“Putting fresh fruits and vegetables on the table can be a challenge in some neighborhoods,” said Ting.  “Urban farming needs more time to take root and help more Californians access nutritious food.  Urban farms turn the concrete jungle into green spaces that bring value to neighborhoods, transforming blight into bounty.”

Many communities across California now provide property tax breaks for urban agriculture, including:

  • the cities of Sacramento, San Diego and San Jose;
  • the counties of Sacramento, Santa Clara and Los Angeles; and
  • the City and County of San Francisco.

The cities of Los Angeles and Long Beach are working to establish such programs, and there is interest in many others.

Ting’s Assembly Bill (AB) 465 passed the Legislature on a bipartisan vote earlier this month.  It extends the ability of cities and counties to provide property tax breaks for urban agriculture until 2029.  Communities must have a population of 250,000 or more to qualify, and they must create urban agricultural zones before offering tax breaks to landowners who commit their properties in these zones to agricultural use for five years.  For purposes of property tax, such parcels are assessed as irrigated cropland which is valued statewide at $11,290 per acre.  This could save landowners thousands of dollars in property tax liability each year.

The benefits of community gardens are well documented.  One study found that families participating urban agriculture can offset 30-40 percent of their produce needs.  Another study concluded that every dollar invested in urban agriculture returns $6 worth of food to the community.  Furthermore, an analysis determined that community gardens increased property values and property tax revenue grew by over $500 million in a 20-year period, in New York City.

Here’s what supporters of AB 465 say:

“Urban agriculture is among the most vibrant sectors of the good food movement.  We are encouraged by and supportive of Assemblymember Ting in his effort to extend the property tax reductions that encourage urban land owners to make available their parcels to community-based organizations and individuals that grow food.  This law contributes to the development of healthy and resilient communities, the preeminent need of our state in this century.” -- Michael Dimock, President, Roots of Change

“From talking with advocates and municipalities in various parts of the state, we know that multiple cities and counties have either just started their urban agricultural incentive zone programs or are hoping to do so in the coming year.  Allowing the program to continue past 2019 will give these places time to implement the program, which will allow us to further see how this policy tool can support access to land and land tenure for urban farmers and gardeners.” -- Eli Zigas, Food and Agricultural Director, SPUR

“AB 465 helps farmers grow food in some of the places that need it most – our urban communities.  Urban agriculture is an opportunity to spur economic development, grow educational opportunities, and create new spaces for recreation and community building.” --Paul Towers, Organizing Director and Policy Advocate, Pesticide Action Network

“The [Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone] Program helps urban farmers to address one of the biggest obstacles they face – access to affordable land.” --Ed Berends, Legislative Representative, County of Los Angeles

“Extending authorization of [Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone] contracts to 2029 would further enable counties and cities the opportunity to establish programs that transform vacant lots into neighborhood assets.” -- Dave Cortese, President, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors

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Contact: Anthony Matthews, tel. (916) 319-2019