Ting Pushes Extension of Property Tax Breaks for Community Gardens

Monday, February 27, 2017

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) announced legislation extending the ability of local governments to provide property tax breaks to owners of idle urban plots transformed into community gardens.  Ting authored the original state law creating these tax incentives and it expires in 2019.

“Diet is the foundation of health.  Urban farming needs more time to take root and help more Californians access nutritious food in their own neighborhoods,” said Ting.  “An urban farm can be an oasis.  There is great interest to tame the concrete jungle with green spaces that transform blight into bounty.”

The cities of Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose along with the unincorporated areas in the counties of Santa Clara and Los Angeles have adopted programs under Ting’s law allowing property tax breaks for urban agriculture.  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 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 5 years.  For purposes of property tax, such parcels are assessed as irrigated cropland which is valued statewide at nearly $11,000 per acre.  This could save landowners thousands of dollars in property tax liability each year.

“Urban agriculture is among the most vibrant sectors of the good food movement,” said Michael Dimock, President of Roots of Change.  “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.”

“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,” said Eli Zigas, Food and Agricultural Director at SPUR, the sponsor of Ting’s 2013 legislation.  “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.”

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.