California’s Long Beach Will Tax Empty Land to Encourage Urban Farming

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A California law to give tax breaks to landowners who convert vacant lots to small urban farms has gone largely unused in the four years since it was passed. But now Long Beach is adding a stick to the carrot of incentives.

Landowners who don’t convert their vacant parcels to small urban farms or community gardens will be billed a $53 dollar monthly fee for city code enforcement officers to monitor the lots so they don’t turn into illegal dumping grounds or havens for crime.

Parcels up to 3 acres on land zoned for industrial, commercial or multi-family residential use can get tax assessments dropped to the lower agricultural valuation in exchange for a commitment to convert to organic farming of produce or animal husbandry for five years.

In the four years since the law passed, owners of only four vacant properties have entered agreements to convert the land to small farms.

In Los Angeles city, five proposals for urban farms are under review and awaiting approval.

Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones are intended to create more green space, jobs and locally-grown food. Vacant lots that become community gardens and small farms are considered less of a magnet for illegal dumping and crime.

One barrier to property owners taking the deal is that, for many the savings would not be significant. Landowners also might not know about the incentive, or they might not have a means of connecting with a farmer interested in leasing the land.

The city has also worked out rules regarding livestock like goats, chickens and bees, setting per-parcel limits that would apply to any newly created urban farms, he said.

Source: Landowners spurn tax breaks to convert vacant lots to urban farms