Sunday, September 21, 2014

Urban Farming in San Francisco

In San Francisco, there's a new program aimed at property owners who can resist the temptations of the sky-high real estate development market and turn their vacant lots into agricultural oases instead.

Many sustainability advocates have applauded the creation of the tax incentive, announced in August. But critics say there is no room in San Francisco to devote space to corn, beans and kale when homes cost millions and rent is at least $2,000 per bedroom in desirable areas.

Here's how the tax break works: Property owners who are willing to turn uninhabited land into farms would get that land assessed at the going tax rate for the state's irrigated farmland. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that was about $12,500 per acre in 2013.

If accepted into the program, the property owner's annual dues to the city would drop from $10,000 or more to roughly $100. But the landowner would have to keep the land as an agricultural operation for at least five years or pay back the balance of the tax reduction, plus interest.

To qualify, the farm must also sell or donate produce to local residents, offer school tours or some other educational benefit or serve as a community-run garden space.

Tax Breaks May Turn San Francisco's Vacant Lots Into Urban Farms (NPR)