Skip to code content (skip section selection)
Establishment of Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone.
Certificate of Eligibility.
Application for a Contract.
Terms of the Contract.
Contract Renewal and Extension.
Outreach and Education.
(a) This Chapter 53A implements the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act, California Government Code Sections 51040 et seq. The Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act authorizes local governments to enter into enforceable contracts with owners of private property for the purpose of promoting the use of vacant, unimproved, or blighted lands for small-scale agricultural use. As consideration for promoting the public interest in sustainable urban farm enterprise sectors in urban centers, the City and County of San Francisco may provide certain property tax reductions in accordance with Article 1.5 (commencing with Section 422.7) of Chapter 3 of Part 2 of Division 1 of the California Revenue and Taxation Code.
(b) Implementation of the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act will make the benefits of the Act available to owners of eligible property in San Francisco.
(c) The benefits of the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act to the individual property owners and the City generally must be balanced with the cost to the City of providing the potential property tax reductions set forth in the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act.
An Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone, pursuant to California Government Code Section 51040 et seq., the boundaries of which include the entirety of the City and County of San Francisco, is hereby established for the City and County of San Francisco for the purpose of entering into enforceable contracts with landowners, on a voluntary basis, for the use of vacant, unimproved, or blighted lands for small-scale agricultural use.
(a) An owner, or an authorized agent of the owner, of an eligible urban agriculture incentive zone property may apply for an urban agriculture incentive zone contract ("Contract"). For purposes of this Chapter 53A, "eligible urban agriculture incentive zone property" shall mean a privately owned lot or parcel that is not exempt from property taxation and:
(1) is located within a zoning district where Neighborhood Agricultural or Large-Scale Urban Agricultural Uses as defined in Planning Code Section 102 are principally or conditionally permitted uses;
(2) is at least 0.10 acres and not more than three acres in size;
(3) does not include any dwelling units; and
(4) includes only structures that are accessory to the agricultural activity, including, but not limited to toolsheds, greenhouses, produce stands, or educational space.
(b) Determination of Eligibility. The property owner shall seek a determination from the Planning Department that the property is an eligible urban agriculture incentive zone property. The property owner shall provide, at a minimum, the address and location of the property and evidence that the property is an eligible urban agriculture incentive zone property as described in Subsection 53A.3(a). The Planning Department shall make an over-the-counter determination as to whether the property is an eligible urban agriculture incentive zone property. If the property is eligible, the Planning Department shall provide a certificate of eligibility to the property owner. The certificate of eligibility is not a permit to commence any work or a change in use. Permits from appropriate departments must be secured before work is started or use is changed.
(a) Application for a Contract. After obtaining a certificate of eligibility for the property, the property owner shall submit an application for a Contract, including but not limited to the certificate of eligibility, any required documentation regarding the property described in section 53A.3(b), and a description of the intended agricultural use of the property including current and proposed site plans and a development schedule for the property, to the Agricultural Commissioner on forms provided by the Agricultural Commissioner.
(b) Application Deadlines. For calendar year 2014, the deadline to submit an application for a Contract to the Agricultural Commissioner shall be October 1. Thereafter, the deadlines to submit an application for a Contract to the Agricultural Commissioner shall be March l, June l, and August 1.
(c) Additional Applications and Approvals. As required by the Planning Code or other provisions of the Municipal Code, the property owner shall also apply for and obtain any necessary change of use permit, conditional use permit, or other approvals required to conduct the proposed agricultural uses on the property prior to execution of any approved Contract by the Agricultural Commissioner. Nothing in this Chapter shall be construed as limiting the application or requirements of any and all applicable provisions of state law and this Code, including but not limited to the requirements of the Planning Code.
(a) Agricultural Commissioner Review. The Agricultural Commissioner shall review the Contract application within 30 days of the application deadline. The Agricultural Commissioner shall determine whether the application includes either plans for or proof of existing activities that demonstrate:
(1) conformance with the definition of urban agriculture as detailed in the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act (California Government Code Section 51040.3(c);
(2) that the entire property is dedicated to agricultural use. The Agricultural Commissioner shall consider whether certain site features support agricultural use of the site, including but not limited to: educational space; preparation, washing, and harvest areas; storage space; and vehicle access areas. These types of site features shall not preclude approval of a Contract as long as the features are accessory to the agricultural use and permitted under the Planning Code on the property proposed for Contract; and
(3) the site is periodically open to members of the public through any of the following:
(A) agricultural education or outreach on site such as classes, workshops, or visits by school groups;
(B) periodic distribution of agricultural products (such as, for example, produce, flowers, eggs, or honey) from the site, via donation or sales; or
(C) the site is managed as a community garden that has hours when the site is open to the general public.
In determining that the plans or existing activities conform with the intent of the law, the Agricultural Commissioner is to be guided by the City's intent that a Contract shall be used to incentivize farming and gardening that has a public benefit, either through the distribution of food grown on the site to members of the public other than the property owner or operator and their immediate families; economic activity through the sale of the food produced on site; or education that occurs from people learning from the agriculture on site. Benefits such as providing food solely for the property owner or operator and their immediate families; site beautification; or provision of green space for the public, shall not constitute sufficient agricultural use to be considered in conformance with the intent of this ordinance.
(b) Assessor-Recorder Review. If the Agricultural Commissioner recommends initial approval of the application, he or she shall forward the application to the Assessor-Recorder for review. Within 30 days of receipt, the Assessor-Recorder shall provide the Agricultural Commissioner with a report estimating the yearly property tax revenue to the City under both the urban agriculture incentive zones contract valuation method and under the standard valuation method and estimating the difference in property tax assessments under the two valuation methods for the term of the proposed Contract. In making this estimate, the Assessor-Recorder shall use the current-year Board of Equalization published tax rate.
(c) Agricultural Commissioner Approval. A Contract may be approved by the Agricultural Commissioner at his or her sole discretion if approval of the proposed Contract would not result in: (1) a tax revenue loss of more than $25,000 per year or more than $125,000 for the term of the contract, as calculated based on the Assessor-Recorder's estimate; (2) contiguous parcels totaling five acres or more under contract at the same time; or (3) an estimated combined tax revenue loss for all properties under Contract greater than $250,000 per year. If the Agricultural Commissioner disapproves an application, such decision shall be final unless the property owner files an appeal with the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors within 10 business days of the denial by the Agricultural Commissioner. If the Agricultural Commissioner approves an application, he or she shall provide written notice of the approval to the Clerk of the Board within five business days of the approval, and the Clerk of the Board shall forward such notice to all members of the Board of Supervisors. In addition to information regarding the specific Contract approved, such notice shall include the estimated combined tax revenue loss to the City for all properties under Contract. Within 10 business days of receipt of such notice, any member of the Board of Supervisors may introduce a resolution requesting Board review of the approval. Approval of a Contract shall not be final until either: the time has passed for a member of the Board to introduce a resolution requesting Board review without any member doing so; or, if a Board member has introduced a resolution requesting review, the Board has held a hearing and affirmed the Agricultural Commissioner's approval of the Contract.
(d) Board of Supervisors Approval. Any proposed Contract not meeting the conditions set forth in subsection (c) above for approval by the Agricultural Commission shall be forwarded by the Agricultural Commissioner to the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors with a recommendation. The Board of Supervisors shall conduct a public hearing to review the Agricultural Commissioner's recommendation, the Assessor-Recorder's report, and any other information the Board requires in order to determine whether the City should execute the proposed Contract. The Board of Supervisors may approve, disapprove, or modify and approve the Contract and shall have full discretion to determine whether it is in the public interest to enter into the proposed Contract.
(e) Following final approval of the Contract by the Agricultural Commissioner or the Board of Supervisors, the Agricultural Commissioner shall send written notification to the Assessor-Recorder and to the property owner. The Agricultural Commissioner shall execute the approved Contract upon his or her determination that the property owner has obtained all other required approvals tor the proposed agricultural use, including but not limited to any required change of use or conditional use permit. Once executed, the property owner shall record the Contract against the property. Once the Contract is recorded against the property, the Assessor-Recorder shall apply the reduced property tax valuation methodology to the property at the next property tax lien date.
(a) The Contract shall set forth the agreement between the City and the property owner that as long as the property owner properly conducts permitted agricultural uses on the property as set forth in the Contract, the City shall comply with California Revenue and Taxation Code Article 1.5 of Chapter 3 of Part 2 of Division l, commencing with Section 422.7, provided that the specific provisions of the Revenue and Taxation Code are applicable to the property in question. A Contract shall contain, at a minimum, the following provisions:
(1) The initial term of the Contract, which shall be for a minimum period of five years;
(2) The property owner's commitment and obligation to conduct permitted agricultural uses on the property in accordance with the requirements, rules, and regulations of the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act, this Chapter 53A, the Planning Code, and the Contract;
(3) Permission to allow periodic examinations of the property under Contract by the Assessor-Recorder, the Department of Building Inspection, the Planning Department, the Agricultural Commissioner, and the State Board of Equalization as may be necessary for tax assessment purposes or to determine the property owner's compliance with the Contract and state and local law;
(4) That the Contract is binding upon, and shall inure to the benefit of, all successors in interest to the property owner;
(5) Agreement that the Agricultural Commissioner or Board of Supervisors may cancel the Contract, or seek enforcement of the Contract in accordance with the cancellation provisions of Section 53A.8;
(6) That agricultural activity shall commence on the property within 30 days of the recordation of the Contract;
(7) That the property owner must report in writing to the Agricultural Commissioner any cessation of agricultural use for any reason, including but not limited to due to the loss of a tenant who was conducting agricultural uses on the property, within two weeks of the cessation of activity and that the property owner must resume agricultural activity within three months of any such cessation or face cancellation of the Contract;
(8) That the property is dedicated toward commercial or noncommercial agricultural use; and
(9) The property owner's indemnification of the City for, and agreement to hold the City harmless from, any claims arising from any use of the property.
(b) A Contract shall not prohibit structures that support agricultural activity, including but not limited to toolsheds, greenhouses, produce stands, and instructional space.
(c) Pursuant to the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act as amended from time to time, a Contract may restrict the use of pesticides and/or fertilizers as long as it permits those pesticides or fertilizers allowed by the United States Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program.
(d) The City and the property owner shall comply with all provisions of the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act, including amendments thereto. The Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act, as amended from time to time, shall apply to the Contract process and shall be deemed incorporated into each Contract entered into by the City.
(e) The Agricultural Commissioner shall maintain a standard form "Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Contract" containing all required provisions specified by this section and state law. Any modifications to the City's standard form contract made by the property owner shall be subject to approval by the City Attorney prior to consideration by the Agricultural Commissioner or the Board of Supervisors.
(a) Within 90 days of Contract approval, the Agricultural Commissioner shall conduct a site inspection to verify the property owner's conformance to the terms of the Contract.
(b) During each subsequent year in which the Contract is in force, the Agricultural Commissioner shall conduct an annual site inspection to verify the property owner's conformance to the terms of the Contract.
(c) The Agricultural Commissioner's determination of conformance with the Contract shall be based on the criteria outlined in Section 53A.5(a) as well as:
(1) evidence of plants being cultivated as demonstrated by: active soil management, weeding, pruning, and other active farming and gardening techniques; and/or evidence of animal husbandry demonstrated by active bee hives, chicken coops, or other animal husbandry practices; and
(2) any specific requirements of the Contract.
(a) If the Agricultural Commissioner finds that a property owner is in breach of the terms of the Contract, the Agricultural Commissioner shall notify in writing the Assessor-Recorder, the Planning Department, and the property owner of his or her intent to cancel the Contract. The property owner may file a written appeal of this determination with the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors within 30 days of notification. If the appeal is timely filed, the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors shall calendar the appeal for hearing before the Board of Supervisors within 45 days of its filing.
(b) The cancellation shall become final within 30 days of notification if no appeal is filed or, if an appeal is filed, on the date the Board of Supervisors upholds the cancellation. Once the appeal is final, the Agricultural Commissioner shall submit written notice of the cancellation of the Contract to the property owner, Assessor-Recorder, and Planning Department and shall record a notice of cancellation of the Contract against the property.
(c) A property owner may cancel the Contract at any time by submitting written notice to the Agricultural Commissioner and upon payment of any required fee pursuant to subsection (d) below. The property owner shall record a notice of cancellation of the Contract against the property.
(d) Upon cancellation of any Contract prior to the expiration of its term, the property owner shall pay to the Treasurer-Tax Collector a cancellation fee equal to the cumulative value of the tax benefit received during the duration of the Contract, as determined by the Assessor-Recorder. This fee shall include the cumulative tax owed, including interest. The property owner may appeal payment of this fee to the Board of Supervisors either: (1) as part of any appeal of the cancellation if the cancellation is initiated by the Agricultural Commission; or (2) through a separate appeal of the fee if the cancellation is initiated by the property owner. Any separate appeal of the fee shall be filed with the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors within 10 days of the property owner's submittal of written notification of cancellation under Subsection (c) above, and, if the appeal is timely filed, the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors shall calendar the appeal for hearing within 45 days of filing. The Board of Supervisors may waive payment of the fee, or any portion thereof if it determines that the cancellation was caused by extenuating circumstances despite the good faith effort by the landowner to comply with the provisions of the Contract.
(a) Each year, by no later than October 15, the Agricultural Commissioner shall send each property owner with an existing Contract a request for: confirmation that the property owner intends to continue conforming to the Contract; documentation of any major modifications to the original application; and payment for any annual fees for the administration of the Contract.
(b) This request shall also include a form for the property owner to apply for an extension of the Contract for an additional term of up to five years, subject to the limitations provided in Section 53A.11. Any such extension application shall be subject to the same requirements as an initial application, as set forth above.
The Recreation and Park Department, through its Urban Agriculture Program, shall coordinate efforts with the Agricultural Commissioner to engage in community outreach and education regarding the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones program and support the application and approval process. The Recreation and Park Department may assign staff to assist applicants in their initial assessment of their site and provide any needed technical assistance.
Pursuant to the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act, the City shall not enter into a new Contract or renew an existing Contract after January 1, 2019, unless the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act is amended to permit Contracts after that date. Notwithstanding the foregoing, any Contract entered into pursuant to the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act and this Chapter 53A on or before January 1, 2019, shall be valid and enforceable for the duration of the Contract.