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Berkeleyans closer to being able to sell backyard produce

Until now, Berkeley’s zoning codes have prohibited selling backyard produce in a residential neighborhood. Photo: Tracey Taylor

In August 2010, Sophie Hahn told a reporter it was easier to have a pot collective in Berkeley than to have a vegetable collective. Last night Hahn’s desire to see the city allow residents to sell the food they grow in their backyards came one step closer to reality when the Planning Commission unanimously passed the Edible Garden Initiative.

Until now, Berkeley’s zoning codes have prohibited selling or otherwise conducting commerce outside a house in a residential neighborhood.

The legislation covers fruit, vegetables, nuts, honey, and shell eggs from fowl or poultry, provided they are all whole, intact, and organically grown. (Read the Sale of Non-Processed Edibles from Residential Lot memorandum.)

Speakers in favor of the initiative at the Planning Commission included Martin Bourque of the Ecology Center, the Berkeley Food Policy Council, and a representative from Berkeley’s Spiral Gardens. Almost 200 letters of support were submitted to the Commission. Commissioner Patrick Sheahan remarked that he has been involved with a neighborhood garden a long time ago and it had brought together the community.

Current laws are designed to protect the quality of residential communities from traffic and parking problems, as well as offensive or objectionable noise, odors, heat, or dirt. Those wishing to sell their produce needed to secure a “Moderate Impact Home Occupation” permit, a process many say is expensive and time consuming.

The genesis of the Edible Garden Initiative started three years ago when Hahn, who sits on the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board and recently announced she was running for City Council, encountered permitting problems with her own edible garden. Councilmember Jesse Arreguín introduced legislation developed with Hahn and Willow Rosenthal of City Slicker Farms. The Ecology Center and Berkeley Food Policy Council came on board as supporters, as did the Sierra Club.

After languishing for a while, the item was picked up by Associate Planner Jordan Harrison and made it onto last night’s agenda. The legislation does not call for a permit or exemption for homesteaders who want to sell the fruits of their labor, but comes with some conditions. Visits from customers are restricted to ten a day, for example.

Hahn says she is delighted by the Planning Commission’s approval. “Previously, the cost of the required permit was around $3,000 and could take six months or more to obtain,” she said. “This change increases food security, reduces food miles for food consumed in Berkeley, improves health and allows us to have direct relationships with those who grow our food – all fantastic outcomes.”

The Berkeley City Council must now ratify the recommendation before it becomes law.

Related:
Urban homesteader challenges city on sale of edibles [04.15.11]

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This story was updated  at 3:12 pm with a comment from Sophie Hahn.

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  • 3rdGenBerkeleyan

    This is a joke…i see mexican guys selling strawberries on residential corners almost everyday and NO ONE STOPS THEM!

  • Bruce Love

    So, what is driving this restriction:

    23c.20.010 B. 1. Sales are directly to the end consumer of the Non-Processed Edibles;

    Are we afraid that if we allow market-makers to buy home-grown produce that people will grow more food?

  • Guest

    concern about resudential space being used for commercial farming

  • Bruce Love

     

    concern about resudential space being used for commercial farming

    That can’t be it. This ordinance will permit commercial farming. 

  • Anonymous

    Possibly.  Personally, I wouldn’t want my kids eating anything grown in the ground in the old metal plating areas of Berkeley.  If processors or restaurants are allowed to resell stuff that is just “grown locally in Berkeley” I wouldn’t know where it came from which is very different than me buying some carrots from my neighbor.

  • Bruce Love

     

    If processors or restaurants are allowed to resell stuff that is just
    “grown locally in Berkeley” I wouldn’t know where it came from

    I’m with you entirely on having  concerns about soil (and food) safety.  But, here’s from the memo:

    Giving the produce away, or selling it off-site through a farmers market or at another established retail outlet, is already allowable but subject to other state and county regulations pertaining to food production, marketing and/or farmers market certification.

    First: I’m not sure that the commission is actually accurate in that point.  In particular, growing food to be transported to a farmers market or another retail outlet would seem to require a use permit and public hearing, per 23C.16.030 B.   It may be that this ordinance is customarily ignored in that regard but it is still there.

    Second: We still have this mystery:

    1. One will be allowed to grow food and sell it on-site to end consumers.

    2. One can allegedly already grow food and sell it wholesale, off-site.

    3. But for some reason this ordinance would not let a wholesaler come to pick up the food.   It would let 10 retail customers per day pick up the food — but forbid a single wholesaler from buying all of it at once.

  • Paul M. Schwartz

    There is a reason residential areas are zoned residential and don’t allow commercial uses.  Residential areas are supposed to be free of commerce, congestion, the pollution and noise of additional vehicles.  It is a bad idea and will diminish the peace and quiet of residential areas, consequently diminishing the values of residential homes.
    Let’s be honest, you may call it a community garden, or a collective, but it is a business and belongs in areas zoned for business.  Any approval of this type of usage would most likely result in litigation to enforce the meaning of “R” zoning in the city. 

  • Anonymous

    I once lived next to a house that had a perpetual “yard sale”, complete with professionally printed signs and actual ads taken out in the paper, not just the classifieds (this was pre-Craigslist).  Of course she was just running a thrift store from her front yard, 12 hours a day, every day.  Maybe the city just had some foresight for once by putting these tight restrictions on this.

  • MFox327

    What is your concern with these “mexican guys?” How are they affecting your quality of life? 

  • Bruce Love

     Yeah, to me this particular restriction doesn’t seem simply “tight” so much as “incoherent”.   Wholesaling from on-site could be constructed so as to mean less rather than more disruption (than “up to 10 customer visits / day” etc.)   It would also give better opportunity to address food safety issues.

  • Biker 94703

     They are selling strawberries!!!!

  • Biker 94703

    Don’t worry, the restaurants source your produce from the metal plating areas of China and Mexico instead.  Bon appetit!

  • 3rdgenberkeleyan

    My concern is that Berkeley residents can’t sell to their neighbors but yes they are Mexican not white or black can sell to people illegally and no one says a word or does anything to stop them but I would get a citation if I set up a stand in my front yard. Nice try to make me into a racist!

  • 3rdgenberkeleyan

    My concern is that Berkeley residents can’t sell to their neighbors but yes they are Mexican not white or black can sell to people illegally and no one says a word or does anything to stop them but I would get a citation if I set up a stand in my front yard. Nice try to make me into a racist!

  • Anonymous

    That’s being industrious. The urban youth hanging out in front of liquor stores waiting to sucker punch people and steal their phones could learn something from those Mexican guys.

  • Bruce Love

     That’s some pretty insidious sterotyping you guy’s have got going on.

  • Guest

    I’ve spoken to some of these sidewalk vendors and FYI most are from Central America or points south of there.  But I agree with your point that Berkeley turns a blind eye to many forms or illegal commerce and behavior so as to preserve its mostly false image of infinite “tolerance”.

  • 3rdGenBerkeleyan

    what i say is not stereo typing…when was the last time you saw any other race other than a latino selling strawberries on a berkeley street corner? if its 100% fact it’s not a stereo type it’s just that…Fact! Stop being so self righteous and stop trying to insight a battle over who’s racist or not THEY ARE JUST FACTS!

  • 3rdGenBerkeleyan

    I also have spoken to many of them (in Spanish i might add) and all but one have been from Mexico but instead of a debate i will from here on will refer to the men as Latinos that’s the politically correct name anyway that way one could not infer that they are in any way here illegally Because Latino is all encompassing and doesn’t separate legal from illegal. 

  • Anonymous

    I’ll take the liberty of finishing your uncharacteristically terse, uhm, thought “Bruce”:

    “Oh my god, somebody insinuated that black people commit a disproportionate amount violent crime! I don’t care whether it’s true or not — I, the anonymous poster who pretends not to be anonymous so that I can call anonymous poster cowards and confound my foes, must now don my official Berkeley white liberal troll suit and special reality blocking blinders in order to defend those poor, helpless underserved people from this outrage. We must continue to treat the symptoms of societal problems at all cost!”

  • 3rdGenBerkeleyan

     otherwise we would refer to them as either Mexican or American not both unless they have dual citizenship then and only then should they be referred to as Mexican-American.

  • EarlyMorningCoffee

    I hope this happens, and would want to be one that sells. That being said, are certain strains of seeds trademarked? I think they are. I imagine if someone plants the seeds from a Del Monte tomato and grows that tomato from those seeds to sell, Del Monte would want a piece of the action. If this catches on who’s to say someone will not be looking into that? How can that scenario be avoided?

  • hardlyaguest

    Endorsing the street corner strawberry vendors is yet another example of Berkeleyans duped by their own prejudice. These guys are picked up at random by their “Patrons” on Fruitvale and delivered to the your street corner in a shiny new truck. For next to nothing they get to sell the boss’s expired produce all day long. It’s a scam of the worst kind: If flaunts the law and takes advantage of the desperately poor.

  • hardlyaguest

    Well said and absolutely true. Berkeley is over flowing with creative impulse unhindered by a consideration of consequences. Litigation is not probability, it’s a certainty. 

  • Anonymous

    I’m glad somebody pointed this out. In LA at least there were so many of these vendors selling rotten seafood that the health dept. had to get involved.

  • Bruce Love

    what i say is not stereo typing…

    No more or less so than talk about the evils of rich white guys.

    Here’s what bugs me:

    We have this story about a tweak to zoning rules to permit limited on-site sales of garden produce.

    It seems like the main substance of your observation is that you haven’t seen Berkeley enforcing its anti-peddling ordinance — so why bother regulating on-site sales at residences?    (There is an answer to that: the potential criminal and civil liabilities to property owners from on-site food sales are more significant than the penalties for unlawful peddling.)

    Somehow you managed to make this about Mexicans.  Then your buddy, right in tune with you, comes up with some slightly coded speech:

    The urban youth hanging out in front of liquor stores waiting to sucker punch people and steal their phones could learn something from those Mexican guys.

    So we’ve got your industrious Mexicans and your shiftless “urban youth hanging out in front of liquor stores”.    I guess this line of reasoning next raises the question of where the inscrutable Chinese fit in?

    when was the last time you saw any other race other than a latino selling strawberries on a berkeley street corner?

    It wasn’t strawberries but the last time I saw peddling of dubious legality of food… it was a couple of white guys peddling meat.   Before that: a dear Black guy, a perennial favorite around here who has some friends with a farm.   Yeah, I’ve seen the berry guys, too.

  • Guest

    did you see anyone peddling bandaids for your bleeding heart?

  • 3rdGenBerkeleyan

     you are selling the tomato not the seed…most trademarked fruits or vegetables are hybrids and in most cases if you take a seed from a hybrid fruit or vegetable it reverts back to one of the parent plants not the hybrid cherry tomatoes are a good example like sungolds when they come back the next year they are not the same sungold tomatoes.

  • Guest

    Just don’t cal them ladino.

  • Guest

     facts don’t matter to some people

  • Berkeleyfarm

    As it happens, I was involved with a project that went before the ZAB (repeatedly).  In the context, I was highly (ironically) amused when Sophie Hahn turned *very* strictly constructionist about a project she apparently didn’t like.  

  • Anonymous

    I don’t understand what “strictly constructionist” means, could you please elaborate?

  • James Foort Sr.

    from JAMES FOORT – We have an URBAN GARDEN that includes what was a lawn and extends now across the sidewalk for the full 42 foot frontage of our lot onto the boulevard, giving us a vegetable garden of approximately 400 square feet, flowers of an  extra 200 square feet.  We are careful to make the farming project reflect a social conscience that has led to others doing the same, which  fosters a spirit on community for at least one city block on either side of our block – flowers for Margaret and vegetable for me as we divide the effort to enliven our community. The City of VANCOUVER, BC, CANADA encourages this use of privately owned and CITY OWNED COMMONS. I  am 90 and Margaret soon to be 80.  Others extend our reach with helping hands.

  • The Sharkey

    Wait, wait… so are you saying that stereotypes aren’t true in all cases?!?
    And that, like, some exceptions can be found to any rule?!?

    MIND = BLOWN

  • The Sharkey

    The insinuation that anyone who notices that the majority of sidewalk fruit vendors in Berkeley are Hispanic is racist is also ridiculous. Driving up and down the Berkeley thoroughfares and taking an informal poll proves that the “stereotype” is, in fact, based in reality.

    Accusing someone of being “racist” for pointing out that most of the guys who get stuck hawking fruit on the street are Hispanic is like accusing someone of being racist for pointing out that most of the day laborers who hang out on the street corners near 4th street are Hispanic.

  • hardlyaguest

    I’m with you! Whoever dreamt up “hispanic” was obviously just looking for votes. Ignoring the significant cultural differences of Central and South Americans by using the term “hispanic” is yet another example of caucasian political correctness gone wrong.   

  • hardlyaguest

    What is at the root of this impulse to bring commercial use to residential areas? 

    Is Hahn seeking profile through this issue for another city council run? If so I can’t imagine a more alienating strategy. Very few Berkeley property owners I know embrace the notion of a produce vendor opening up next door. Or commercial/retail use of any kind. A lemonade stand by 5 year olds maybe, but that’s it. Any thing else is more people, more cars..etc. and most importantly, not RESIDENTIAL.

    And why do a few want to rewrite the zoning code and remove protections for “the quiet enjoyment” of our homes. 

    Because they’re “special” and want what they want. Well they may be able to baffle a few civilian planning commissioners but real politicos and the City Attorney should realize the courts will shove this up the City’s in-box at substantial cost, should it be passed.

    This shows how vulnerable even our rights are in this town!

  • Bruce Love

    From the article:

    Until now, Berkeley’s zoning codes have prohibited selling or otherwise
    conducting commerce outside a house in a residential neighborhood.

    Berkeley isn’t unique:

    http://www.resilientcommunities.com/what-americas-poorest-towns-outlaw-economic-self-improvement/

    “Everywhere I look, I’m finding the same thing:  In some of America’s poorest towns, it’s currently illegal to become resilient.

    Wow.  This means that the people who can benefit the most from
    vigorous self-help are being denied the freedom to do so, by towns that
    are wedded to a dysfunctional past.”