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'Edible Gardening Initiative' Wins Support

Planning commission unanimously passes draft proposal to allow sales of home-grown produce; initiative now goes to city council.

Urban farmers are cheering a decision to allow residents to sell the food they produce at home to the public, provided it is whole, intact, and organically grown.

The Berkeley Planning Commission last night unanimously passed the Edible Garden Initiative, designed to make fresh produce accessible across neighborhoods.

The initiative covers unprocessed fruit, vegetables, nuts, honey, and shell eggs from fowl or poultry but draws the line at meat and cannabis.

Up until now, Berkeley gardeners have enjoyed the right to grow what they please. But to sell those Early Girl tomatoes and brown eggs to the public -- even a small number of acquaintances -- has required pulling a “Moderate Impact Home Occupation” permit, a process critics say is costly and time consuming.

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

Certain conditions apply. Urban farmers must agree to:

  • Sell directly to consumers.
  • Restrict customer visits to 10 a day.
  • Do business only between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

And sellers are barred from making a nuisance of themselves.

Sales-related activities may not involve hazardous materials or processes or create offensive or objectionable noise, vibration, odors, heat, dirt, or electrical disturbance perceptible by the average person beyond the lot line of the subject lot,” says a memo from the planning staff.

Commissioners opted to not require gardeners to obtain a zoning certificate, saying the $180 fee would be prohibitive to low-income residents.

“That was looked upon as a barrier,” said commissioner Gene Poschman.

The commission had received some 180 emails urging passage.

“This is not only a critical step for Berkeley in making food available in all zones, it makes access available to those who need it most,” said Dana Peris, co-coordinator of the East Bay Urban Agriculture Alliance. “It’s exciting to see.”

The draft initiative was based on San Francisco’s edible gardening law. A new take on a similar law in Oakland will include livestock, Peris said.

Tim Anderson May 17, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Correction. A similar law was already crafted in Oakland. Oaklanders have had the ability to grow and sell crops as a home-based occupation since last October. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/10/more-home-grown-businesses-expected-under-oakland-ordinance.html New proposals being hatched to deregulate backyard breeding and animal slaughter are an affront to Oakland's sensible urban agriculture zoning.

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