BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                  AB 551
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          Date of Hearing:  April 24, 2013

                           K.H. "Katcho" Achadjian, Chair
                      AB 551 (Ting) - As Amended:  April 9, 2013
          SUBJECT  :  Local government:  urban agriculture incentive zones.

           SUMMARY  :  Enacts the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act to  
          authorize a county and a landowner to enter into a contract to  
          restrict the use of specified lands for the production of  
          agricultural crops.  Specifically,  this bill  :  

          1)Creates the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act.

          2)Finds and declares that it is in the public interest to  
            promote sustainable urban farm enterprise sectors in urban  

          3)Defines "Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone" to mean an area  
            within a county that is comprised of individual properties  
            designated as agriculture preserves by the county for farming  

          4)Allows a county, after a public hearing, to establish by  
            ordinance an Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone within its  
            boundaries for the purpose of entering into enforceable  
            contracts with landowners, on a voluntary basis, for the use  
            of vacant, unimproved, or otherwise blighted lands for  
            small-scale production of agricultural crops.

          5)Allows, after the county adopts an ordinance to establish an  
            Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone, a county to enter into a  
            contract with a landowner to enforceably restrict the use of  
            the land subject to the contract to uses consistent with urban  

          6)Requires a contract to include, but not be limited to, all of  
            the following provisions:

             a)   An initial term of not less than 10 years;

             b)   A restriction on property that is at least 0.10 acres in  


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             c)   A requirement that the entire property subject to the  
               contract shall be dedicated toward agricultural use; and,

             d)   A prohibition against commercial uses, except as those  
               uses comply with the terms of the contract, on the property  
               subject to the contract.

          7)Prohibits a contract from prohibiting the use of structures  
            that support agricultural activity, including, but not limited  
            to, toolsheds, greenhouses, produce stands, and instructional  

          8)Requires a contract to permit those pesticides or fertilizers  
            allowed by the United States Department of Agriculture's  
            National Organic Program.

          9)Requires property subject to a contract entered into pursuant  
            to the bill's provisions to be assessed pursuant to Section  
            402.1 of the Revenue and Taxation Code during the term of the  

          10)Adds a contract entered into pursuant to the Urban  
            Agriculture Incentive Zones Act to the section of law that  
            requires the assessor to consider the effect upon value of any  
            enforceable restriction to which the use of land may be  

           EXISTING LAW  :

          1)Enables cities and counties to enter into contracts with  
            private landowners for the purpose of restricting specific  
            parcels of land to agricultural or related open space use  
            (Williamson Act).

          2)Creates Farmland Security Zones which authorizes cities and  
            counties to allow agricultural land preservation contracts  
            with landowners who agree to restrict the use of their land  
            for a minimum of 20 years in exchange for lower-assessed  
            valuations for property tax purposes.

           FISCAL EFFECT  :  Unknown

          COMMENTS  :   

          1)According to the author, "Many properties in urban areas lie  


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            undeveloped for several years due to various reasons - for  
            instance, development project delays or difficulty building  
            upon the land due to parcel size or shape.  Oftentimes these  
            properties blight the surrounding neighborhood.  This bill  
            would create an incentive for the owners of these properties  
            to use their land parcels for urban agriculture, which would  
            provide green space and a local food source for the community,  
            improving neighborhood desirability and nearby property value.  

            "Modeled after the Williamson Act, AB 551 creates this  
            incentive by allowing a county to enter into a contract with  
            the landowner under which the property must be used for urban  
            agriculture, whereby the county assessors would assess the  
            property at an agricultural use rate.  This lowered use  
            assessment rate would reduce the landowner's property tax  
            burden.  The reduced tax rate would serve as an incentive to  
            lease the land for urban agriculture rather than leaving the  
            property unused until development of the land begins or  

            This bill is sponsored by the San Francisco Urban Agriculture  

          2)The California Land Conservation Act of 1965 (known as the  
            Williamson Act) enables local governments to enter into  
            contracts with private landowners for the purpose of  
            restricting specific parcels of land to agricultural or  
            related open space use.  In return, those landowners received  
            property tax assessments which are much lower than normal  
            because they are based upon farming and open space uses as  
            opposed to full market value.  The Open Space Subvention Act  
            of 1971 provided local governments an annual subvention of  
            foregone property tax revenues from the state through the year  
            2009 - these payments have been suspended in more recent years  
            due to revenue shortfalls.

            This bill sets up a similar program in which the land in the  
            Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone would be enforceably  
            restricted, for purposes of the assessment of the property.  

          1)While Williamson Act lands are generally those that are in the  
            county unincorporated area, there are a few cities that have  
            Williamson Act contracts.  Williamson Act statute allows "any  
            city or county [to] by contract limit the use of agricultural  


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            land for the purpose of preserving such land?."

            As currently drafted, this bill is not specific to county  
            unincorporated land, rather it is anywhere within a county's  
            boundaries, which means that conceivably the county could  
            enter into a contract for an Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone  
            on land within a city's boundaries.  Since cities retain their  
            own land use authority through zoning ordinances, this could  
            cause complications and problems between the city and the  

           2)Committee Amendments  :  To correct the issue raised in Comment  
            #3, the Committee may wish to add the following subdivision to  
            the bill's language in Government Code Section 51042:

               (f)A county shall not establish an Urban Agriculture  
          Incentive Zone within any portion of                        a  
          city or the city's spheres of influence unless that city has  
          adopted that portion of the                                  
          County's Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone ordinance that falls  
          within the city's                                            
          boundaries or spheres of influence.
          3)The author and sponsor may also wish to define the term  
            "urban" for purposes of the bill in order to give greater  
            clarity as to what types of land within a county's boundaries  
            would be applicable for the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone  
            program.  The American Planning Association of California  
            notes that the bill should "specifically identify what 'urban'  
            zones of the county are appropriate for these new types of  
            contracts, or allow the county to define the urban zones."

           4)Support arguments  :  Supporters argue that this legislation  
            will provide an incentive to private landowners to make more  
            land available for urban agriculture, helping to expand the  
            number of Californians who benefit from city farming.

             Opposition arguments  :  In order to create clarity in the  
            bill's provisions, the bill should limit what a county can do  
            within a city's boundaries and also clarify what urban zones  
            are appropriate for these types of contracts.

          5)This bill was heard by the Agriculture Committee on April 17,  
            2013, and passed with a 7-0 vote.


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          San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance [SPONSOR]
          Alchemist Community Development Corporation
          American Planning Association, California Chapter
          City Slicker Farms
          Elysian Valley Community Garden
          Hunger Action Los Angeles
          Little City Gardens
          Mission Pie
          Oakland Food Policy Council
          Oakland Roots, the School of Urban Sustainability
          Phat Beets Produce
          Planting Justice
          Sacramento Natural Foods Cooperative, Inc.
          San Diego Hunger Coalition
          Santa Clara County Open Space Authority
          Social Justice Learning Institute of Inglewood
          Soil Born Farms
          Supervisor David Chiu, District 3, City and County of San  
          Sustainable Agriculture Education
          Sustainable Economies Law Center
          Ubuntu Green
          Victory Gardens San Diego


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          Women Organizing Resources, Knowledge & Services (WORKS)
          Individual letters (4)

          None on file
          Analysis Prepared by  :    Debbie Michel / L. GOV. / (916)