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8,600 of LA's Empty Lots Could Become Urban Gardens

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Thousands of privately-owned, vacant lots in Los Angeles turned into thriving community gardens: it could happen under a new LA City Council motion that encourages landowners to lease out their underused land to people who want to grow food. The LA Times reports that, under the motion introduced yesterday, property owners would receive a nice property tax adjustment if they rent their land for a minimum of five years to either commercial or non-commercial farmers. There are a handful of criteria the lots must meet, but it's estimated that there are 8,600 that might fit the bill. That's a lot of potential gardens.

The state passed the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act last year, which authorized the same tax break for private landowners who rent their land out, and this push by Councilmembers Felipe Fuentes and Curren Price would put the legislation into effect in LA. (The County Board of Supervisors will also have to approve the state law before it can be enacted locally.) The tax breaks would only apply to certain lots: they must be between 0.1 and 3 acres in size, "dedicated to agriculture and animal husbandry," zoned for farming pursuits, and vacant of any buildings that aren't intended for either education or agriculture.

Many of the lots that meet these criteria are in low-income areas that don't have enough access to fresh produce, so it's hoped the motion will help to close that gap. "This action will help us transform underused and blighted plots of land that often attract crime into thriving green spaces, encouraging green enterprises and helping us improve the look and feel of our neighborhoods," Price says in a press release. The five-year lease would also help gardeners feel secure in their space; so often, gardeners just "borrow" the land with the threat of being pushed out always lurking on the horizon.
· L.A. City Council introduces plan to encourage urban farming [LAT]
· Community Gardens [Curbed LA]