AB 551 seeks to create a vibrant urban farming ecosystem in California. By authorizing counties to create urban agriculture incentive zones, urban property owners can benefit from reduced property taxes by entering into contracts with farmers eager to create small-scale urban farms in cities.
The bill is based on research by Nicholas Reed, JD ’12 (BA ’02), during his 3L year at SLS. Reed worked with Alumni Mentor in Residence Juan Carlos Cancino, JD ’08 (BA ’02), under the guidance of the George E. Osborne Professor of Law Richard Thompson Ford, who taught them local government law.
Both Stanford undergraduates and San Francisco natives, Reed and Cancino were already working with the “local food movement” via a nonprofit they helped form in 2008, The Greenhouse Project. Their vision is one in which local governments unlock the potential of private actors to transform undeveloped parcels in cities into vibrant, self-sufficient community assets—in this case, small farms.
“What’s so exciting about Urban Agriculture as small business is that it has all of the dimensions of the best urban greening projects—environmental, aesthetic, educational, and cultural, while at the same time generating jobs and revenue to sustain itself. Just look at Little City Gardens in San Francisco—it’s a jewel,” said Cancino.
That this law began life in a law school classroom is no surprise to Reed. “Although there is no ‘urban ag’ law class at Stanford, as the implications involved the interplay of state and local government law, the research was a natural extension of Professor Ford’s course,” said Reed.
The research was intended to bring awareness to the most important roadblock to urban agriculture: property tax. Through a small working group, Reed and Cancino partnered with the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) and gained the crucial support of the San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance (SFUAA). It was through these connections that Reed joined a meeting with Assemblymember Philip Y. Ting, another San Francisco resident, who believes passionately in the local food movement. The Assemblymember went on to use Reed’s ideas in crafting AB 551, which he introduced to the state legislature in February. Reed and Cancino both testified before legislative committees in support of the bill. AB 551 went on to pass in both the Assembly and Senate arriving on the governor’s desk in late September.
“It is absolutely amazing to think that an independent study project led to a state law. I would encourage all students to pursue ideas of true value to themselves while in law school, because you never know what may come from it,” said Reed.
You can read more on this bill at: http://stanford.io/1eUlY0j