Ensure Community Food Security and Food Growing is a shared value in Petaluma- City of Petaluma General Plan Update Process needs your input!

This evening, Petaluma Bounty encourages our community to show up for the Community Visioning Session for the City General Plan update. Scheduled for this evening, this is a time for community members to weigh in on the values, vision, and direction of our shared General Plan (September 29th at 6:30 pm https://us06web.zoom.us/j/89326951855)

Although the General Plan doesn’t get into the specifics of zoning of specific properties, it is considered the north star for development and allowable land use along with a number of other foundational principles. It is a process that must be done every 20 years and Housing every 10 years.

According to the City of Petaluma’s website, “The State of California requires every city and county to have a comprehensive General Plan that serves as a constitution for long-term physical development. The General Plan identifies current and future needs in areas such as land use, housing, transportation, public services, environmental quality, and economic viability. The General Plan is also a policy document that embodies the community’s goals and guides decisions about physical development over the long term. The current General Plan 2025 was adopted on May 19, 2008 and took effect on June 18, 2008.”

We, at Petaluma Bounty believe that government, especially at the local level, works better when community participates. We have specific reasons why we’re encouraging our community to engage in the visioning process this evening, but also want to see our local government integrate perspectives, passions, and concerns of a diverse array of topics from a diverse background of community members.

What Petaluma Bounty is pushing to be incorporated:

Community food security, defined as “a situation in which all community residents obtain a safe, culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate diet through a sustainable food system that maximizes community self-reliance and social justice” (Hamm and Bellows, 2003), is a key tenant of Petaluma Bounty’s work. It is at the nexus of community health, community resilience, and climate readiness and yet the draft General Plan does not mention food or food access in relationship to health, community resilience, or disaster. This oversight must be addressed as we face climate change related disasters, vulnerabilities and failures within the long distribution chains of our conventional food system, and a local food system and economy under distress.

As a visionary document of the City of Petaluma, there are some crucial value statements and actions that can be taken to address some immediate concerns as well as lay the foundation for future zoning, code, funding, and programmatic updates to reflect our shared commitment to our wonderful city.

Values Statements to be Incorporated into General Plan:

  • Review the 2016 City Council endorsement of the Sonoma County Food Action Plan
  • Review the Climate Emergency Framework and incorporate food growing as a key activity for community resilience in the face of climate change disasters
  • Reach out to the Sonoma County Food System Alliance for a multi-stakeholder perspective on additional recommendations
  • Consider a Health Element such as Santa Clara adopted to incorporate health, food, climate and community resilience, and environmental justice 

Specific concerns and actions:

Recently, a farm was forced to cease operation within the city limits of Cotati since the zoning code did not allow for such activities. Even though there was overarching support on the City Council and within the updated General Plan, the lack of appropriate codes made growing food an unallowable activity.

This caused several community operations to review their zoning codes within their jurisdictions with some surprising results. Currently, Petaluma Bounty Community Farm, several community gardens, and home-based gardens are being cultivated on land not currently zoned for agriculture. Thus, there exists the potential that a challenge by a neighbor to present zoning ordinances and land use could cause the termination of operation of several crucial sources of food for community benefit.

Recommendation:

Thus, it is the recommendation of Petaluma Bounty and our supporters for the following to be incorporated into the general plan:Community Food Producers (as defined below by California State Law) are to be allowed to grow food for sharing, donation, or sale in all zones within the city limits unless there is a noted public health concern, hazard, or conflict with other priority land use such as conservation. Or, in other words, Community Food Production shall be allowable unless otherwise explicitly stated.

“A Community Food Producer is a producer of agricultural products on land that is not zoned for agricultural use but is otherwise in compliance with applicable local land use and zoning restrictions, including, but not limited to, restrictions governing personal gardens, community gardens, school gardens, and culinary gardens. The law allows Community Food Producers to sell whole agricultural products, including uncut fruits and vegetables, and up to 15 dozen unrefrigerated shell eggs per month if they meet specified requirements.” (California Retail Food Code, § 113752) 

Community Food Producers are still regulated by County Health Departments, California Retail Food Code, Federal Food Safety Modernization Act, Health and Safety Code § 114376(c), and the CDFA Small Farm Food Safety Guidelines. Thus, by utilizing this definition, the City of Petaluma is not creating a loop-hole for commercial agricultural operations but instead inserting a catch-all category of food growing (hobby, personal use, community benefit, or limited quantity production) that can make that activity allowable within city limits unless otherwise specified.

The benefits of local, community food production are well documented and reinforce our local community’s understanding and valuing of commercial agriculture as crucial to our collective futures. Additionally, Community Food Production (also referred to as Urban Agriculture) aligns critically with priority concerns related to climate change, drought, community health and other longer-term values discussed above. For those interested in learning more, we suggest the University of California Agricultural & Natural Resources website and resources section related to urban agriculture and community food production: https://ucanr.edu/sites/UrbanAg/Research/
Thank you for considering these requests. For more information, background documentation, or to discuss any concerns mentioned within, please connect with Suzi Grady, Director of Petaluma Bounty suzi@petalumabounty.org (707) 364-9118.

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