San Diego launches a community garden incentive to help residents eat healthier

Aiming to boost access to healthy food while sprucing up blighted properties, the San Diego City Council unanimously approved a new community garden incentive program Monday.

The effect is expected to be most significant in low-income neighborhoods, where businesses that sell fresh produce are in short supply.

The program, which slashes taxes on properties converted into community gardens, was made possible by a 2014 state law that aimed to encourage urban farming and eating locally grown produce.

About 30 community gardens operate in San Diego.

Supervisor Ron Roberts said San Diego County was scheduled to approve a similar program this summer, extending the incentive to unincorporated communities. Santa Clara County and the cities of San Francisco and Sacramento already have adopted the incentives.

Community gardens enable residents with little or no land to grow and harvest fruits and vegetables on individual plots. More and more of them are being created across the nation.

San Diego City Councilman Scott Sherman, an avid gardener, said the incentives will spruce up neglected properties, bring community members closer together and help teach young people the value of gardening.

"It's a common-sense solution," he said. "It's a good life lesson all the way along."

Elly Brown, director of San Diego Food System Alliance, said that in addition to improving residents' health, community gardens also can create jobs and spur economic development.

"Urban agriculture is a wonderful solution, with multiplier effects in our communities," Brown said.

City officials said they expected property tax losses from the new program to be minimal. San Diego's annual property tax revenue is about $470 million, and the losses should be in the thousands, they said.

david.garrick@sduniontribune.com

Garrick writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on March 02, 2016, in the News section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "City aims to cultivate better eating habits - San Diego council unanimously approves a community garden incentive program." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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