We've PASSED the first hurdle - WOOHOO!!!

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Wednesday, September 17, 2014 11:47 PM

Tonight, the Oakland Planning Commission passed the updated Urban Agricultural proposal including the recommendations put forth by the Oakland Food Policy Council to lift the conditional use permit requirement in commercial and transit zones.  I believe the Open Space recommendation was not included.  Am I correct Esperanza?  

The highlight of the evening for me?  When the Chairperson opened the meeting by saying something like "The rumor that we were there to discuss animal slaughter Is false.  We will not be talking about animal slaughter tonight.  If that's what you came here to discuss you can go home now."

Of course the two animal rights activists that did show up did their best to slip it in.  And although it was tempting to rise to the attack, cooler heads prevailed.  Let it go, Kitty... just let it go...

There were only a few dicey moments when the commissioners considering striking out the reference to animals and livestock in the community garden definition.  But that idea was quickly dismissed once they were informed that this language was NOT a change to the existing code and that striking it would affect various existing operations in the city.

Now the process moves on to consideration by the Community Economic Development Committee of the City Council.  So stay tuned for info concerning the public comment options available for addressing this committee.  

NOW IS THE TIME to write to your council members and express your support for this proposal.  Again, remember to keep it positive and focused on support for this proposed update.  Keep it sweet and simple folks, and avoid mentioning any controversy over raising animals.  It's been a long hard road to get here.  Lets get this thing passed as is ASAP!

Kudos to Esperanza, Aaron, and the entire team over at the Oakland Food Policy Council.  We are lucky to have such a strong woman leading the charge for our right to grow our own food. Whereas I have at times felt too burnt out to fight, Esperanza has been a steady focused guiding light.  Congratulations to her and her team on this historic achievement!!!

Open Letter to the Oakland Planning Commission

Posted by Kitty Sharkey 4:19 PM

Dear Commissioner

I would like to express my support for the updated proposal to amend the city’s Agricultural regulations that will be discussed during your meeting this evening, September 17th.  For the most part, I agree with this proposed plan and the revised definitions of Community Gardens under 17.10.140 Essential service civic activities along with the newly designated definitions 17.10.610 Limited agricultural activities and 17.10.615 Extensive agricultural activities.  I would like the changes recommended by the Oakland Food Policy Council to be adopted into the proposal before it goes to the Community Economic Development Committee of the City Council for their consideration on October 14th.

As an urban homesteader, I have been living in Oakland and raising my own food for 7 or 8 years.  Here at Havenscourt Homestead, my small plot of land in East Oakland, I am able to produce approximately 65% of my own produce and 95% of my own eggs, dairy, and meat products.  I do this for my own personal consumption only, and do not currently participate in any sales of agricultural products.  I do have a home occupation permit that allows me to sell the products of my garden, but I have yet to make use of this option.  I tend to share any excess produce with my neighbors.  I practice urban farming openly and am quite proud of my achievements.  My homestead has been featured on the Urban Farm Tour organized by the Institute of Urban Homesteading.  It has been featured twice on the Bay Friendly Garden Tourorganized by StopWaste.org.  And it was featured in the book Backyard Roots by local photographer Lori Eanes.  One of my goats, Sammy, is even a movie star.  He appears in the independent film I Believe in Unicorns that is currently winning awards at film festivals around the globe.

I have had visits from Animal Control and Vector Control, both of which gave me an A+ for my homesteading activities.  My animals are in excellent condition and well cared for.  My composting, manure management, and vector control processes keep everyone (animals and neighbors alike) happy and healthy.  I do not have a problem with excessive flies, unpleasant odors, excessive noise, rats, or mice.  I also don’t have any issues with the local urban wildlife as I have taken appropriate measures to insure they are not attracted to my homestead.  My neighbors support my lifestyle and the neighborhood kids always love it when I take a goat or two for a walk around the block.  I have set up a small parklet on the parking strip in front of my house that includes seating, fruit trees, and a Free Little Library.  My activities have contributed to my neighborhood community in numerous positive ways.  To my knowledge, my urban agricultural activities have had no negative affects upon my neighbors or the neighborhood. 

Several people from the Oakland Planning Department, including Heather Klein, visited my homestead several years ago.  After that visit, I was invited to participate on the Planning Departments  Technical Advisory Group on Urban Agricultural.  Unfortunately, after the first draft was circulated a couple of years ago it appeared that the Planning Department must have decided to disband the TAG as I received no more notifications of meetings or further drafts.  I was very surprised to receive notification that the updated proposal was going to be presented and voted upon by the Planning Commission this evening.  Interested parties on all sides of this issue were given approximately 30 hours in which to review the 305 page document and all the attachments including the revised definitions noted in sections 17.10.140, 17.10.610 and 17.10.615.  I do not believe this to be adequate advance notification in order to allow citizens with an vested interest in urban agriculture to circulate, review, discuss, and come to conclusions (pro or con) to this updated proposal.  I can only hope that the Planning Commission was given a copy of the proposal in a more timely manner.

As a resident of Oakland, I believe it is my right to raise my own food on my own property whether that be fruit, vegetables, eggs, milk, or meat as long as I abide by the existing laws concerning animal control, vector control, noise, etc.  This updated proposal will permit these activities outright in most areas of the city without the burden of unnecessary, time consuming, and expensive Conditional Use Permits or Home Occupation Permits.  If adopted, it will bring Oakland into compliance with current state law regarding home food production and sale.  Finally, adoption of this proposal will be a huge step forward in insuring the availability of wholesome and nutritious food throughout our community regardless of socio-economic status.

I strongly encourage you to support and pass this updated proposal as well as the minor edits recommended by the Oakland Food Policy Council.


Kitty Sharkey

Talking points for the Planning Commission tonight

Posted by Kitty Sharkey 10:50 AM

If you can attend Planning Commission meeting tonight it is critical that we all remain focused, positive, and supportive! There will be folks there who want to take the right to grow/raise our own food away from us.  We do not want to be lured into negativity and public confrontation by this very vocal minority.

Find me to get a sticker tag which will help identify supporters and bring prepared talking points!  The Planning Commission is mostly in support of these changes. Oakland Food Policy Council and Council member Kaplan's office are recommending further changes. The overall tone of the OFPC organization is supportive toward the proposal.  These folks have been working hard for the past several years to insure our right to grow and raise our own food here in Oakland.

In your talking points, be sure to thank the Planning Commission for taking this historic step in supporting the right to produce food within Oakland.  Show support for the removal of certain conditional use permit requirements as recommended by the OFPC and Council member Kaplan.  But most of all, make it personal.  Tell them a little bit about yourself and your homesteading activities.  This proposal will allow you to continue growing your own fruits and vegetables and even sale your excess.  It will also allow you to continue (or start) raising livestock for eggs, milk, and meat for your own personal consumption (NOT sale) without the need for any special permits.  I for one will be happy to no longer feel like I must constantly defend my right to raise my own food on my own property.
Whether or not you can make the meeting tonight, Please take a moment to write a letter of support to all members of the Planning Commission. 

Oakland City Planning Commissioners -

These folks need to hear from us!!!!


Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Tuesday, September 16, 2014 3:53 PM

Tomorrow, September 17th at 6 PM, , the Oakland Planning Commission will be discussing significant and positive changes to Oakland’s urban agriculture regulations. We really need people to attend and demonstrate how important this topic is to all of us.  If these policy changes go through it will be a HUGE WIN for the urban agriculture and homesteading movement in Oakland. 

According to the Proposed Regulations, growing and selling on site in our own yards would no longer require a home occupation permit but would be permitted outright.  This would also apply to multi-unit dwellings, high rise apartments etc.  In addition, keeping up to three hives and selling honey is also permitted.  That right folks - NO SPECIAL PERMITS REQUIRED (i.e. Home Occupation Permit, Conditional Use Permit).   With a few limitations based upon zoning (open space, transit zones, certain downtown and industrial areas, estuary zones, etc.), homesteading activities including livestock raising would be permitted outright as long as you comply with the existing codes for noise, vector, no sale of meat/dairy, etc.  If I’m reading the proposal correctly this is a HUGE VICTORY for those of us that choose to raise our own food. 

PLEASE plan on attending this critical meeting and showing your support for all the hard work by folks like Esperanza Pallana and the Oakland Food Policy Council for helping to ensure our RIGHT to grow and raise our own food.  It's been a long road to get to this point and the rest of the nation has been keeping a close eye on our city with regards to urban agriculture regulation.  I have been involved in the process on and off over the past several years and have witnessed the pendulum swing between extremes in all directions.  After scanning the large document and reviewing the three classifications linked to below, I am doing a happy dance!

·  Community Gardens: http://www2.oaklandnet.com/w/oak049164
·  Limited Agriculture: http://www2.oaklandnet.com/w/oak049166
·  Extensive Agriculture: http://www2.oaklandnet.com/w/oak049165

If you attend, please be sure to comment POSITIVELY on the proposed update to the Urban Agricultural Regulations and also recommend the lifting of the restrictions on Open Space and Transit Oriented Zones as put forth by the Oakland Food Policy Council.

Meeting Time:  6 PM
Meeting location:  Oakland City Hall, One Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Hearing Room No. 1, Oakland, CA 94612.

***  HAPPY DANCE ***