In certain gastronomic circles, Novella Carpenter is well known as one of the top urban farmers in the Bay Area. Having studied under Michael Pollen at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, she penned the lovely Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, which well received by fans and critics alike. So, we're a bit saddened and surprised to see that, as of this week, the city of Oakland shut down her farmstand for bogus "illegal activities."
From her blog Ghost Town Farm, Carpenter writes:
Here’s the deal: After getting off the plane from Salt Lake City and making my way home to a cup of tea, I sit down at my kitchen table and I see this guy in a City of Oakland car taking photos of my garden. I go down and he said I’m out of compliance for “agricultural activities”. I’m supposed to get a Conditional Use Permit for growing chard. The annual fee: $2500.
Last year, when I bought my lot, I went to the planning department to find out what I needed to get a business license and all that stuff. The very nice planning person told me that by the spring, the City of Oakland would be changing the laws about urban agriculture in the city, so I should just wait. Guess that hasn’t happened.
The photo taking city guy said they are going to use me as an example, and that I’ll get fined around $5000 for non-compliance. All of this was triggered by one person, who complained to the animal control, who then passed it on to the city, who is now making my life hell. I said to the guy-one person caused this, that’s not fair. “Life’s not fair,” he replied. What about City Slicker Farms? Or People’s Grocery? I asked, two urban farming non-profits in Oakland. No one has complained about them. And they say one person can’t make a difference!
A conditional use permit for growing chard? Seriously, Oakland? How awful. Carptener must now go through bureaucrat in order grow food."I just want to grow food for myself and other people, I don’t want to go to meetings and speak bureaucrat talk," she goes on to explain.
If and when the issue is resolved, Carpenter will cancel Pop-up Farmstand until further notice, and she will no longer post about her activities on Ghost Town Farm. (She'll still write about the farm, just not announce events.)
That said, we're certain some high-ranking Oakland official can help her out with this nonsense, post-haste, yes?
SFist contacted Oakland's planning department and code enforcement office for comment. We'll update as soon as we hear back from them.
In related news, San Francisco plans to make it easier for its urban farmer to sell their produce. An “urban agriculture” legislation sponsored by Mayor Ed Lee and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu would, according to The Examiner, "update zoning regulations to explicitly permit gardens in all areas of The City and allow for the sale of produce from those gardens." Said produce could be sold as early as this fall.