Last month I worked on a story for Oakland magazine written by Cynthia Salaysay about a law that could help turn empty lots into gardens across California. AB 551 provides tax breaks for property owners “who promise to use their vacant property to produce food for a minimum of five years.” The bill could really make a difference in Oakland where there are “337 acres of privately owned land” that could be used for growing food according to the author. It would allow the landowners to have their property accessed at the same rate as irrigated cropland. Although the law is gaining momentum in San Francisco, it’s been slow to get going in Oakland where many of the lots are owned by out-of-town landlords who sometimes owe back taxes on the land. Read the full story here.
I photographed Diane Williams, above, who helped start a garden at 5154 Ygnacio Blvd in Fruitvale, a lot that had been empty for 35 years. Even though the lot has no water she’s gotten about a dozen fruit trees planted including the persimmon tree below and has involved the neighbors and the kids at the school across the street.
I also visited the Fruitvale Community Garden located at 2759 Foothill Blvd in Oakland where it looked like there were plenty of plots growing spring veggies. It looks like the guerrilla gardeners aren’t waiting for the law to change which is good news for anyone who just needs a little space to get the movement going locally.