Zoning

What is the current regulatory landscape for urban agriculture in Los Angeles County?

The landscape of agricultural regulation is rocky, confusing, and often illogical. Los Angeles County residents—from backyard gardeners to urban agricultural entrepreneurs—have few resources to help them navigate the vast and confusing regulatory landscape.

For this project, we conducted an investigation of current governmental regulations dictating the environment for urban agriculture in Los Angeles County. Our researchers reviewed the zoning codes and municipal regulations for each of the 88 incorporated cities in Los Angeles County, as well as its unincorporated areas, to determine what is, and is not allowed, in regard to urban agriculture in the region.

Research:

The Index

Researchers documented regulations related to 15 agricultural activities in all 88 cities and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. Each of the 88 cities has different regulations and employs a variety of typologies for grouping urban agriculture activities including:

  • Agricultural Waste

  • Aquaculture

  • Bees (apiaries)

  • Farms

  • Fish

  • Fowl

  • Fruits and Vegetables

  • Garden

  • Goats

  • Heavy Livestock

  • Horses

  • Horticulture

  • Nurseries

  • Pigs

  • Rabbits

With these categories, we created an index to enable researchers, policy-makers, and residents to search by agricultural activity or by city, in order to see what is regulated and where. The report’s index notes all 15 agricultural activities which are permitted, prohibited, or unregulated in each of the 88 cities.

Zoning Index

Activities with Y’s are permitted; those with X’s are prohibited, and those which are blank are not regulated in either a given city’s municipal or zoning codes.

Additional research includes an Appendix in the Report of all codified regulations in each of the 88 cities.

Findings:

  • Definitions of urban agriculture activities vary between cities. For example, Fowl is defined as a chicken, rooster, turkey, goose, duck, pheasant, and/or pigeon.

  • Agriculture  regulations  are found not just in the zoning code. Forty-four percent of all regulations are in areas other than the zoning code, including health and safety regulations and nuisance ordinances.

  • Fowl is the most regulated agricultural activity. Seventy-five cities permit fowl in some form under certain circumstances, and 27 cities explicitly prohibit fowl.

  • Cities are required to have a sustainability element as part of their General Plan, but urban agriculture is not required as part of this element.

  • Out of the 88 cities in the County, 33% have specifically designated agriculture zones. Of those cities, 41% are located within the San Gabriel Valley.

  • Cities which designate an agriculture zone are significantly less dense than cities which do not designate an agriculture zone. There is also a positive relationship between city area and total activities permitted, with a 0.228 correlation and a significance of 0.033.

Recommendations

  • Cities should adopt universal definitions for agricultural activities and urban agriculture sub-components.

  • Future research should compare areas where flora and fauna are legal and zoned for with areas where flora and fauna actually exist (as presented in a GIS analysis in the Mapping chapter of this report and research project).

  • Identify best practices. While we’ve laid the groundwork, there is much more to pursue. Cities are constantly updating and revising their codes and as they do so, they should start to look at what they can do better to either promote or at least make clear their policies regarding urban agriculture.
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