It turns out that Novella Carpenter’s permit crackdown woes with the City of Oakland began when an unidentified neighbor saw that she was raising rabbits on her West Oakland property and also selling rabbit pot-pies for an eight-dollar donation. (Sounds like it was the cooking of the rabbits they objected to more than the rabbits themselves, in other words.) As the Chron reports and as we earlier discussed, Carpenter is now facing a steep fine and permit expense because she was growing and selling food “for profit,” not for her own personal use, even though that “profit” amounts to about $2,500 a year, before expenses — coincidentally the same amount that the conditional use permit would cost. The city planner who’s come around to document Carpenter’s infractions even admits the zoning laws are outdated, but he’s a bureaucrat and he has to follow the rules until an official document tells him otherwise. So basically, she’s allowed to be an urban farmer, but the City of Oakland insists she not share the stuff she grows.
As it happens, Carpenter’s only owned the plot of land she’s farming since December, when the property owner sold it to her for $30,000, as a favor. Previously, she had been squatting on the land. “”It was so great squatting,” she says. “I didn’t have costs… but now that I’m a property owner, that’s when they actually come down on me. I can’t fly under the radar and be a punk anymore. I have to actually be an adult and deal with these things.”
Now Carpenter is facing the prospect of shutting down the whole operation known as Ghost Town Farm, or going to battle with the Planning Department that’s making an example of her, which she doesn’t especially want to do. “If I play with the city, I’ll have to spend countless hours of my time… so you can have a new law to enforce when one person (with money and power probably) complains about about another person’s private activities,” she wrote on her blog earlier this week. “I just want to grow food for myself and other people, I don’t want to go to meetings and speak bureaucrat talk.”
Over on this side of the Bay, in an effort to appear immediately superior to Oakland, the S.F. Board of Supervisors and Mayor Ed Lee this week introduced legislation to permit the growing and selling of garden produce in all neighborhoods. So there, Oakland.
Oakland gardener questions need for permit to sell produce [Chron]
Earlier: Oakland Still Doesn’t Take Kindly to Urban Farmers [Grub Street]