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Seattle Urban Agriculture and Zoning

Policy Details

Policy Type: Policy
Jurisdiction: Local — Seattle, WA
Status: Passed
Tags: Food Justice, JEDI, Land Justice, Public Health, Regenerative Economy

Policy Summary

City Council adopted Council Bill 116907 to implement a variety of changes to support the local food movement. The new rules were effective June 1, 2011.

From Seattle.gov, The Urban Agriculture Update modified the city’s land use code to expand opportunities for urban agriculture:

  1. Allow “urban farms” and “community gardens” in all zones, with some limitations in industrial zones:
  2. Urban Farms: Larger-scale operations that cultivate diverse crops.
  3. Community Gardens: Shared spaces where individuals can grow plants and learn gardening skills.
  4. Greenhouses and Solariums: Structures adapted under local ordinances to support year-round plant cultivation.
  5. Allow residents to sell food grown on their property.
  6. Formally recognize farmer’s markets and allow them in more Seattle areas.
  7. Allow dedicated food production on rooftop greenhouses with a 15-foot exemption to height limits in a variety of higher density zones.
  8. Increase the number of chickens allowed per lot from three to eight, with additional chickens allowed for large lots associated with community gardens and urban farms, while prohibiting new roosters and setting boundaries for new chicken coops.   


Does the policy solution re-distribute power from mainstream institutions to impacted Black community?   

The policy helped establish urban gardens in Seattle along with various local partnerships such as with the Seattle Library and Parks and recreation. One such project includes the Rainier Community Center project, that involves partnerships with organizations like iUrban Teen and the Seattle Indian Health Board, which serve underrepresented communities, including Black individuals. These partnerships empower Black community members by involving them in decision-making about what to grow and how to manage the gardens, thereby promoting a form of decentralized power within impacted communities.

Does this policy address needs impacting diverse groups within Black communities (Black femmes, Black LGBTQ+ communities, Black immigrants, people in poverty, differently abled, people impacted by justice system)? If so, how?  

The Urban Food Systems Program, developed under this policy, collaborated with the Seattle Public Library to develop and oversee the BLOOM Fellowship, a two-week initiative designed for young BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) adults. This program provided participants with practical work experience in urban agriculture and opportunities for skill-building in social justice. BLOOM, which stands for Beginning Leadership for Organizing and Orchard Management, attracted BIPOC young adults from the Seattle metropolitan area who are passionate about food sovereignty, social justice, and health and wellness initiatives.

Another example is with the Rainier Community Center garden project, which addresses various needs within Black communities by providing access to fresh, healthy food through urban agriculture. This initiative involves partnerships with organizations like iUrban Teen, which engages underrepresented youth in sustainable food production. The food grown in the garden supports the Seattle Indian Health Board’s food bank, benefiting the indigenous population in Seattle.

Does this policy provide more decision-making power at the hands of Black communities?  

Participation in urban agriculture activities has empowered Black individuals by involving them in decision-making processes regarding what crops to grow, how to manage gardens, and how to distribute produce within their communities. This engagement fosters a sense of ownership and pride in contributing to local food systems. The initiative aims to assist local BIPOC community members in gardening and cultivating foods that reflect their cultural and ethnic heritage. Gardening practices will be guided by the cultural traditions of the gardeners, and the crops grown will include staples from their ethnic backgrounds. This urban farming model intends to serve as a blueprint for upcoming projects within Seattle Parks and Recreation’s urban food system, offering insights that could be adopted both nationally and internationally.

Does the policy undermine extractive economies like capitalism and restore community power around a local and regenerative economy/ primary production? 

Residents are allowed to sell the produce they grow, promoting a sustainable local food network. Further, the Rainier Community Center garden project promotes local and regenerative economies by transforming a former municipal dump into a productive urban garden. This initiative supports environmental stewardship and sustainable food production practices, thereby contributing to a local economy centered around healthy food access and community resilience.

Does the policy repair past harm and uphold civil and human rights, health and environmental protections? 

Yes. Firstly, it mitigates unequal access to fresh and healthy food, known as food deserts or areas with limited grocery stores. By supporting urban agriculture projects, including community gardens and urban farms, Black communities are provided with increased access to fresh and nutritious food and increase food security.

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