Oakland, California

Major Urban Ag Legislation

Effective April 14, 2011, the Oakland City Council adopted new residential and commercial zones for the entire City. The new zones allow “Crop and Animal Raising Agricultural Activities” with approval of a Conditional Use Permit (apply here) in all residential and commercial areas in the City.

This change is intended to be an interim measure pending a comprehensive update to address all aspects of urban agriculture. Among the most landmark changes to Oakland planning codes is the legalization of homegrown produce sales.

As of February 22, 2012, a comprehensive update to zoning regulations related to urban agriculture is still in process. The City’s Planning and Zoning Department has stated that this update is intended to encourage and facilitate local food production. Urban agriculture groups and the interested public have been involved in the update.

The amendment is expected to be available to the public in May or June 2012. (See the “Key Resources” section of this document for links where you can check for updates.)

The scope of the update includes the following, subject to community feedback:

  • location and intensity of agriculture uses on a lot
  • number and type of animals / livestock
  • sales of products
  • possible butchering for personal consumption
Key Resources
  • City of Oakland Planning & Zoning Department website
  • Urban Agriculture Citywide Update webpage
    • contains a link to sign up for email updates
    • lists community meeting dates
  • Zoning Permit Applications and Forms webpage
    • To apply for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP), start here!
      • As of March 15, 2011 a CUP is required for most urban agriculture activities in residential and commercial zoning areas (see “Major UA Legislation” section of this page for explanation)
  • Codes, Maps and Documents webpage
    • Zoning map, effective Nov 2011 (PDF – 3.2 MB)
    • Oakland Planning Code, effective Nov 2011 (PDF – 8.2 MB)

      Oakland Food Policy Council

      Oakland Food Policy Council workshop | Flickr: alethea_marie (creative commons licensed)

  • Planning and Zoning Hotline: (510) 238-3911
    • For information about current zoning regulations
  • Oakland Food Policy Council is working with the Oakland Planning Department on major urban agriculture zoning changes, as of 2011-12.
    • Supports modifying code to allow some sales of raw agricultural products in residential zones
  • East Bay Urban Agriculture Alliance (EBUAA) is a membership organization with a comprehensive set of online resources for anyone wanting to garden or farm in the city of Oakland.
    • Resources are both zoning-related and non-zoning related (including land access and soil testing)
    • Blog includes updates on planning and zoning code changes and opportunities to get involved with code changes
Selected Codes

Important Notes:
The Oakland Planning Code (effective Nov 3, 2011) is contained in a single PDF document. It is available here. If you believe there may have been an update since Nov 3, 2011, please check the Department website.

The following codes represent a list of those most relevant to urban agriculture, but are not exhaustive. Each section can be read by downloading the entire PDF, then using your PDF reader’s “Find” function to locate the section(s) you want to read. There is a table of contents, but no page numbers.

Occasional references to ordinance numbers appear to merely indicate which ordinance is responsible for that part of the current code. The text of those ordinances are not in the code, but can be found on the Oakland City website.

 

  • Oakland Planning Code 17.01.040 Exceptions to requirement for General Plan conformity
    • The provisions of this chapter shall not be construed to preclude the operation, maintenance, and occupancy of any activity or facility that existed lawfully prior to the effective date of this chapter. Such activities and facilities shall be subject to the nonconforming use regulations in Chapter 17.114. (Ord. 12054 § 2 (part), 1998)
  • Oakland Planning Code 17.10 Use Classifications
    • 17.10.040 Accessory Activities
      • See especially items B and E, regarding home occupations and sale of goods
    • 17.10.070 Accessory facilities
      • See especially items C, D and F, regarding storage, trailers, and temporary construction yards
    • 17.10.090 Classification of unlisted uses
    • 17.10.140 Essential Service Civic Activities
      • See especially items B and G, regarding community gardens and seasonal retail sales
    • 17.10.180 Community Education Civic Activities
      • See especially item D, regarding support services for independent living skills development
    • 17.10.270 General Food Sales Commercial Activities
      • See especially item B, regarding stores specializing in particular or distinctive food items
    • 17.10.590 General description of Agricultural and Extractive Activities
    • 17.10.600 Plant Nursery Agricultural Activities
    • 17.10.610 Crop and Animal Raising Agricultural Activities
      • Crop and Animal Raising Agricultural Activities include the raising of tree, vine, field, forage, and other plant crops, intended to provide food or fibers, as well as keeping, grazing, or feeding of animals for animal products, animal increase, or value increase. This classification also includes certain activities accessory to the above, as specified in Section 17.10.040. (Prior planning code § 2461)
    • 17.10.710 General description of Nonresidential Facilities
    • 17.10.780 General description of Signs
    • 17.10.840 Business Signs
    • 17.10.850 Advertising Signs
  • Oakland Planning Code 17.11 OS Open Space Zoning Regulations
    • 17.11.020 Designation and mapping of parks by category
    • 17.11.050 Conditionally permitted activities
      • See especially items C and D, regarding food sales and agricultural activities
    • 17.11.060 Special provisions for permitted and conditionally permitted activities in the OS zone
    • 17.11.090 Special provisions for permitted and conditionally permitted facilities and facilities allowed by variance in the OS zone
  • Oakland Planning Code Chapters 17.13 — 17.101D — Zone Regulations
    • Each chapter in this range is a set of regulations for each zoning district. Each district has a section regarding use classifications and regulations related to agricultural activities (see the above sections on Use Classifications for legal definitions of these activities)
  • Oakland Planning Code 17.108 General Height, Yard, and Court Regulations (p. 371)
  • Oakland Planning Code 17.112 Home Occupation Regulations
  • Oakland Planning Code 17.114 Nonconforming Uses
  • Oakland Planning Code 17.124 Landscaping and Screening Standards
  • Oakland Planning Code 17.126 Usable Open Space Standards
  • Oakland Planning Code 17.134 Conditional Use Permit Procedure

Download the Oakland Planning Code (effective Nov 3, 2011) to read the codes referenced above. User your PDF reader’s “Find” function to search for the code(s) you want to read. There are no page numbers in this 572-page document.

 

Definition of Key Terms

Note: References to section numbers in the definitions below can be found in the Oakland Planning Code – Nov 3, 2011 (PDF – 8.2 MB). Check the Planning Department website for ordinances referenced.

  • Accessory activity” means an activity which is incidental to, and customarily associated with, a specified principal activity, and which meets the applicable conditions set forth in Section 17.10.040.
  • Accessory facility” means a facility, other than a Sign, which is incidental to, and customarily associated with, a specified principal facility, and which meets the applicable conditions set forth in Section 17.10.070.
  • Accessory structure” means a building or facility, other than a Sign, which is incidental to, and customarily associated with, a specified principal facility, and which meets the applicable regulations set forth in Title 17 of the Oakland Planning Code.
  • Alteration” means any enlargement; addition; demolition; removal; relocation; repair; remodeling; change in number of living units; development of or  change in an open area; development of or change in a Sign, by painting or otherwise; or other change in a facility, but excluding painting except as provided above for Signs, and ordinary maintenance for which no building permit is required.
  • Ambient noise level” means the all-encompassing noise level associated with a given environment, being a composite of sounds from all sources, excluding any alleged offensive noise. In this context, the ambient noise level constitutes the normal or existing level of environmental noise at a given location.
  • Building” means a structure having a roof supported by columns or walls.
  • Building Facility” means any structure, open area, or object which accommodates or is intended to accommodate Residential, Civic, Commercial, Industrial and/or Mixed Use Activities. Building Facilities also include such facilities as are customarily associated with, and are appropriate, incidental, and subordinate to Residential, Civic, Commercial, Industrial and/or Mixed Use Activities.
  • Conditional use” means a use which requires special consideration from the City. The Conditional Use Permit (CUP) process provides the City with the flexibility to determine if a specific use at a certain location will be compatible with the neighborhood. In reviewing a CUP, the Planning Department relies upon the specific findings of Section 17.134.050 of the Zoning Ordinance.
  • The word “conditionally permitted” means permitted subject to the granting of a conditional use permit pursuant to the conditional use permit procedure in Chapter 17.134 and subject to all other applicable regulations.
  • Development control map” means a map or set of maps, with supporting text, regulating the precise location, height, bulk, design, or nature of activities or facilities.
  • Home occupation” means an accessory activity [see definition above] of a nonresidential nature which is performed within a living unit, or within a garage attached thereto and reserved therefor, by an occupant of the living unit and which is customarily incidental to the residential use of the living unit.
  • Illegal use” means an activity or facility that does not enjoy a legal conforming or legal nonconforming status, as defined in the zoning regulations. A minor illegal use is an illegal use that can be legalized by any means other than by major variance.
  • Improvement” means, for the purposes of implementation of the recycling space allocation requirements, work which adds to the value of a facility, prolongs its useful life, or adapts it to new uses. “Improvements” should be distinguished from repairs. Repairs keep facilities in good operating condition,
    do not materially add to the value of the facility, and do not substantially extend the life of the facility.
  • Lot” means a parcel of contiguous land which is or may be developed or utilized, under one ownership, as a unit site for a use or group of uses.
  • Lot area” means the area of a lot measured horizontally between bounding lot lines.
  • Nonconforming activity” means an activity which, under the zoning regulations, is not itself a permitted activity where it is located or does not conform to the off-street parking or loading requirements, performance standards, or other requirements applying to activities. However, an activity of the character described above shall not be deemed a nonconforming activity to the extent that it has been or is hereafter authorized by a subsisting conditional use permit, variance, or other special zoning approval.
  • Nonconforming facility” means a facility which, under the zoning regulations, is not itself a permitted facility where it is located or does not conform to the density, floor-area ratio, height, yard, court, landscaping or screening, or usable open space requirements; limitations on Signs; or other requirements applying to facilities. However, a facility of the character described above shall not be deemed a nonconforming facility to the extent that it has been or is hereafter authorized by a subsisting conditional use permit, variance, or other special zoning approval.
  • Nonconforming use” means a nonconforming activity or a nonconforming facility.
  • Path” means a dedicated public way intended for pedestrian movement.
  • Performance standards” means regulations prescribed in the performance standards in Chapter 17.120 with respect to the emission by activities of noise, vibration, smoke, and other dangerous or objectionable matter or phenomena.
  • The word “permitted” means permitted without the requirement for a conditional use permit but subject to all applicable regulations.
  • Primary activity” and “principal activity” are interchangeable and mean an activity which fulfills a primary function of an establishment,
    institution, household, or other entity.
  • Residential facility” means any structure, open area, or object which accommodates or is intended to accommodate Residential Activities. Residential Facilities also include such facilities as are customarily associated with, and are appropriate, incidental, and subordinate to Residential Activities.
  • “Sales Floor Area” means interior building space devoted to the sale of merchandise, but excludes restrooms, office space, storage space, automobile service areas, or open-air garden sales space. For the purpose of determining the total sales floor area of a single business establishment, the aggregate square footage of all adjacent stores that share common check stands, management, a controlling ownership interest, warehouses, or distribution facilities shall be considered a single business establishment.
  • “Setback” means the horizontal distance between a facility and the lot lines of the lot on which it is located.
  • Structure” means any facility which is constructed or erected, and which is located on the ground or is attached to something having location on the ground.
  • Substitution (of activities)” means the replacement of an existing activity by a new activity, or a change in the nature of an existing activity, but not including a change of ownership, tenancy, or management where the previous line of business or other function is substantially unchanged.
  • Yard” means an area between a facility and some lot line, measured for a specified distance, in a horizontal plane, perpendicularly between such facility and lot line; located on the same lot as said facility; and open and unobstructed except for the facilities allowed therein by Section 17.108.130.
  • Urban parkland” means any parkland in the city of Oakland that is not designated a “Resource  Conservation Area,” excluding those lands within the jurisdiction of the Port of Oakland. (per Ordinance 12078 §  7, 1998)

Source: Oakland Planning Code – effective Nov 3, 2011 (PDF – 8.2 MB)

  • Chapter 17.09 Definitions
  • Chapter 17.09.050 Special definitions for projects in the open space (OS) zone
News & Updates
Acknowledgements of Contribution:
Juli Chamberlin
Yassi Eskandari