Growing and selling crops and agricultural products in Inland Empire Cities

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

The San Francisco Chronicle has a story today on page A-1 about a property owner who has a pocket farm in Oakland.  The City of Oakland says that she needs a Conditional Use Permit to continue to sell her produce and livestock-derived food.  According to the same article, the City and County of San Francisco has already created new ordinances to deal with the urban farming trend in the Bay Area.

The Inland Empire has a rich history of agriculture, and unlike Oakland, still has agriculture.  According to the California Department of Agriculture,  of California’s 58 counties,   Riverside County was the 12th largest farm county in California in  2007, slipping to 13th in 2008.  Riverside’s crops were valued at $1,268,590,000.  The leading commodities for Riverside County in 2008 were nursery stock, milk, eggs, table grapes and hay.  San Bernardino County was the 17th largest farm county in California in 2007, slipping to 20th in 2008.  That probably is largely due to the dairies leaving Chino and South Ontario.  San Bernardino County’s crops were valued at $547,158,000 in 2008.  The leading commodities that year were milk, eggs, cattle and calves, replacement heifers and trees and shrubs.

By 2009, San Bernardino County had fallen to 25th out of  58 counties, with total production down to $355,379,000, with alfalfa becoming a top crop.  The march of urbanization made a significant dent in just two years.  The recession was probably the only thing preventing more losses.  Much prime agricultural land has been converted into housing.

When I was Assistant City Attorney for the City of Redlands, there was still significant agriculture in the City.  Some parts of the City and areas within the City’s sphere of influence were zoned agricultural.  In the A-1 Agricultural zone (one of a number of zones where agriculture is allowed by right) in Redlands, allows agricultural  uses  (only part of the section is quoted below, as shown by the ellipses):

“Apiaries, provided that no hives or boxes housing bees are kept closer than three hundred feet (300′) from any dwelling other than that occupied by the owner of the apiary;

Farms or ranches for the grazing, breeding or raising of not more than two (2) horses, cattle, goats or sheep per acre. . . .

Orchards, groves, nurseries, the raising of field crops, tree crops, berry crops, bush crops, truck gardening and commercial flower growing;. . . The sale of fruit, vegetables, produce, flowers and other similar products grown on the property; provided, however, that roadside stands used for such sales shall not exceed five hundred (500) square feet.”   Redlands Municipal Code section 18.20.030.  Other zones allow produce stands, either explicitly, or by reference to other zones.

In San Bernardino, where I was a Deputy City Attorney, there are only remnants of agriculture.   If you have a fast connection, or some spare time, you can find San Bernardino’s zoning map.  According to the City of San Bernadino’s Development Code, San Bernardino Municipal Code section 19.08.o20, agricultural production-crops, is allowed, subject to a development permit in the IH (Industrial Heavy) and IE (Industrial Extractive) zones.  Like the City of Oakland, agricultural uses are allowed in almost every residential zone in San Bernardino (except RSH, Residential Student Housing) with a Conditional Use Permit.  San Bernardino Municipal Code section 19.04.020.  “Agriculture” is defined as the ” use of land for farming, dairying, pasteurizing and grazing, horticulture, floriculture, viticulture, apiaries, animal and poultry husbandry, and accessory activities, including, but not limited to storage, harvesting, feeding or maintenance of equipment excluding stockyards, slaughtering or commercial food processing.”  San Bernardino Municipal Code section 19.02.050.   It is not immediately clear if that includes a produce stand.  That would probably be subject to the development permit or conditional use permit process.

The common sense advice is to check with your city, or if you are in an unincorporated area, Riverside or San Bernardino County before you start your mini-farm.  Also, there are other issues out there, such as legal non-conforming uses, non-zoning issues such as the keeping of animals, the need for a business registration certificate or a business license if you’re selling your produce or animal products, the possibility of County Health inspections and permits.  As with anything, you should get legal advice before starting instead of  facing a citation or a lawsuit alleging nuisance.  If you find yourself in trouble, find an attorney versed in land use or code enforcement, or both, depending on your situation.

Update 4/22/2011  The Mayor and Common Council had this agenda item on the 4/18/2011 meeting agenda.   According to the summary, the matter was sent to the Legislative Review Committee to review the proposal to allow food carts, coffee carts and vegetable stands.

Update 5/14/2012  The City of San Bernardino Mayor and Common Council passed MC-1363 in August 2011, changing the transient vendor ordinance 5.04.495, to have an exception to allow food carts as allowed by the Development Code, 19.70.060(1) which says “food carts and produce stands may be permitted for one year initially, and renewed annually, subject to verification of compliance with conditions of approval and County permit requirements, as applicable.”  19.70.020(11) states that temporary uses, subject to a Temporary Use Permit, including  “Food carts, operated at fixed, pre-approved locations, in the Main Street Overlay District, at least 500 feet away from any restaurant and under current permits from the County Environmental Health Services Division.”  SBDC section 19.70.020(12) also allows produce stands in community gardens.

Copyright 2011 Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Michael Reiter is a partner with Cole Huber LLP
2855 E. Guasti Road, Suite 402
Ontario, CA 91761