"It's the first step in legitimizing urban agriculture in Oakland," said Esperanza Pallana, 37, who has a 1,200 foot backyard plot in the Grand Lake neighborhood and has been pushing for the change. "It's also preserving our right to grow our own food for ourselves and our community."
The code change altered the definition of "home-based businesses," which previously mandated that it had to be indoors. The new code allows outdoor vegetables as long as it didn't need farm equipment to produce it. Previously, all it took was one phone call from a neighbor to bring down the city's wrath on someone selling backyard carrots.
Eric Angstadt, the city's deputy planning and zoning director, said he estimates that anywhere from a half to three-quarters of urban farmers in Oakland will be protected by this change.
"These are people for whom urban farming is not a primary, money-making occupation," he said. "These are maybe people who are just trying to recover their own costs of growing, or maybe people who are trying to see if it can be a possible commercial occupation."
The code change won't allow large commercial farms to operate within Oakland, and it doesn't address the issue of farm animals. It simply allows residents to sell produce that they grow in their own yard.