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The San Diego City Council is moving forward with a law change that will make it easier for people to start community gardens across the city.

On Wednesday, the city’s Development Services Division proposed that the council amend the city’s laws to allow community gardens on land zoned for commercial use citywide. The council’s land use and housing committee voted to start circulating the proposal to community groups so it can come before the full council for approval this summer.

Zoning laws currently prohibit community gardens on all commercial land. They also prohibit them on residential land without a special permit, which can cost more than $5,000 and require several levels of city approval.

Those two types of land are most common in the city’s heavily populated areas, meaning residents trying to start community gardens on vacant lots within their neighborhoods often have a hard time finding property where they’re allowed, even if the property is available.

Last month, the City Council approved a lease to allow a nonprofit to use a city-owned commercial parcel for a community garden, but even so, the zoning laws would not allow it.

Nationwide, cities have taken an active role in encouraging community gardens as a way to promote healthy living by letting residents grow their own food. But in San Diego, the barriers have remained high.

The proposed amendment would clear away one of the highest of those hurdles and allow community gardens to spring up on vacant commercial land citywide. People wanting to create community gardens would only have to get a no-fee permit and abide by city rules regulating fence height, water use, and hours.

“The government is going to make it extremely easy to do,” said Councilman Todd Gloria, who sits on the land use and housing committee.

The proposal falls short of eliminating restrictions on community gardens in residential areas. That issue is more complicated because community planning groups and residents are more likely to resist them. But Gloria said the city was working on residential zoning, too.

His office said it expects the ordinance for commercial land to come before the City Council for approval in June or July.

If you missed it, check out this San Diego Explained on community gardens we did with our media partners NBC San Diego last month.

Please contact Adrian Florido directly at adrian.florido@voiceofsandiego.org or at 619.325.0528 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/adrianflorido.

Adrian Florido

Adrian Florido is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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