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Tucson’s Proposed Urban Agriculture Zoning Codes Need Your Help

Tucson’s Mayor and City Council will decide the fate of proposed urban agriculture zoning changes on Tuesday, December 8 at 6:00 p.m., and they need to hear your voice.

December 4, 2015

The Proposal

Remember back when we published a post all about the proposed updates to Tucson’s zoning codes, updates that are needed to provide legal protections and guidelines relevant to Tucson’s urban agriculture community?

The good news is that Tucson’s Planning Commission approved the proposal, and the zoning code updates are now up for consideration by Tucson’s Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and the Tucson City Council. The bad news is, opponents of urban agriculture seem prepared to fight these changes till the end, and are now attempting to make it appear as though there is widespread opposition to the proposed changes.

Get Involved

Keep-Calm-Meme_FARM-ONThere’s one sure way to demonstrate that the people objecting to the zoning code changes do not speak for the broader community — and that’s through supporters of the proposed updates making their voices heard over the next few days, and especially showing up this coming Tuesday, December 8 at 6:00pm in the Mayor and Council Chambers, where Mayor Rothschild and the City Council will meet to discuss the proposal.

Here are some ideas for ways to get involved and make sure these common-sense amendments are adopted:

Send an email or make a phone call to the ward councilors and/or Mayor Rothschild with your comments. Find your ward member info here. Should you want a little inspiration, here’s a sample letter from Pima County Food Alliance. Feel free to make it your own, or sign and submit as is.

Attend the Urban Agriculture Hearing on Tuesday, December 8 at 6:00pm in the Mayor and Council Chambers and express your support for more urban agriculture in Tucson, specifically the right to keep 24, 36, or, on large enought lots, 48 chickens. (Here’s more info on how the animal units would work.)

Not feeling like making your public speaking debut? Show up to the meeting wearing one of Pima County Food Alliance’s chicken buttons, or pick one up from volunteers distributing the buttons when you get there. Limited edition buttons in teal will be available, but Pima County Food Alliance recommends those who want teal buttons get there early as supplies will be limited.

Join the Tucson CLUCKS Facebook group to connect with like-minded urban agriculture enthusiasts, browse resource links, and geek out about urban ag, chickens, and all things backyard farm -related.

Download the Keep Calm and Farm On chicken graphic and updated Meeting Announcement flyer to share across social media.

Spread the word by sharing this post with as many people as possible through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, email, blogs, etc.

As proud supporters of the urban agriculture initiatives currently taking place in Tucson, the staff of Edible Baja Arizona firmly stands behind the proposed amendments to the Tucson zoning codes, and urges supporters of urban agriculture and local food to use their voices to make these changes a reality.

To learn more about the proposed zoning changes, read our previous post on the subject, and check out coverage of the proposal on and

Want some more reasons to support changing Tucson’s zoning codes? Read the letter the Pima County Food Alliance sent to the mayor and city council earlier this week:

December 1, 2015

Dear Tucson Mayor and Council Members of Tucson,

The Pima County Food Alliance is a grassroots food policy council, based in Pima County and operating since 2011.  We have a 16-member leadership council, representing various food-related sectors, including retail, farming, research, public health, hunger relief, nutrition, restaurants, and everyday food consumers.  We are committed to building a healthier regional food system, and as such we have been following the urban agriculture issue closely.  When the Planning Commission was considering the proposal and was in need of perspective or information on issues around farming, animal husbandry, and composting, we connected them with local experts.  When the Commission or PDSD employees wanted a picture of what urban farming looks like in Tucson, we arranged tours for them.  We would like to thank the City for reaching out to us and also to the urban farmers and gardeners who volunteered to demonstrate their operations.

One reason we thank this latter group is that many of them are currently in violation of City code, which makes inviting City officials onto their property a scary prospect.  The reasons they ultimately agreed to help were twofold: 1. They believe strongly that agriculture has a place in making our urban environment a healthier place, and 2: They trusted that by engaging both with us (the Alliance) and the City, they could create real, positive change.  We would like to applaud the City for creating an inclusive process that has made space for many voices to be heard.

The resounding message, over the many years this effort has been unfolding, is that Tucson needs to make room for MORE urban agriculture.  Where the code is unclear, it needs to be clarified.  Based on feedback from our members and leadership team, we, as an Alliance, support an update to the code that:

Complies with Plan Tucson’s vision for food production and food-based economic development opportunities;
Recognizes and normalizes the fact that urban agriculture is already happening on a wide scale and has created no major nuisances;
Recognizes that urban agriculture is not just a form of self-sustenance, but rather, at its best, is a tool to ensure a healthy food supply for all; 
Allows for animal husbandry that is scale-appropriate (e.g., is tied to lot size), while ensuring animal rights and neighbor’s rights through proper enforcement of nuisance, noise, and animal protection ordinances;
Seeks to give a number of minimum rights to engage in urban agriculture outright (e.g., growing food in front yards, or having a certain number of chickens);
In appropriate instances, allows would-be urban farmers to expand beyond the parameters of the code based on a permission-based system from relevant stakeholders (e.g., contacting their neighbors to increase from 24 to 36 chickens);
Allows exchange of food in both informal and formal ways (e.g., over the fence sales to neighbors AND expansion of neighborhood farm stands and farmers’ markets).

Unlike many individual and organizational advocates that work on completely separate issues, we have worked hard to provide the City with reasonable requests such as the above.  This is in spite of the fact that many of our individual members are decidedly more aggressive on the matter, and would like to have as many chickens as they like, or be able to build as big of a coop as they see fit.  Indeed, those voices

have made themselves heard at many a public meeting, and they far outweigh the lone voices opposing an expansion of urban agriculture.  (In judging the compiled comments from the public meetings held in the summer of 2014, the ratio of those in favor versus those against is something like 10 to 1.)

In spite of this, we, as an Alliance, have worked hard to bring the majority of our members on board to support this proposal.  We understand that it represents a compromise, but feel the City has done a good job of collecting input and doing the best that it can to create a balance. To that effect, we created a petition during the summer, in which over 800 signees expressed their support for the passage of this code amendment.  We deliver that petition to you, along with the hundreds of comments that accompany it, for your consideration.

We have worked hard to educate our members and garner support for the City in this process, knowing that we were participating in a democratic process, and that, as such, the results of that democracy would ultimately prevail.  It is now time for the City to deliver on its promise.  After many years of work on this, it is the right time for the City of Tucson to codify these changes.  Please support the proposed Urban Agricultural Zoning Amendments.

Thank you for your time,

Leadership Council of the Pima County Food Alliance

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