Date of Graduation

Spring 5-28-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Urban Affairs


College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Sandy Brown

Second Advisor

Alex Tarr


Cities have turned to urban agriculture (UA) as a means of revitalizing neighborhoods and addressing unmet food needs of urbanites. Farming the city has gained momentum and has become an important force in urban social landscapes and economics. UA has also sparked debates about the appropriate development of highly valuable private spaces. In 2014, the City of San Francisco created a tax incentive to encourage owners to use undeveloped private properties in UA. This tax incentive represents the political prioritization of UA as legitimate land use in San Francisco with the possible purposes of either meeting a pressing residential need or implementing a feel-good policy to meet public demand.

This research raises a significant question: What is the role of the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone (UAIZ) Act in utilizing private properties to provide access to food for low-income populations in the built-up landscape of San Francisco? This question leads to many other questions on the subject: What is the policy problem that UAIZ is attempting to solve? This paper thus conducts a Geographic Systems Analysis (GIS) analysis of UA on private lands and discusses how this relates to the distribution of low-income population. The literature indicates that UA can help revitalize disinvested neighborhoods and provide supplemental nutrition and food access to low-income residents suffering from food insecurity. Additionally, by providing the “Choice” NOT to develop vacant lands, incentivizing UA reframes the relationship between the public and private spheres in the urban landscape.

This research ultimately produces a vacant land inventory that illustrates the power of maps and data analysis to help achieve more effective implementation and a better use of resources. Findings reveal the opportunities and challenges that UAIZ brings into the future of UA, which are not fully explored as the UAIZ is in its very beginning phase of implementation. In this paper, I refer to the City of San Francisco as a public agency and City officials and Staff with the City.