From Homes to Gardens: Land Trust Covers New Territory in Oakland

Oakland Community Land Trust, a nonprofit community-based corporation, has been facilitating community economic development in Oakland by providing affordable housing since 2009. The Trust buys and rehabilitates vacant, foreclosed homes and sells them to new homebuyers at a price affordable to low-income families. The Trust leases the land to the new homeowner for a 99-year renewable term through a residential ground lease, and retains ownership of the land under the homes. By retaining land ownership, the trust ensures that the home will remain permanently affordable and cannot be transferred to a for-profit buyer, thus removing it from the speculative market.

The Trust has one vacant lot on a parcel in East Oakland that is not currently suitable for a family. Rather than put the land to residential use, the Trust will convert it into a community garden in collaboration with a local youth urban farm project, Acta Non Verba (ANV). ANV operates an urban farm in Oakland, which provides garden education, a safe space, fresh vegetables and healthy living resources for local youth and the wider community. ANV has discussed using the Trust’s parcel to create a community orchard and demonstration site in the neighborhood. Putting the Trust’s land to this kind of agricultural and educational use would bring the surrounding community together and offer productive and engaging activities, as well as a safe space for parents, children and families to use.

Conveniently, the City of Oakland recently approved changes to the Oakland Planning Code, which will allow limited agricultural use of land without a permit—such as community gardens and urban farms—in residential zones.

Because the Oakland Community Land Trust has thus far focused on affordable housing and residential ground leases, it has requested GC3’s assistance in putting this parcel to non-residential agricultural use. Assisted by pro bono real estate counsel from the law firm Paul Hastings, LLP, GC3 is drafting an agricultural ground lease for the parcel. GC3’s work on this lease could pave the way for the Trust to expand the ambit of its land trust model to include new ways to involve low-income Oakland community members in access to increased community gardening, healthy food, and green space.

Anuthara Hegoda is a second-year law student at Berkeley Law and was a Fall 2014 GC3 law clerk.

 

A glimpse of the Acta Non Verba Community Garden in East Oakland
A glimpse of the Acta Non Verba Community Garden in East Oakland.
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