Free the flowers

Posted on | August 12, 2009 | 1 Comment

Photo: Gary Friedman, Los Angeles Times

Tara Kolla of Silver Lake Farms. Photo: Gary Friedman, Los Angeles Times

IF YOU follow gardening in the Los Angeles Times or Los Angeles Magazine or LA Weekly, chances are, you’ve heard of Tara Kolla, recently dubbed Los Angeles Magazine’s “Best Urban Farmer Guru.”

After the jump, Kolla makes her case for a Food and Flowers Freedom Act. If it sounds silly, it might be, but so are some of our zoning ordinances here in Los Angeles.

Kolla is pursuing the act because her urban flower garden, Silver Lake Farms, was nearly run out of business last spring by a litigious neighbor who took exception to the idea that Kolla was growing flowers to sell.

Disclosure obligations require me to point out that I am aware of this feud because Kolla called me in as a consultant over how to end it last spring. After visiting her garden and finding it to be a water conservation model, impeccably maintained and invisible to her complaining neighbor, I wrote a site report in defense of  the operation to city officials. In it I speculated that what most likely motivated the neighbor’s campaign was not disruption from her flower growing operation, but anxiety about a sliver of land running behind his property that is owned by Kolla and might be developed by her if she so chose. I did not know Kolla beforehand and have not become friends with her since. I waived any payment for the inspection and report, though I do think that Kolla is responsible for the loofa sponge that appeared in my shoulder bag after the visit. It is sheer admiration for her commitment to the most forward-thinking garden practices, her determination and her guts that prompts me to post the following item.

Kolla’s commentary:

In 1946, a Los Angeles municipal code known as the Truck Gardening Ordinance was written to allow the growing of vegetables in a residential (R1) zone for sale off-site. What this means, however, is that it is prohibited for city dwellers in R1 zones to grow fruits, nuts, flowers or seedlings and sell them off-site – at local farmers’ markets for example. Furthermore, no one at City Hall can agree on what Truck Gardening is.

We think it’s time for the City of Los Angeles to come into the 21st century and amend its municipal code to support the burgeoning urban farming movement.  It’s time L.A. legalized urban farming in R1 zones as part of its commitment to greening our city.


On July 8th, 2009, Council President Eric Garcetti introduced a motion to explore allowing “the cultivation of flowers, fruits, nuts or vegetables defined as the product of any tree, vine or plant, and that these products be allowed for use on-site or sale off-site.”

A group known as Urban Farming Advocates – Los Angeles, has named this motion the Food & Flowers Freedom Act.  We’re asking for your support so that City Hall will change the law quickly and let L.A. become a leading center for urban farmers.

Urban farming provides access to more local, organic, affordable, fresh and nutritious food. In this time of economic crisis and rising food prices, urban farming can help create green jobs and stimulate the growth of artisanal home-based businesses. Urban farmers help build community bonds and bring a truly local flavor to farmers’ markets.

Angelinos care deeply about buying local organic produce. What about flowers? According to the California Cut Flower Commission, 80% of the flowers we buy are imported from overseas. Imported flowers are not tested for pesticide residues.  Let urban farmers meet the rising demand for fresh, local, organic flowers!

Urban farmers can meet the needs of people for more locally grown, sustainably raised, pesticide-free food and flowers.  We have the climate; we have the space.  What we need are contemporary laws.


Please take a moment to support the Food & Flowers Freedom Act by writing to your Los Angeles City Councilmember.  Tell her/him you want to support urban farming in Los Angeles.  Tell her/him you want the Planning Department to expedite their work and propose ways to legalize urban farming in Los Angeles.  Please cc Council President Eric Garcetti and send an email copy to Urban Farming Advocates – Los Angeles at

To find out who is your local councilmember, click here.


One Response to “Free the flowers”

  1. Barry Lupi
    August 13th, 2009 @ 11:50 am

    I hope the “Food and Flowers Freedom Act “gets passed.
    I sold flowers to the local florist,and one of the selling points were that they were localy grown and free of pesticides.

    Good Luck ..Barry

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