Recognizing the connections between food and the community’s environmental, economic and physical health, the City of Portland has initiated a project to update its zoning code to promote traditional and emerging ways of producing and distributing food. The project will address five topic areas related to urban food production and distribution:
- Farmers Markets
- Community Gardens
- Urban Food Production
- Community Food Distribution Points
- Animals and Bees
This project will affirm the City’s commitment to expanding access to healthful food for all Portlanders by:
- Establishing a common understanding of urban food issues that reflects community values and policies expressed in the Climate Action Plan, Peak Oil Task Force report and ongoing policy work of the Portland Plan.
- Solving regulatory problems that can be addressed in the short term and identifying more complex urban food issues for in-depth policy discussions
- Ensuring that decisions related to food production and access maximize public health benefits
- Developing clear food regulations that are easy to understand and equitability enforced
- Increasing gardening opportunities to support Portlanders’ access to healthy, locally grown food
- Supporting small entrepreneurial food ventures and urban farmers that contribute to the city’s economy
- Mitigating impacts of urban food production and distribution to surrounding properties (noise, traffic, pollutants, etc.).
An update of the City of Portland’s zoning code regarding food production and distribution, the Urban Food Zoning Code Update will address five topic areas:
1. Farmers Markets
Farmers markets across the city provide residents access to locally grown produce and healthy food. They support the local and regional economy and provide gathering places for neighbors to interact. Although farmers markets have proliferated and are an integral part of Portland’s food culture, current regulations prohibit farmers markets from operating on a consistent basis in many locations across the City.
This project will define the characteristics of farmers markets and develop zoning code regulations that ensure their appropriate siting and economic success, as well as protect the livability of the surrounding neighborhoods.
2. Community Gardens
Community gardens provide an opportunity for residents to grow their own food in a neighborhood setting that promotes healthy eating, physical activity and community interaction. They also provide opportunities to grow healthful food for those in need, as well as provide access to gardening space for those who need it. Portland is actively trying to increase the number of City-managed gardens and support the development of community gardens at schools, faith-based facilities and other institutional sites.
This project will define the characteristics of community gardens and develop code provisions to ensure their development is well integrated and beneficial to the surrounding neighborhoods.
3. Urban Food Production
As many Portlanders strive to have a deeper connection with the food they eat, food production has increased in front, back and side yards across the city. Some entrepreneurs have even established market gardens and sell the fruits of their labor. The City supports these types of activities and recognizes that growing food within the city improves self-sufficiency, food security and public health.
This project will define different scales of agricultural activities and develop code provisions that determine where, and under what conditions, food production and sales will be allowed in the city.
4. Community Food Distribution Points
Cooperative buying clubs and community-sponsored agriculture farms (CSAs) benefit local growers and the regional economy, increase awareness of healthful foods and help residents purchase locally grown food at lower prices. Farmers and/or local distributors deliver in bulk to a central location, where the food is distributed to members who pick up their portion of food. These distribution sites are primarily in residential neighborhoods and issues have arisen — primarily increased vehicle traffic — around the drop-off/pick-up sites.
This project will address the positive aspects of alternative food distribution methods, as well as the possible negative impacts to neighborhoods. Code language will be developed that clarifies how best to regulate these uses.
5. Animals and Bees
Many residents are raising chickens for fresh eggs, goats for milk, and bees for honey. Keeping three animals, such as chickens (hens), pygmy goats and rabbits is currently allowable on a residential lot without a permit. But as the number of residents raising animals for food has grown, so have the questions about regulating the type, number and care of urban animals and bees.
This project will provide an opportunity to identify any existing problems or concerns, and determine if changes need to be made to benefit animal keepers and/or neighborhood welfare.
Illustrations by Rob Gisler
*See our event calendar for actual meeting dates and times.
How to Stay Informed
• Get on the project mailing list for updates and announcements,
• Follow the Project News RSS feed,
• Consult the project timeline for public review opportunities,
• Participate in or follow the discussions of the Project Advisory Group.
Partners and Advisors
The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) and the Portland/Multnomah County Food Policy Council are leading a Project Advisory Group composed of food, gardening, public health, community and businesses representatives to ensure their perspectives are included as the project recommendations are developed. PAG meetings are open to the public, and announcements and agendas will be posted on the project website. Staff will also consult with appropriate city and county agencies.
Multnomah County Health Department is administering a grant from the national Center for Disease Control (CDC) Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) program and has awarded funds to BPS and Oregon Public Health Institute (OPHI) to ensure health and equity are considered in all aspects of this project. The purpose of CPPW is to prevent obesity and chronic disease caused by physical inactivity and poor nutrition through policy and environmental change strategies such as improving access to healthy food.