Nathan McClintock, PhD

Toulan School of Urban Studies & Planning

Portland State University


Scaling Up Urban Agriculture in Oakland

While urban agriculture programs and backyard gardens are thriving in Oakland, the untapped potential for growing food in the city is tremendous. This map shows both existing urban gardens (green dots) and vacant or open spaces where food could potentially be produced. Zoom and drag to find an area of interest, and click on an individual site for parcel information. Publicly owned land (orange) with productive potential totals 1,201 acres while private vacant land (red) totals 848 acres. Food production at these sites could potentially produce as much as 15 to 20 percent of Oakland’s fruit and vegetable needs. Read the report or journal article in Landscape & Urban Planning for details.

Working with an advisory committee comprised of representatives from city agencies, community members, and non-profits, we inventoried vacant and underutilized public land in Oakland in order to assess its possible contribution to urban food production. Research was funded in part by a mini-grant from the HOPE Collaborative and sponsored by City Slicker Farms. The original version of Cultivating the Commons was released in November 2009 and revised in 2010 and has been used by the Oakland Food Policy Council to inform municipal food policy in its report, Transforming Oakland's Food System: A Plan for Action, and by the Oakland Climate Coalition for the Energy and Climate Action Plan. The map below was created for Food: An Atlas, a Guerrilla Cartographers project.

Even if vacant and underutilized land in Oakland is abundant, soil contamination may be an obstacle to the expansion of urban agriculture at some sites. Using new data collected in the field and existing data from the City Slicker Farms Backyard Gardening Program, we used GIS to map and analyze concentrations of lead (Pb) in Oakland's soils. At the site-scale, we located potential "hot spots" where metals levels are high enough to be of concern; similarly, at the neighborhood- and municipal-scales, we identified areas in need of further assessment before food production proceeds. Preliminary assessment of 20 sites in July 2009 was funded by a pilot research grant from the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources Analytical Lab in Davis, CA. Funding from the National Science Foundation allowed us to expand our sampling to 100 additional sites throughout Oakland in 2010. We also conducted an experiment at UC Berkeley's Oxford Tract Greenhouses and collected plant tissue samples at selected urban gardens to assess the bioavailability of lead (Pb) in urban soils. See pictures of our work in the field and lab and the related publications.

The Landscape of Food Production. This is a new spread of maps featured in the Summer 2013 issue of Metroscape. It details food production in the Portland metropolitan region.

Alameda County School Gardens. A series of four maps produced for UC Cooperative Extension, Alameda County for their 2009-2010 School Gardens Assessment.