Retail Water Rates and Community Gardens in Los Angeles

Welcome back to On Food Law! We are excited to be back from our summer break and can’t wait to see what the rest of 2020 will bring. (Kidding.)

We have some exciting news – Laura Yraceburu Dall’s (UCLA Law ’20) article on the effect of Proposition 218 on retail water rates for community gardens in Los Angeles, which won the 2020 California Water Law Writing Prize co-sponsored by the California Water Law Symposium Board of Directors and the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, has been published in the California Water Law Journal.

Laura, who was deeply involved with the Resnick Center during her time at UCLA Law, writes that she came to the topic in her Food Law & Policy Clinic:

“As a part of Professor Korn’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, a representative of the Los Angeles Food and Policy Council came to discuss her advocacy and mentioned that water rates for community gardens were increasing by nearly three hundred percent, threatening the existence of gardens to the detriment of low-income community members. I began researching outside of class and came to realize that there was no clear understanding of why the rates were increasing so dramatically. I knew that I had to write about it.”
She then wrote the paper for her water law course, and submitted it for the 2020 CA Water Law Writing Prize.
Here is a synopsis of the paper:

Community gardens in Los Angeles County have seen water rates increase from a flat rate of $1.41 per hundred cubic feet (HCF) in March 2016 to $2.095/HCF plus variable adjustments in July 2019 – a 289 percent increase.[1] As a result, some community gardens have been forced to quadruple their member gardeners’ monthly dues to cover the increasing cost of water.[2] In three years, this increase in the price of water has made gardening significantly more expensive and has priced out low-income, largely immigrant community members[3] who rely on these gardens to supplement their diets with fresh produce. Community gardens across Los Angeles now face the choice of either having their membership change from subsisters who rely on the gardens for dietary needs to hobby gardeners who can pay more to fund the gardens or, alternatively, closing their operations.  Either result increases food insecurity for the most vulnerable members of the gardens’ communities.

California has a long history of resisting tax increases through voter-approved propositions, known in short-hand as the California Tax Revolt. This effort has generally made it more challenging for cities and utilities to raise needed revenue for local services and programs, including water service,[4] but a deeper problem exists than a shortage of funds. Proposition 218, which amended the California Constitution, imposes substantive and procedural requirements on local agencies by limiting property-related fees, including retail water rates.[5]  Proposition 218’s shifting of rate setting authority to the electorate has paradoxically contributed to a significant water rate increase for Los Angeles’ community gardens.  While the goal of the Tax Revolt was to keep taxes and rates low, certain ratepayers have not received such benefits and in fact have experienced disproportionate rate increases.

This paper begins with an overview of community gardens and the history of the California Tax Revolt, primarily focusing on Propositions 13 and 218.[6]  Next, this paper will evaluate Proposition 218’s consequences for community gardens in the Los Angeles area. An analysis of how Proposition 218 was sold to voters will follow. A discussion of practical steps towards reform will precede the conclusion.[7]

 

This important work can be found here.

New Scholarship: Holding the Animal Agriculture Industry Accountable for Climate Change

by Diana R. H. Winters

UCLA Law 3L Amit Liran has published “Holding the Animal Agriculture Industry Accountable for Climate Change: Merits of a Public Nuisance Claim Under California and Federal Law,” in the Villanova Environmental Law Journal (Vol. 30, Issue 1 (2019)).  This paper develops arguments for a public nuisance claim under both California state and federal common law against companies within the animal agriculture industry for their role in climate change and assesses the validity of such arguments.

About coming to this topic, Liran writes:

“I was first inspired to write Holding the Animal Agriculture Industry Accountable for Climate Change: Merits of a Public Nuisance Claim Under California and Federal Law            while enrolled in the “Introduction to Food Law and Policy” course taught by Professor Michael T. Roberts, the founding Executive Director of the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy at UCLA School of Law.  Class discussions regarding civil food law claims based on misrepresentations of nutritional facts made me consider potential claims against huge forces in the food industry that—motivated by profits—have continuously pushed long-standing misconceptions regarding the nutritional value of modern food staples.  This strategy boosted consumption of their products and thereby materially contributed to today’s most pressing exigency: climate change.  Based on parallel claims that have been brought against fossil fuel companies, I developed and wrote about potential litigation strategies against the most culpable of such forces.”

 

Enjoy!

 

Street Vending Decriminalized in L.A.

Just a note to follow up on our guest post by Joseph Pileri on October 3, 2018, discussing new legislation legalizing street vending across California.  This week, the Los Angeles City Council finalized an ordinance legalizing and regulating street vending, ahead of the state law discussed by Pileri that takes effect on January 1, 2019.  The city will implement a permit system, granting site-specific permits to vendors.  This system will take a year to develop, and until then, Los Angeles will regulate street vendors by requiring them to comply with certain rules and standards.

 

The foodralist paradigm

by Diana R. H. Winters

Laurie Beyranevand at the Vermont Law School and I wrote a paper about striking a balance between federal and state decision-making in the area of food policy, called Retooling American Foodralismand the University of Pennsylvania’s Regulatory Review wrote a thoughtful analysis of the paper here.  In the article, author Nicholas Bellos writes:

“[F]or an industry as sprawling and complex—and vital—as the nation’s agricultural sector, should states be the principal actors ensuring consumer safety?

In a recent paper, two scholars argue that they should. University of Vermont Law School’s Laurie Beyranevand and University of Indiana Robert H. McKinney School of Law’s* Diana Winters say that more states should take initiative like California to enact food safety regulations of their own, rather than depend on federal regulators to lead the way. The balance between federal and state decision-making—what they call “foodralism”—needs to tilt more toward state governments, they argue. States need to fill the gaps in the current patchwork of U.S. food regulations and serve as laboratories for developing new rules and standards.”

Retooling American Foodralism is forthcoming in the American Journal of Law and Medicine.

 

*Although I used to be at I.U. McKinney, I am now the Assistant Director of Scholarship at the Resnick Center for Food Law & Policy at UCLA Law.

 

Perspective: California Takes Important Step to Decriminalize Microenterprise

By: Joseph Pileri, Contributor

Last month, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation legalizing street vending across California. This bill prohibits California localities from outlawing street vending outright or treating any violation of street vending regulations as a criminal offense, limiting penalties to administrative fines payable only on an as-needed basis. The law also requires prosecutors to dismiss any currently pending prosecution brought under street vending regulations.[1]

This bill follows years of efforts by advocates in Los Angeles to legalize street vending in the city. For years, street vending was illegal in Los Angeles despite the near ubiquity of fruit carts, taco stands, and hot dog vendors. There was a blanket ban on street vending that exposed any street vendor to potential fines and criminal violations.[2] Advocates recently renewed their push to change this law so that thousands of immigrant street vendors would not find themselves facing deportation because of operating a street vending business.

Los Angeles was not alone in its treatment of street vending. Municipalities around the country have criminalized street vending or the violation of street vending regulations. This is an example of what I term “the criminalization of microenterprise” – local jurisdictions completely outlawing street vending and other business activities or treating violations of licensing rules as a criminal offense. I am working on a project to survey municipalities around the country and study their treatment of street vending. The results, thus far, are surprising. Though many localities require street vendors to be licensed and may impose fines and civil penalties for violating these licensing requirements, cities from Detroit[3] to Houston[4] treat the failure to comply with street vending regulations as a criminal violation. Washington, DC attempted to criminalize street vending in 2014.

These laws have disproportionately negative effects on would-be entrepreneurs who already face barriers to entering the formal economy. Immigrants, those with legal status and those without, individuals returning from incarceration, and individuals with time-consuming childcare and family obligations often look to start microenterprises like street vending to provide for themselves and their families. When these types of businesses are criminalized, vulnerable individuals may be deterred from starting these enterprises or may face severe penalties, including deportation or incarceration, for what would otherwise be a simple licensing violation.

Concerns about public health and safety – particularly when it comes to food – are understandable. The public has a right to know that food, even when bought and consumed on the street, is safe. The California law, however, does not force Angelenos to take health risks with every bite of their al pastor taco. This legislation explicitly permits cities to pass ordinances related to public health and safety. Cities may even have an easier time regulating the safety of food sold by street vendors now that proprietors of these businesses no longer face potential criminal penalties.

Much work remains to understand the extent to which cities and states criminalize street vending and other microenterprises. California has taken an important first step that both protects the health of the public and allows individuals to support themselves and their families. Angelenos who love grabbing a pupusa or a bacon-wrapped hot dog on the go will also be appreciative. By criminalizing microenterprise, cities raise barriers to entry for vulnerable entrepreneurs, unduly burden those entrepreneurs most at risk, and detract from the vibrancy of communities. I hope that California is only the first to reverse this trend.

 

[1] 2018 Cal. Legis. Serv. Ch. 459 (S.B. 946) (WEST).

[2] L.A., Cal., Municipal Code Section 42.00 (1994).

[3] Detroit, Mich., City Code § 41-6-2 (2017).

[4] Hous., Tex., Code of Ordinances § 22-91 (2018).

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑