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.

Resnick Center Launches Covid-19 and Food Law Resource Guide

Today, the Resnick Center in conjunction with the UCLA School of Law Hugh and Hazel Darling Law Library launched a Covid-19 and Food Law Resource Guide.  The guide will provide resources on the intersection of Covid-19 and food law and policy for scholars, researchers, and officials, which comports with the Resnick Center’s mission to provide cutting-edge legal research and scholarship in food law and policy.

This library guide will consist mainly at its start of substantive popular press articles, links to various open-access repositories of media reports, and helpful government sites. Over time, this library guide will be populated by legal scholarship and reflective, analytical publications relevant to legal scholarship that will be organized by subject matter and in some cases annotated.

If you come across interesting material at the intersection of Covid-19 and food law and policy, please submit it to be considered for this guide to the Resnick Center.

From The Economist: Death of the Calorie

by Diana R. H. Winters

“What we…know, however, suggests that counting calories is very crude and often misleading…. a  growing body of research shows that when different people consume the same meal, the impact on each person’s blood sugar and fat formation will vary according to their genes, lifestyles and unique mix of gut bacteria…[and] the amount of energy we absorb from food depends on how we prepare it..”                                                                    -Peter Wilson, “Death of the Calorie”

Today I taught a segment of a pre-written nutrition curriculum to my son’s fourth grade class on serving sizes.  Imagine my dismay when I picked up the script twenty minutes (oops) before I was to teach the class and found that it wanted me to teach the kids that serving sizes were recommended portions, not a reflection of what Americans actually eat (which they are, by law).  The fundamental lesson, however, contained some decent guidance–people should eat less protein (although the lesson didn’t recognize any protein but animal) and processed foods, and eat more fruits,vegetables, and other whole foods.  This simple prescription, also taught by Michael Pollan (“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”), is more effective by far than teaching people to rely on serving sizes and calorie counting to eat healthy and maintain body weight.

This article in The Economist’s 1843 magazine on our misguided reliance on calories to measure our food intake addresses this concept, and is a fascinating and important read.

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.

 

Only the Brave Dare Eat the Fare!

October 25, 2018

Last week, Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, reviewed The Poison Squad: 
One Chemist’s Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, by Deborah Blum.  The Poison Squad is about Harvey Wiley, the chief chemist at the USDA at the turn of the Twentieth Century, who worked to improve food safety and improve regulation and labeling in the United States.  Wiley formed a “poison squad” of young volunteers, to test the effects of various food additives.  The sign in their dining room read, “Only the Brave Dare Eat the Fare.”

As Schlosser points out, we are faced today, as we were last century, with adulterated food, rampant food fraud, and untested food additives.  The poison squad is us.

 

 

Resnick Center 2018 Law Student Writing Competition Winners!

The Resnick Center is delighted to announce the winners of its 2018 Law Student Writing Competition on legal and policy issues that may hinder or delay social innovation in the food industry.  The judges were incredibly impressed with the quality of all of the papers submitted, and want to thank everyone who submitted.

The winning papers were precise and well-written, and grappled with the topic in exciting and even surprising ways.  Click on the titles to access the full papers.

The winners:

 

Jonathan Gold

The stupendous, and entirely unique restaurant critic/food writer Jonathan Gold died last weekend.  Like for so many others, Gold’s reviews helped me to explore and engage with the vast and incredibly complex city of Los Angeles when I moved here two years ago.  Gold’s writing illustrates how food connects people to each other and to place, much as does Bourdain’s, and his death too is an enormous loss.

Here’s a piece of his from 1998 about the year he tried to eat at every restaurant on Pico Blvd.

 

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