Urban Agriculture Webinar #2
Policy Barriers and Incentives to Reusing Brownfields for
Community Gardens and Urban Agriculture
STEPHANIE CWIK: Special webinar series on Brownfields in urban agricultural reuse. My name is Stephanie CWIK. I will be moderating this webinar along with my co-worker, Jim Van Der Kloot. Thanks so much to all of you who were able to join us two weeks ago on our webinar about the state of science and research needs. That webinar will be available online in a few days if you missed it or if you'd like to watch it again. Today's webinar will present the policy barriers and incentives to reusing brownfields for community gardens and urban agriculture. This is a snapshot of some of the policy approaches and concerns about creating urban agriculture projects on brownfield sites.
First we have a couple administrative things to start. This webinar is being recorded and we'll be posting it in a few days to the new Brownfields website: www.epa.gov/Brownfields/urbanag. Please note that we're taking typed questions via the webinar service only to reduce any accidental noise on the line. We plan to take one or two questions between each speaker with time for lengthier Q&A at the end. Send your questions via the question box on the go-to-webinar box at the right of your screen. We expect this webinar to take about 2 hours. At the conclusion of the webinar you'll be asked to provide some feedback. Please complete this form so that we may continue to improve our offerings in the future.
By now you will have noticed legalease on your screen and I'll save you from reading that again. Jim?
JIM VAN DER KLOOT: I'm Jim VAN DER KLOOT. We are excited by the tremendous proliferation of new community gardens and urban ag projects. We at U.S. EPA have toured a number of projects over the last year and have been struck by the creativity and by the wide range of approaches to gardening. In addition, some cities and states are creating innovative approaches to decision making regarding contamination issues and in dealing with property control issues and other aspects of urban agriculture. This webinar is our attempt at assessing the state of knowledge on this subject. We feel that this is a key gap in public policy and knowledge in many aspects. We'd like to help in the future by identifying and filling gaps. This webinar is an early step in that process and will give an overview of current state of knowledge.
STEPHANIE CWIK: Thanks Jim. As I mentioned before the goal of this webinar is not to present all of the answers to all the questions regarding urban agriculture projects at brownfield sites. Depending on who you ask, we have quite a ways to go before we know everything. Today we're presenting a brief snapshot of the information that we do know so that folks can continue the work that they have begun in the safest way possible. By now you've all noticed the outline of presentations we've got lined up for today. We'll waste no more time with introductions. Let's get started with our first presentation: An introduction to policy issues regarding urban agriculture projects on brownfield sites. I'm getting ready to throw it to Marcia.
MARCIA CATON CAMPBELL: Hello everyone. I'm Marcia Caton Campbell. I'm the Milwaukee director of the Center for Resilient Cities. I trust I'm showing my screen to everyone at this point. Maybe Stephanie and Jim can confirm this.
STEPHANIE CWIK: We see your browser.
MARCIA CATON CAMPBELL: Do you see my show now? My slideshow?
STEPHANIE CWIK: Yup, that's good.
MARCIA CATON CAMPBELL: My role in this process is to give a basic introduction to policy issues related to urban agriculture and brownfields from an urban perspective and a local government perspective. I want to give a little background on my organization very quickly first and then jump right into the research that I've been engaged in as part of a project for the American Planning Association. At the Center for Resilient Cities is urban planners, landscape architects, community food activists, public health and built environment contributors, I would say. We have offices in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin and we provide oversight and tools to urban communities related to improving the environments in which they live and work.
The material that I'll be talking about today is based on research done by Kimberley Hodgson of the American Planning Association, Martin Bailkey, who is of the Metro Ag Alliance and a growing power, and myself. We've been engaged in about a 10-month research process on urban agriculture and understanding all of the local government and planning issues related to its implementation. Brownfields had been a part of that research. We studied a number of cities: Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City (KC, Kansas and KC, Missouri), Milwaukee, Wisconsin, of course, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Seattle, King County, Washington, Toronto, Ontario and Vancouver, British Columbia. We used a standard research template to ask all sorts of questions about the way that these municipal governments, planners and the urban agriculture practitioner community view urban agriculture policy and how things are unfolding in their cities, both on the practice side and on the planning and local government side.
One of the things that we developed for the publication is this rural to urban agriculture and food system continuum that you see on your screen. It takes us from the natural and rural areas on the left to the urban core on the right. It shows the different types of uses and component pieces of the food system. So everything from large farms, small farms to urban farms, private gardens to market gardens, community gardens, institutional gardens, demonstration and healing gardens, rooftop gardens, guerrilla gardening, and then an array of food processing retail and disposal which have more to do would the food system continuum. In essence, everything from peri-urban farms, private gardens, market gardens on to the right is urban agriculture. Hybrid urban agriculture is blends of all of these things.
Our research identified key factors affecting urban agriculture from our respondents perspectives. They are areas where government has little influence such as climate, weather, light, -- sunshine in other words -- and insects and pests. But there are areas where local government can have considerable influence and that ranges from everything from growing space, healthy uncontaminated soil and water, all the way down to processing, transportation, distribution channels, and consumer demand. And these are all aspects of urban agriculture that cities need to consider and that we have examined in our research.
We have also identified some critical issue areas across the United States that came up repeatedly in the case study research that we did. Some of them have to do with land, some with natural resources, some with the operations of urban agriculture generally, and then there are just some broader other concerns. With respect to land, the key issues have to do with the availability of growing space and whether or not that growing space is secure. Meaning, is urban agriculture viewed as a temporary land use that can be replaced by a higher and better economic use down the line or is it viewed by local government as a permanent land use that's an important contributor to the mix of land uses that make up cities. By and large, urban agriculture is viewed as a temporary land use and that's an issue that is under discussion in every single one of the cities that we examined. There's a very strong desire in the practitioner community for urban agriculture uses to be permanent so that people can count on both the space being available and the improvements that they make to the space being available over the long term.
Size of parcel or parcels, their location and sighting relative to streets, to surrounding buildings, siting for sunlight and so on are critical issues. Existing land use policies can either be favorably disposed toward urban agriculture or they can create barriers. Many of these barriers actually, crop up in the area of brownfields. Natural resources, as you might expect, are a critical issue area. Soil and water quality or the availability of a healthy growing medium of some kind are really important. Composting issues are also important. Availability and access to water is probably one of the most important issues, for community gardeners especially, but for urban agriculture generally. That's an area where policy is not well developed and there are many different approaches both to retaining water on site but also how to provide access to water from hydrants and so on.
Urban agriculture operations issues have to do with scale volume and access to markets, human financial and technical resources to support operations, and then issues related to processing and added value. All of these things matter to both community gardening but also, urban agriculture in a more entrepreneurial sense. Finally, there are always issues of security and vandalism that municipalities worry about and gardeners and urban ag practitioners are concerned about.
With respect to brownfields specifically, the general issues that have arisen revolve around testing, reuse, and remediation for reuse. Specific cities handle things in different ways and you'll hear from subsequent presenters about how their cities are dealing with these issues. What we found is that there is generally a dilemma about testing in cities across the board. Some cities are opting to stay away from brownfields for urban agriculture use altogether because the testing issue and the human health risks, liability, and clean up costs are such great concern that they don't want to consider brownfield reuse at this point. Very few cities have full-fledged reutilization programs. Some cities have evolving and developing policy with respect to brownfield reuse but in general the concern and the barriers have to do with local government's lack of confidence in remediation measures and their desire to have more detailed evidence based guidance regarding reuse from EPA. They also would like translation of this evidence base into standards, recommendations, and requirements at the state and local government level that they can count on, point to, and apply consistently. One of the comments that we received from the cities we've studied generally, was that there are no risk based redevelopment standards for urban agriculture on brownfields. Local government planners and officials are actually quite concerned about how to have confidence in using brownfields for urban agriculture.
Those are the broad issues that have come up in our research and some of the other presenters from Chicago, Kansas City, and Portland will get into their examples.
STEPHANIE CWIK: Great. Thanks so much Marcia. One of the questions that we got was could you please elaborate on peri-urban urban ag is.
MARCIA CATON CAMPBELL: Sure. Peri-urban urban ag is agriculture that occurs at the margins of cities, on the periphery. So areas that are not fully rural and that have high development potential to them. The same land that is valuable for agriculture, flat well drained land, is also the same land that is best for development. So these are areas around cities and metro regions that are potentially at risk for redevelopment, land values are often quite high. They are also areas that I think we want to think very carefully about the use of as we go forward into the future. Losing these areas to agriculture can, I think, make cities much less resilient, much less sustainable over the long term.
STEPHANIE CWIK: Great. Thanks so much, Marcia.
MARCIA CATON CAMPBELL: Thank you.
STEPHANIE CWIK: Next we have Amy Yersavich and Vanessa Steigerwald Dick at Ohio EPA.
JIM VAN DER KLOOT: This is an important part of the issue here. There are state voluntary cleanup programs all over the country. They're the ones who decide on cleanup standards for brownfield sites. There's a real public policy opportunity here in the question of what standards are appropriate for the clean up of community gardens and urban ag sites. This is public policy that's really in its infancy. Ohio EPA has been good to dig into what is known about this and they've been working on some cutting edge policy. So here they are.
AMY YERSAVICH: Vanessa, do you have it up?
VANESSA STEIGERWALD-DICK: Yes, should it be, do you see it, is it up now?
AMY YERSAVICH: Not yet.
VANESSA STEIGERWALD-DICK: It should be coming. I had to go back one.
AMY YERSAVICH: Great thanks. As Jim mentioned, Vanessa and I are both involved with our Brownfields and also voluntary cleanup program here in the state of Ohio. I manage the Brownfield Site Assistance program at Ohio EPA and Vanessa is a toxicologist risk assessor and sight coordinator. She wears many hats in our northeast or Cleveland district office. We have both been working over the last couple of months, particularly Vanessa is working very hard with Karla Aucker who presented at the first webinar that we had a week and a half ago concerning some properties, a lot of our vacant properties in Cleveland. We are struggling and working through some issues as to how to come up with some cleanup goals or standards or some level of certainty as to what's safe for these types of properties. As Marcia mentioned, that is an important issue for city planners and other communities that are working on urban gardens.
So, Vanessa, if you’d advance.
What I wanted to start out with is just kind of voluntary cleanup programs and kind of a general discussion about these. All 50 states pretty much have some type up Brownfield Cleanup Program or a voluntary program that's generally focused on cleaning up the brownfields in their area. They're going to have obviously unique features because every state has a unique industrial commercial history, economic climate, citizen concerns, and obviously the laws that govern it and they restrict certain things from being done. In general there are commonalities and what they are, are clean up standards or at least some kind of cleanup goal each state has that address the question that we've all had before brownfield programs came along: how clean is clean?
In general, these VCPs rely on their state standards. They take into account intended future use of the property which is what brownfields is all about. We want to redevelop these. We want to put them back in active use in the communities where they exist, either creating jobs or in this case, gardens or green space. In most states you also have a liability release. Confirmation that the cleanup's been performed to that important goal, maybe not necessarily with urban gardens where you're dealing with a lot of smaller properties in many cases. But certainly the goal of redeveloping brownfields into commercial industrial properties or even residential urban properties, in many cases, the idea is to bring in jobs and tax revenue and so on and so forth. That liability release is a very important aspect to developers, to bankers, to lenders, to everybody that wants to redevelop the brownfield. So you can move on.
A few more commonalities and I've kind of gotten to this already, focuses on the brownfield that will be redeveloped into industrial, commercial, or residential properties. If states have variable cleanup standards, it's usually based on the differences between an industrial or an industrial/commercial property and a residential property. Now green space does come up. I can tell you for certain that since our program started in the mid 90s that we've been dealing with green space as an end use for brownfield properties. But usually what we've been dealing with are neighborhood parks, bike trails, other types of recreational areas that have different types of exposures that Vanessa will get into, with respect to who's on the site and what they're doing.
The question is, where do urban gardens fit into this? Traditional state voluntary clean up programs have not developed cleanup standards that take into account the levels of soil contaminants that are safe for eating fruits and vegetables grown on an urban brownfield. If you were listening to the first webinar in the series, folks like Dr. Nick Basta at OSU and I know Sabine Martin at Kansas State University. They're doing a lot of cutting edge research on uptake and things like that. We aren't dealing with it so much, we're relying on them to what's going to come up as far as these uptake models. Where we're trying to focus with a particular project that Karla Aucker and Vanessa and I are working on are the human activity patterns. Gardening's been around for a long time as we all know but these gardens that focus on shared gardens in urban areas where you have a lot of people working on them, maybe having a market, all those kinds of things, it's relatively recent. Most states are less familiar with those human activity patterns and the exposure potential.
Now what has been done kind of recently and I think several folks talked about it at the last webinar, sampling soils and comparing them to the direct contact soil standards for residential properties. These take into account incidental ingestion, dermal contact, and inhalation of particulates and volatiles from VOCs. Now under a residential scenario, that's generally our most conservative, for obvious reasons scenario, that we consider. So we're looking at adults and children. They could be on the property up to 24 hours a day. Hopefully people take a few vacations so we're looking at 350 instead of 365 days a year and after thirty years. So this is a lot of exposure. So the upside is, if folks have been comparing these to residential standards in the past, urban gardens, it's a good, very protective, very conservative way of determining the site is safe.
The downside is that we have all these vacant properties these days, particularly with the downturn in the economy and the mortgage foreclosure crises and things like that. And some of these may be very good and they would be ruled out because they can't meet the residential standard. The question is, how do we include those or how do we consider those? Vanessa will take it from here.
VANESSA STEIGERWALD-DICK: Right and I think that's what Marcia brought up too. That's where we've been working here now in Ohio recently with this urban ag scenario. What type of assumptions can we look at to meet applicable standards? Because people want to know, is it protective for this land use? And really being involved in this project now, it's true, there really aren't any yet available, good risk-based redevelopment standards for the urban ag on brownfields. We have been looking at that for a couple projects here in the Cleveland area. Just to give people an overview, to put us all on the same page, most states Ohio and other states generally use a common human health risk assessment process that we look at. A lot of us go to U.S. EPA for a whole variety of regional guidance on this, regional screening levels and based on those different assumptions and information from U.S. EPA -- we may make some modifications at a state level -- but generally the common human health direct contact scenarios are, like Amy went over, the residential land use:children and adults that live there every day. Usually that includes schools and other high frequency type of land uses as well. So 350 days per year, 30 years, so it's kind of a reasonable upper bound exposure scenario.
For commercial/industrial land use we recognize that really, children aren't there every day. Children do drive a lot of the clean up because they do have a higher intake rate, a lot more hand-to-mouth in and a smaller body weight. So when you look at more commercial industrial land uses its more adult workers. It does recognize children there with the adult visitor, so they visit. But they come and go, they're not really there at length. So 250 days per year, 25 years and a variety of different inputs also that go into that: how much soil ingestion? It's generally smaller daily amounts, 50 milligrams per day versus 200 milligrams per day. Again, just small average daily amounts.
Excavation and construction workers is something we've also looked at because it does recognize. Although it's a shorter exposure, there can be certainly, a lot more direct contact, ingestion of soils, over that short period. Like Amy also led into, for recreational land use, green spaces at Ohio EPA and our programs we've certainly been looking at that at a property specific basis. We don't have cleanup value, generic numbers for that but we certainly been evaluating it on property specific basis. Some of the main different recreational risk assessment examples that we look at and have considered for different projects, you know, we have the neighborhood parks playground. Although there have been some modifications -- number of days per year has been one of the exposure frequency terms that we've looked at -- a lot of times someone will get to some of these community gardens, they are in residential areas, children may be there frequently. So it's still similar to residential but somewhat less stringent cleanup numbers.
Nature preserves and wildlife areas have been another area. We have had a number of these sites where people may go there but it's certainly on a less frequent basis. They're not exposed to any particular area more often than another. As the top picture shows, this is a dike 14 nature preserve that we did an evaluation for under our voluntary action program. people come there and are very interested in seeing the birds and the wildlife that are now taking over dike 14, that a former confined disposal facility compared to some of these urban gardens that are really popping up all over the place. We see them quite a bit now in the Cleveland area and the different communities. You can see where it can be someone's or close to someone's backyard as well as people going there on a frequent basis. This may be more during the growing season, maybe May through September but then during the colder months probably much more reduced exposure, number of days per year.
So what type of assumptions could potentially be modified and looked at for urban ag. A couple of scenarios that we've been talking about, you have two. You may have community gardens where people really are out there a lot, both the children in the community. These pictures here, this is all the Green Corps that is doing a lot of work with the Cleveland Botanical Museum here. So people are out there, they're frequently there. Versus market gardens that might be more adults, that would be there more frequently.
Some of the exposure factors that we've been looking at is the days per year, probably the easiest to justify. It's probably not 350 days per year. Especially here in Ohio more May through September when you're getting the ground ready, planning, harvesting, and getting it ready for the next year. Then there may be certainly some, less frequent, during other months of the year. Certainly the main time is going to be that May through September
Number of years, like we brought up too, where we look at residential 30 years, commercial/industrial 25 years, or something close to that. For urban gardens, is it less? How much less is it? This is another area that we're looking into. I think Marcia brought it up. Right now a lot of these are more temporary land use, although, a lot of people would like to see them be more permanent so they have that long term confidence of what they invest in that urban ag garden, that it's going to stay there. Is it really 30 years or can that be reduced? That's certainly sensitive parameter when you're running through all these equations and actually get the numbers for what a cleanup standard might be then.
Point of compliance, depth of soil, that's another really important factor. Often for residential we go maybe, 0 to 10 feet, recognizing people might put in basements, decks, the whole variety of things they might do at their residence. For an urban garden, that certainly is going to be less than 10 feet, 1 foot, 2 foot, what's the depth for a soil point of compliance? Then we've heard some previous speakers last week Nick Basta and others that are doing research on bioavailability, specifically with lead, some of the metals. How might that impact what the clean up level can be?
So what we're finding so far in trying to look at this is if you are taking into account more of a scenario where you're a community garden, children and adults are there. If you do reduce say from 350 days per year to 90 days or 100 days per year, most state programs, U.S. EPA, we have general cumulative risk goals. For instance, 1 in 100,000 is the cancer risk goal. Not more than one additional excess lifetime cancer risk in 100,000 also referred to as ten minus five cancer risk goal for non carcinogens with a hazard index of 1. So there's some things that different programs pretty much have not to exceed. So you can see where if you go from, as an example, 90 days instead of 350, you still have limitations on how much impact that will have on how much bigger the standard might get.
Arsenic, that's been brought up at the previous webinar and comes up frequently here in Ohio because our arsenic background levels do tend to be higher, in particular, for the residential risk-based standards that are derived for 1 in a 100,000. Risk-based number may be somewhere between 5 and 10. Our background numbers here in northeast Ohio are predominately somewhere around 20. So that's an important point to consider. If you're at or below background then that's generally not part of the risk equation. At least for the site that we've been looking at here in the Cleveland area, if we look into some of the background databases that we have, the good thing is for arsenic that does no longer become such a chemical of concern for more than 50% of the sites that we have some data that we've been looking at.
Similarly for lead, lead is evaluated a little bit different on the property specific end with a lead specific bio-kinetic uptake model looking at the blood lead levels from U.S. EPA. 400 for most programs -- U.S. EPA and other states -- 400 milligrams per kilogram is the residential standard. Then I know Nick Bastar at OSU and some others are looking at how treatment could reduce the bioavailability of lead. So that's to consider. The only thing that's cropped up -- I think there's just not much data on that but it's presenting somewhat a challenge for us -- is that carcinogenic PAHs like benzo(a)pyrene and friends that do you have a relatively low risk-based standard, both for commercial/industrial, residential. When you modify some of the exposure factors it's certainly still an issue because of some of these old sites just being a product of the urban environment and all the different activities might occur in some of these sites, fires and incomplete combustion. It's just a whole variety of factors that add to carcinogenic PAHs being present.
I think what a lot of people are starting to come to you where it's really going to be a combination of risk assessment and risk management considerations. I think that the Chicago model that's presented right after our presentation will fit nicely. Chicago's taking a very proactive approach, recognizing that a lot of these properties they're older, have had a lot of past uses, industrial impacts. Just from the get-go they recognize that they need to bring in clean soil and that the soil is going to be somewhat dirty so, somewhat bypassing risk assessment because of the cost associated with that. I think that you'll here in a minute about that where, for 10 or 15 years now they've been implementing the Chicago model. I think it does recognize that in some cases, if you really look at applying risk assessment practices, you may be able to show that 50% percent or more -- which is good -- of these properties will meet the risk goal and they're clean and they're fine. But there may be 25%, 50% that are still going to have some impact that exceed the risk-based goal. So looking at different risk assessment, risk management options that could help ensure you're reducing exposure so all these positive features of urban ag that outweigh some of this low level contamination that's left in place. I think we're ready for a couple of questions.
STEPHANIE CWIK: Great, well we just got a really good one. What considerations did you give to the consumption of food items grown in urban or brownfield areas? And what amounts of the contaminants that get into those food items.
VANESSA STEIGERWALD-DICK: That's something we've also just started looking into. We've talked with some other folks about that issue too. For the metals in particular, some of the leafy greens, the spinach. But we haven't done much actual risk assessment yet on taking say, some of the metals, food uptake. For some of the investments that we've just done a little bit on, it does seem that when one of the primary predominant risk drivers overall, from the variety of crops that are grown, is the direct contact with soil pathways. I think it's recognized that you have the food ingestion but for a lot of the food crops, there just isn't that much that goes into the plants or especially the fruits. It's the leafy greens that when you do have high levels of some of the metals it could be an issue. But so far, what we've looked at, a big driver is going to be the direct contact with the soil.
AMY YERSAVICH: Yeah, and I think, just to add to what Vanessa said, and I know they talked about it in the first webinar, is exactly that. Because you are seeing primarily metals and heavy metals: lead, arsenic, those sorts of things, even copper in some cases. They just don't, for the typical fruits and vegetables in these types of gardens, you're not seeing much uptake at all. PAHs we don't know so much about. I'm not sure if you've heard anything Vanessa.
VANESSA STEIGERWALD-DICK: Not much uptake at all.
AMY YERSAVICH: That also isn't a big concern. It is definitely direct contact from the people actually in the dirt: planting, harvesting, all that sort of thing.
STEPHANIE CWIK: Thank you. Next we have Kathy Dickhut and Brad Roback from the city of Chicago to talk about long-term use in the Chicago model. Are you there?
KATHY DICKHUT: Yes we are there.
BRAD ROBACK: We are here.
STEPHANIE CWIK: Take it away.
KATHY DICKHUT: Alright, this is Kathy Dickhut and Brad Roback. We titled ours, Implementing Urban Agriculture in Chicago. This first slide just shows a proposal that we got and I just like it because they've taken the city of Chicago and they've put their rare orchard ideas on there. That is one of the proposals that we're looking at. I'm going to go over what we've seen, the activity in urban ag or community gardens. We'll get to a definition of that halfway through for the last 20 years in Chicago.
One of our older sites was started by the Illinois cooperative extension and it's at the Cook County jail. They have been gardening there -- we're having a little bit of trouble moving the screen here -- they've been gardening there, like I said, since 1989. We don't really know much about their soil, they've been gardening, farming actually, and produce 4,000 to 6,000 pounds of produce every year and they train people there. This has been a model and I know it's got a lot of attention in some places. It's not really replicable to other parts of the city obviously. But there is a lot of farming going on there in that land.
Since 1994 our Department of Environment Green Corps has an existing community gardeners, and that term is very broad and it mostly means beautification but in some cases people having growing food. People have been growing food for 20 years. It's just that what we're seeing now is a lot more interesting, growing food as opposed to just beautification. So one of the things that we know about our department there is when people have been growing food, their urban brownfields staff have recommend that you replace the soil. We have a policy of not growing anything in the direct soil that you find in the city, whether it's a brownfield or whether it was just a residential property. For growing food we have a general policy of putting in about 18 inches of new soil. We've been doing that for a number of years.
In 1996, we created a land trust. The three municipalities in Chicago created a land trust for the purpose of owning small community gardens. What we were seeing is that people that were doing community gardens, they'd spend a lot of time, they'd do this investment, it was on city land. And then some others use would come along and they would lose their site. So this is a private nonprofit, half government sponsored, half private sector sponsored, and its main job is to acquire property and to hold it. It provides liability insurance and then the agency, such as the city, has been providing capital funds to make sure that they can have direct access to water on these sites.
So since 1996 this nonprofit has required 75 individual sites across the city. Eighty percent of that land has come from the city and they own about 13.5 acres right now. This is an example of a NeighborSpace site where they're growing food. NeighborSpace, before it will take a property -- because they're going to be landowners -- will do a phase 1 and a phase 2 if necessary. If the phase 2 shows a problem, they will either work to get it remediated or they will not own it. That primarily comes from the stance of being the property owner, not wanting to inherit any liability. We've got that, that has been operating since 1996
We started seeing larger things, which are what we would call urban ag, in about the early 2000's. And Ken Dunn at the resource center is one of our expert farmers. This site here is near Cabrini Green in Chicago. It's actually a development site. He entered into a lease with the city in 2003 here, knowing that it would be temporary. So everybody knew that this was not going to be long term. But what Ken did for this site -- and this is before we were looking at protocols or thinking a lot more intensely about urban ag -- was he developed his model which we're adopting. The model that he had developed was for a barrier. He goes onto a site, this site was previously a commercial site. I don't know that any environmental investigation was done but given that he was going onto the site, he covered the whole site with 4 inches of clay and basically made edges. He basically built a 4 inch clay bathtub on the site and that did two things. It created a barrier between everything, so no contact with the soil whether you're walking between beds or not. It created a barrier between what was underneath. It also creates an environment where clay will hold water. He found it to be really good for holding moisture on the site as well. He's been doing that.
So as we've looked at things now, more recently, we've really looked at how this has been a good model. He's still there right now but that site will probably be moved although we are working with Ken on some other locations in the city. But this just shows you the caché that that garden site has got. This is a picture taken of the chefs from the Peninsula hotels and they're on his site there. You can see the Hancock building in the background. And you don't fresh-coat it. Because they know what soil that produce is being grown in.
We've also had the park district, about 5 years ago or so, start working on what we would call ornamental horticultural sites. These are meant more to show people produce growing, not necessarily to farm it or to sell it to restaurantsbut just to show urban dwellers what produce looks like.
Moving on. More lately, we're seeing the Gary Comer Youth Center, this is a part of the city, Greater Grand Crossing, that has a green roof. This is a place where a private foundation came into a neighborhood, had a lot vacant land, had a lot of issues, needed new housing. They started with the youth center and on top of there they built a green roof and then they started growing food and that was going really well. So what they've done now is they want to take the growing of the food off and expand it. So what you see on this map is the building, the little white rectangle there. Then those two sites in orange are sites they were looking at to grow food. And what we have indicated there is the zoning and this is for manufacturing and this is used for business. And we would say that when we look at the zoning map, when a person's looking at a site and we see that it's not residential, we think there may be more environmental issues. On residential, chances are you're pretty good but anything nonresidential, it's going to have a history that we feel we need to investigate.
Right now the Comer Center is working with an organization locally, Delta, to remediate the site. I think they're going to get an NFR letter, a no further remediation letter, for their site so that they can go to community gardening. Then I think they want to move behind that to actually more produce for sale or for use in their restaurant or cafeteria at the youth center. Interest from restaurateur is Rick Balisof The Frontier Grill, actually has what we would call an urban ag commercial site. This is his backyard however, which is beautiful. He actually had the zoning changed to commercial, not because he's growing food for commerce but because he had so many visitors to the site that it was not a residential site any longer.
This is a site of a honey co-op. Now this is something we are aware of, we've seen but that the city has not had any involvement with yet. It's interesting, you can see there it looks like its all asphalt and indeed it is. On this map you'll see these little specks and those are all, if you can see on the right, honey hives. So we have some of this activity which is something that we are looking at because we don't really address that in our zoning code at present. But you can see that this is an urban use. They're creating a value added product out of their honey. I believe this organization work with ex-offenders and it's a really good activity on vacant lands in the city.
Well you’ve seen what's going on in the city. What we've been struggling with now is actually community gardens and urban agriculture aren't even in our zoning code, which has not really been a problem for community gardens. They can happen on residential areas. They don't usually go into the city to get a permit to build anything. So that's not really been a problem. But as we see these urban ag sites come in and they want to put up hoop houses or offices or other kinds of accessory uses for their production, they now start having to get permits. Then if you don't have the right zoning, you start running into problems. So this past year, Brad has lead an interdepartmental effort working with advocates for urban ag to discuss how we're going to address this with the code. I'll have Brad talk about that for a few minutes.
BRAD ROBACK: Thanks Kathy. For the past year we've been working with different departments here in the city of Chicago to try and align the different parts of municipal code that would deal with urban agriculture and related uses that come up with these types of uses. We really are striving to clearly define urban agriculture uses in our code and then also have some sort of regulation for them to protect the healthy and safety and make sure that these types of uses are safely implemented.
Our process has been to meet with other departments, other community groups, other organizations, that are typically involved in this stuff. We look at urban agriculture sites as 2 distinct classes: community versus commercial.
The community uses are primarily used for open space or somehow to beautify or provide education or recreation to community residents, community organizations whether it's through growing plants or growing plants like food for personal use or for community distribution. The key is that community organizations are not engaged in the process of selling or processing food for sale on these sites. In fact, in our definition we're limiting that type of use for those community areas. We've allowed them in particular districts in the city that have compatible uses: our parks and open space districts, residential, business, commercial, and even in our downtown core districts. Basically, these types of community uses would have compatibility with the other types of things that are going on there: primary residences, churches, schools, et cetera. Those are all uses that would be allowed in these districts as the current code stands.
We also generated some use standards, limitations on the maximum site area and also limitations on accessory structures that can be put on these lots. The limitation on size is to help keep the scale controllable so that you don't have a particular use dominating a block. Also, through our discussions and our research we found that, the larger the site, the more intense maintenance activities have to happen on the site. So we're trying to limit the sizes of sites of those types of use. The other category would be commercial gardens and greenhouse. This basically, is a catchall for all the other uses that would be proposed as far as urban agriculture. It's growing plants and processing things on site with the intent to sell those plants, whether they're food or other types of plants for wholesale or retail sales. You can do the processing and the sales on site. You can basically do everything on site, growing in either beds, raised beds, hoop houses, greenhouses, and this would also cover the concept of vertical farming, growing plants indoors using hydroponic systems. We have also tried to put those and make those allowable in certain districts that would have compatible uses. Obviously the business and commercial districts which have commercial uses in them already as well as letting them grow food and manufacturing, and a few of the planned manufacturing districts within the city. The map on the right shows all the land area that would be allowed based on the zoning districts so that you could have this as an allowed use in it. When you total all that up it's about 12% to 13% percent of the entire city.
In addition to determining where these belong, we also have created some use standards for these. Some of them were already in the zoning code, covering retail sales as well as screening and landscaping. We revised the parking requirements for these types of sites because we kind of missed the mark on that particular requirement. Basically, the long and short of it is, we're trying to treat these commercial uses as we would treat any other commercial use within the city. They would be subject to the screening and landscape ordinance just like any other business would be if they wanted to open up in the City of Chicago.
When you're talking about urban agriculture you definitely have to talk about composting, the two go hand in hand. The municipal code actually has a section that deals with composting, it's in our health and safety code. We've been talking with department of environment and the department of public health here in Chicago to kind of work on these particular things. The city just passed a suite of ordinances to match the state requirements on this type of thing. But all of the sites, whether commercial or community, would have to comply with this section of the code. Basically it allows you to compost or have compost on your site up to 25 cubic yards and it has to be maintained in sort of a noncommercial way. You can't accept organic waste from other areas and you have to use the waste on the site. If you're composting materials that you're generating on site, you have to use them on the site. You can't sell or distribute the compost in any way. And again this applies to community gardens and commercial gardens. If you exceed these thresholds, there's actually other sections of the code that deal with this. There's permits that have to be obtained. Then there's also state requirements that you have to follow for this.
Now I want to talk a little bit about the urban agriculture protocol that we're also developing. These protocols apply to city owned property. Really we're talking about urban agriculture projects that involve at least sale or conveyance of the land or a temporary use of city-owned property as it is. Really what we're saying is to know the environmental conditions of those properties. In addition to doing phase 1 historical paper and cursory visual survey of the property, you also have to go in and dig a little deeper and do the phase 2 so that you know exactly what contaminants are in the soil. Because even though the historical use may not indicate any sort of contamination or any perceived contamination there, we've had a problem with fly dumping here in Chicago. I'm sure other urban areas have. That actually has led to some contamination of different sites. Basically we're asking and recommending and requiring people to know the condition of the property and then based on the level of contamination of the site, you have a couple of options, whether to remediate using the various programs, SRP programs that are out there. Or to install an urban agriculture growing barrier which I'm going to talk a little bit about here.
We're making a couple of recommendations on this. Kathy had mentioned earlier the model that Ken Dunn is using at City Farm. We're just saying the best growing practice is really to avoid direct contact with the soil. Unfortunately, urban soil has the potential to be contaminated and in most cases it is. So, if you're not going to do the remediation and the contamination is such that you can do one of these barriers, these are the ones we would recommend.
The first one all the way to the left is sort of a diagrammatic representation of installing a clay barrier. Really you'd be putting a geotextile fabric over the existing soil, adding about 6 inches of clay to basically provide the separation between the existing soil and the growing media, and then putting your compost and soil on top of that and then planting your plants. With that comes some education and some responsibility. You have to carry out practices that you're not going to perforate that membrane and make sure that the contamination stays separate.
We also have a couple of other options using concrete, if there's an existing concrete layer there, whether it’s a previous floor or something. You could use that as long as it's sufficient enough to contain that contamination that's there. And then also putting in some other type of geomembrane, whether it's a rubber mat or something else that would provide enough barrier and make sure that it's going to be permanent enough to keep that separation intact.
In addition to the environmental contamination, we're also making recommendations on general site design and general site procurement. We're going to be talking about how to move through the city process, how to actually lay out your site so that it conforms with all of the city codes that would govern. And then talk about things like water access, storm water management, and other things that the municipal code would require. Here you've got, on the right hand side, we've had our consultant generate some prototypes that could be used. This is general, prototypical, urban, agriculture commercial sites. On this we're making recommendations about where to put you loading and parking areas, where you can sell and where you have your processing areas, things along those lines. How to adequately screen those areas using the screening requirements and the landscape ordinance requirements that are out there and just trying to provide examples of how to best do that. We're hoping to have a draft of that done within the next few weeks and kind of develop that further and get that moving. I'm going turn it back over to Kathy to talk a little about how we're doing food planning in the city.
KATHY DICKHUT: Well all those things that Brad just talked about and then what we've been seeing are sort of examples of what's possible and the city trying to create the tools and the processes in order to have more of that. I think some people will see what we can put over the zoning and then the protocol is maybe sort of onerous for a nonprofit that wants to do urban ag. But the fact is that we have not seen any nonprofits that actually want to buy this land from the city and then pay the taxes. So given that, the city assisting, we are assisting on getting some of these sites to that stage for nonprofits. That's why we are looking at NeighborSpace, the nonprofit land trust that I mentioned earlier, which has recently adopted a policy to own urban ag sites if the entity that is going to run the urban ag site has a social mission or community mission related in the neighborhood that it is in. In that way we're sort of developing farmland preservation in the city or a different kind of park in the city where, it may have commercial activity, but it still provides a public benefit to the community by providing this open space. The community may be getting fresh produce or have access to a plot there or some other thing which would have to be worked out. Because we have not seen a lot of for-profit urban ag developers. We've seen people come in with the ideas but pretty much, the land costs seem to be -- or we have not seen anyone who has proved this otherwise -- kind of cost prohibitive, to buy it for market value, do the remediation and then go ahead.
But on that, we actually find it a very good option in Chicago, especially in parts of the city where we have a lot of vacant land, and we do have some neighborhoods like that. We've been moving in the direction of using urban ag as part of a bigger, or not bigger, but part of a number of food-related topics to bring into a plan we're calling Green, Healthy Neighborhoods. This map on your left is basically about two large community areas in Chicago. What we started to do is try to map food activity, where they're primarily either selling or growing food in these communities. This map that you see here is that same community area. The purple are all schools, the green are all parks and the blue is all city-owned vacant land, which, is probably a third of the vacant land in that community.
So you can see that we have some community areas where we have a lot of land. These community areas have been losing population steadily for 40 to 60 years so it's not all of the sudden going to be filled back up. There's plenty of residential areas, there's plenty of commercial areas, and there's plenty of areas where we could do urban ag or where we could assist in sponsoring uban ag. What we're trying to do is look at the areas that make the most sense. So not scatter it all over but really, where would it work best? Where would it work best for the long term? Where do the land uses make sense? So that’s what we're doing here.
We're also building off of and working with a community that did a quality of life plan. This is the Englewood Quality of Life Plan that they did 5 years ago. They identified, you can see where that circle is, an urban ag district. It happens that their concept is near an abandoned railroad embankment. People have kind of envisioned a 20 acre urban ag district. It's probably not going to be 20 continuous acres. If there was a site like that it would probably have a lot of competition from things like a big-box or manufacturing or a grocery store. But you could get your 20 acres in a number of different sites.
One nonprofit that has been doing this in this area is Growing Home. They have been working with ex-offenders and the hard to employ. They have a program where they create job opportunity through organic agriculture or horticulture, and then they sell their produce to make money for their endeavor. They also have to do a lot of fundraising but there is commercial sale involved. This is the Englewood line, this is an elevated abandoned railroad line, which the uses on either side were manufacturing but as we go forward that kind of manufacturing is no longer there, it may make sense to do a number of urban ag sites in this area.
This was Growing Homes concept, hoop houses on the site. You can see that looks like a commercial operation. Indeed, they have developed it and it is in the ground for hoop houses. They have an office and they are growing food there. So this is their site. This map shows you vacant land. The Growing Home site is in green, the brown is all vacant land, some of which the city owns. They have a site right there. They were looking to expand their site, where that orange area is. So we have that city-owned land, we have done the environmental, we know it has a few little issues that we will address. Growing Home has applied to NeighborSpace, the land trust. NeighborSpace, the land trust, has accepted taking that property. So we are in the process of getting the environmental done. We will put the cap on, whether it's a clay or a barrier and then we will move to transfer it.
Growing Home looked at another site next to an elementary school. We did the environmental there. That site has a number of problems that we're not ready to proceed with at this time. The fact of the matter is we have a lot of options to put urban ag sites on areas that are like, this is about a half a block, somewhere about a half an acre or a little less than half an acre. We want to look at sites and get an idea. This site might not work right away but we may have other options. We do have other options.
As most of you may know, there are a lot of trends that are impacting urban agriculture right now that make a lot of sense We have the overweight, the obesity epidemic. Sometimes those epidemics are higher in some of the communities that have most of the vacant land. We're seeing a preference for local and organic. Again, we have a lack of fresh produce in some of these communities and they're the same communities that have a lot of vacant land. The job training opportunities, we find to be a really good mix and again, in the same neighborhoods where they have a lot of ex-offenders returning, have a lot of vacant land and we have a lot of vacant land.
We're trying to facilitate this in a way that makes sense for a lot of reasons and isn't just something that people do until something better comes along. We really do have to know about the land and we do have to spend money and people make investments. If you're going put that investment in it, it's hard to make it temporary. And we would be done.
STEPHANIE CWIK: Thanks so much Kathy. We have a few questions for you guys. First of all, have you found any stormwater issues using your clay barrier?
KATHY DICKHUT: Well, Brad's going to answer that.
BRAD ROBACK: Well actually, we've been talking with some of the folks here that do stormwater review and they were saying that the clay barrier can actually help a site if it's required to meet the stormwater management ordinance to actually meet those requirements that are in there. It acts as a big bucket or tub. It can hold the water on site so that it can be available for use for the plants. Actually, we're hoping that it will help people make may those requirements a little easier.
STEPHANIE CWIK: Great. Another theme we saw in a lot of these questions was, what kind of testing are you all doing on the clay or soil or compost that you're bringing into these sites.
KATHY DICKHUT: Our department of environment handles that. The reason is we don't want to make it worse. Our department of environment is doing testing on both of those mediums before they come on to the site. I don't know exactly, technically what it is. We could get somebody that but they are doing the testing with that in mind.
STEPHANIE CWIK: Excellent. Thank you. Next up, we have Andrew Bracker of Kansas City, Missouri Brownfields Program on the Kansas City model. Andrew, are you there?
ANDREW BRACKER: I am here.
STEPHANIE CWIK: Excellent. Take it away.
ANDREW BRACKER: Thank you. In Kansas City, we have seen a lot of interest, like many cities in urban gardens, but we've also had a long-time Brownfields Program since 1997 and we're really centered in the neighborhoods, although we began in more of our industrial areas. There's been a long history of urban gardening in Kansas City like in many other cities. But we have not had a developed policy or approach for creating gardens on brownfield sites. We have been responding to requests for assistance as they come up but there's been no city policy to require testing before creating a garden.
In response to the tremendous interest in urban gardening the city developed a zoning code in June of this year and that could be made available to interested participants. Generally when we do any type of brownfield cleanup, whether for a community garden or any use, we enroll our sites into the Missouri risk-based corrective action process and work towards getting a letter of no further action or certificate of completion. In residential areas and neighborhoods, especially in disadvantaged neighborhoods, we try as much as possible to close sites without any type of land use restrictions wherever possible.
The Kansas City Brownfield Initiative has been seeing request for urban gardening assistance since 2008. We’ve partnered with the Kansas State University since 1998 to provide technical outreach services for brownfield communities. We have recently, in response to federal stimulus legislation, created a green impact zone which is an area of the central core of the city where there's a great deal of vacant land and foreclosures and many disadvantaged demographic characteristics are very high, and trying to target and it knit together many different types of federal and state assistance to create greater impacts for neighborhoods. Definitely urban gardening is one of the things that residents and stakeholders have said they would like to see.
We see a lot of community gardens in our metropolitan area. Over 150 have been identified. We have two major non-profits, Kansas City Community Gardens and the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture were very active in assisting all of these gardens and are participants in our Brownfields Initiative. When K State was a speaker on your prior webinar and presented their program, they've had a lot of requests and have responded to those requests for site testing and assistance in the Kansas City metropolitan area, as well as other places in the region. That has grown out of the connections that we have made with the Brownfields Initiative.
Unlike other cities, we have very little city owned property. Most of the tax defaulted property goes to a land trust and I'll get to an innovative approach that we have with one neighborhood where a large concentration of those types of lots exist. Let me give you some examples of the types of urban gardens that we have. We don't have many of the typical brownfields contamination discovered urban garden plans. We work toward closure for that use. These are, in some cases, temporary uses, in some cases, designed uses, that come together with other brownfield activities that we're doing.
One of these is the DeLaSalle Education Center. It is a private education organization for troubled youth in our public school system. We're helping them with a campus expansion project that is taking in a former car wash, a transformer site for a local public utility, a warehouse, and two former gas stations. They obviously needed help from the Brownfields Program as those properties were brought in, tested, and remediation is done as needed. In that process we helped them in the first phase in acquisition of a former car wash, we tested the site. It was also a former filling station. We investigated the site for tanks and tested soil and confirmed its safety for residential use. In the interim, while they're acquiring additional parcels and we're assisting with that, the students have come together to create the art farm on the former car wash site and in the lower right hand corner you can see what the car wash used to look like.
In the Washington Wheatley Neighborhood a community garden was created by the neighborhood and Kansas State University helped with creating a test plot on that site, testing produce and measuring uptake levels of various metals in the surface soils. Kansas State presented that in last webinar and more detail can be found by going to that webinar link. It was very helpful as a test case in showing, in the Kansas City area, what typical levels are for vacant lots and relative uptake and giving stakeholders and residents a yard stick to see what are the types of risks and what should be done if levels are not acceptable?
In the Switzer Neighborhood Farm, this is in the Westside community, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Kansas City. It's a predominantly Hispanic, Latino neighborhood. There used to be a former commercial building called the EDCORE building where, among other uses, there were medical first aid kits that were assembled. There may have been chemicals and thermometers that contained mercury and things like that that were involved in that site. The building was abated and removed in 2005. The city wasn't involved in that activity but subsequent to that, the community came together to try and develop that site as an umbrella development for many community organizations: health and the family housing and job training and things of that nature. But in the interim, while that was being put together, this garden sprang up and assisted by the fact that across the way was a mixed income affordable housing development, a community center, and the public library branch is right across the street. Residents have really been drawn in and have supported this site. Raised bed gardening is being done and Kansas State University is assisting with doing some follow up testing to confirm safety for row crops and other types of development. Interestingly this site is also right on the site of a massive former high school complex that has been vacant for the better part of about 25 years and is a symbol of blight in that community. Innovative ideas are being explored right now to capture runoff water from that school complex which has a large square footage of impermeable surfaces, and filter, clean that water, either naturally or through other processes, and use it for this community garden. We're looking at continuing these efforts and helping the community continue this garden. As you can see also, chickens have been a really big hit with families and kids and those are from a free range farm it the Kansas City area.
Then our largest project to date that we're planning right now is in the former municipal farm. This is city-owned property and it's a very large area of city-owned property. It's over 300 acres. It is split by an interstate highway into roughly two equal parts and 15 acres of it are flat and well-suited for an urban community garden. It was an actual farm in the 1940s. Inmates in the former city jails worked the farm and made produce for the jails and other institutions. Other uses among the 300 acres were a tuberculosis hospital, animal control, there was a hazmat cleanup site, not on this property but about a quarter mile away that was completed to state oversight standards and documented.
But what the city would like to do is explore for the surrounding neighborhood, called Eastwood Hills, is a sustainable reuse master plan. Part of that is to set up a community garden, which is planned for next year that would be 1 acre in size. Kansas State University has already helped us with testing surface soils for metals and those were cleared. We plan to do an additional phase 1 and phase 2 testing just to confirm and answer any questions about the soils onsite because it's city owned property and because of the other uses in the area. We would like to develop it for row crops and raised beds and have ADA accessibility for senior residents, many of whom are in the Eastwood Hills neighborhood.
And the sustainable reuse master plan, we would get into designing the site for rain garden nursery plants and orchard plants, accepting compost from municipal facilities, from leaf and brush drop-off or having a leaf and brush drop-off site in the 300 acres. Having green infrastructure for managing stormwater and erosion control in the site. Having trails for bicyclists, pedestrians, and equestrians. In fact, someday maybe even thinking of a model farm, having livestock penned on the site. The American Royal is even interested in having some livestock, temporarily, in this complex. There's been a lot of interest, a lot of community support for this for the neighborhood and also for community gardens throughout Kansas City where their small scale cannot permit hoop houses and green houses or the lack of resources. And so a centralized community garden, urban garden center could provide shared space for hoop houses and larger greenhouses and things of that nature. Or people could come and get plants, native species specifically designed for rain gardens and other types of landscaping.
As part of that sustainable reuse master plan the city has applied for a brownfield areawide assessment grant that would fund that sustainable reuse master plan and it would develop an approach to investigate, assess, and manage each of the former uses of that larger 300 acres so that we know what the impacts are and how to properly address them to achieve the reuses that the master plan comes up with.
What we're finding in Kansas City is a predominantly like many other cities, lead, arsenic and polyaromatic hydrocarbons(PAHs), petroleum, asbestos from prior demolition activities. These are the typical types of risks associated with vacant lots. There are others. There's sometimes termiticides, termite applications will sometimes leave residues of chlordane and DDT, DDE, from older applications sometimes do come up. K State has helped us in advising us on what types of things to test for when the need arises. Mostly these are confined to surface soils. Lead, we find, is often picked up in proximity to highly traveled traffic ways from tail pipe emmisions, also from painted surfaces and from past demolition activities. We've also been able to assess background levels for the Kansas City area for surface metals, for PAHs with the help of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and relying on U.S. Geological Service studies. As K State has presented, and we've been in contact with them, they're doing uptake test plot measurements and showing uptake, how it varies and different types of plants and with different types of applications, with composting and not composting. For the most part, I think their results bear out what other presenters have described. By and large, the primary exposure risk is from people working with the soil, ingesting or inhaling particles rather than from consuming produce.
An interesting way in which we've collected some of this data is we had the opportunity to assist one specific neighborhood -- I don't have a slide on this, I apologize -- but it's in the Ivanhoe Neighborhood, which incidentally is in our green impact zone. They're one of the hardest hit neighborhoods for vacant lots and foreclosures. They negotiated with our county land trust to take from them 162 vacant parcels. When the Brownfields Program and I heard of this, we asked if we could help them do phase 1 site assessment and some limited phase 2 assessment where it was indicated by the phase 1s to give Ivanhoe Neighborhood eligibility for Brownfield Assistance when needed and some liability protection and they agreed. With EPA Targeted Brownfield Assessment Assistance, we completed that assessment from December of 09 through March of 2010. The data that we gained from assessing all of those vacant -- mostly residential properties and a few commercial ones, -- is really instrumental, really helpful building for us, a picture of what area wide impacts are like on these sites, not only for urban gardening but for all types of development uses.
I'd say to the extent we've had success in Kansas City, I think it is has really come from long term community involvement and long term relationships and sustained outreach with our Brownfields Program. Stakeholders know that there is something called brownfields. They know that they can come to our community meetings or reach out to the city program when questions arise about growing things in their neighborhood or any other types of concerns with brownfield or blighted sites. We find that it's really the community energy, the interest in urban growing in community gardens and urban agriculture that is driving the success of uses in every case and we're responding to that energy.
In our Brownfields Program we invite stakeholders to share their needs for testing on garden sites. We're getting our non profits involved with community gardening to come to brownfield meetings and to work with interested communities in setting up gardens and with our city municipal farm project, they're definitely involved with that as well. We're suggesting for community development corporations and private developers that when they're involved with designing reuses for a brownfield site to think about sustainable design and green spaces and specifically gardens in brownfield projects. On the right hand side is the Horace Mann School which, a neighborhood organization took title to. It wants to create affordable senior housing but there's a lot of old playground and parking and other space associated with the school and in talking about what to do with that space the suggestion came up that a small garden would be ideal for seniors to get out, get some exercise and also interact with local school children. So, the neighborhood association who owns that school is interested in exploring that and we will do specific phase 1 and phase 2 site testing that's underway right now to find out the suitability of the site for those uses.
We've also, as I discussed, accumulated data through area wide approaches, doing phase 1 due diligence on portfolios of property and getting a snapshot of the kinds of site conditions we typically find. Doing phase 2 testing where indicated by that phase 1 areawide approach on vacant lots. And using background information from the Corps of Engineers and Geological Service studies to give us a picture of how bad are these impacts, even if they do seem widespread, are they, relative to the region, how do they compare and what types of strategies would we look at to get them ready for gardening or do we need to have barriers or clay or composting put in? Then of course partnering with universities and third party experts, not only to provide expert advice on the risks and ways to analyze sites for urban agriculture but also taking advantage of specific services, like Kansas State University has provided, to be a neutral third party to help explain to community representatives, interested stakeholders, what an exposure risk is. What inhalation and ingestion means in working in a garden versus consuming the produce and what the lab results tell us. Sometimes it's much better to have a third party come to our brownfield meetings and explain the results of these very thick reports to the board of the neighborhood association rather than to have to the city do it when the city was the one who conducted these studies or requested them.
We've recently, made some progress in resolving land use questions through an update to our zoning code, specifically, for urban agriculture that was adopted June 10 2010. I won't go into a lot detail but that can be made available to those who would like to see it. It generally permits the continued practice of urban gardening and places limits on the level of commercial activity in residential areas; some of the common sense things that were described by the Chicago program.
Going forward, I think the city wants to enhance outreach with community stakeholders on the types of brownfield assistance that are available for urban agriculture. To make sure that people, if they have any concerns, if there is any site history that would raise an issue about growing things especially in the native soil, to reach out to the Brownfields Program and to K State for assistance, to develop a methodology for garden assessment with K State's help and as always, when we do any type of detailed assessment or clean up, to work with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources on applying Missouri risk-based corrective action, specifically for urban gardens. I have to confess, we haven't gone too far down that path with the State of Missouri and we'll be interested in seeing how they adapt risk-based corrective action for specifically, the exposure risks for urban gardening. That's my presentation, I'll be happy to answer any questions.
STEPHANIE CWIK: Great. Thanks Andrew. We did get one question about the irrigation water. Does the irrigation water for farms need to meet the residential use concentration? Have you looked into that water question?
ANDREW BRACKER: If this came up in regards to the Switzer Farm, what we had planned to do is -- and incidentally right now, like many cities, we're dealing with a combined sewer overflow challenge: to reduce overflows from our public treatment works, to reduce the amount of stormwater that goes to them, and to try and manage water where it falls throughout the city. So right now the school's down spouts feed directly into the combined sewer system, it's not a good situation. But if they're disconnected and water is routed to this garden site, the approach would be to filter it through either natural settling ponds and filters or to use mechanical ones. Do ensure that the quality of water would be potable before it's used in the garden. I can't speak to a general policy but that would seem to be the correct approach, unless you had a closed system that couldn't be used for human consumption. But I would defer to other experts to answer that question.
STEPHANIE CWIK: Great. Thanks so much Andrew. So far, two really great municipal models and we have one more for everybody. We've got Jenn Bildersee from the Portland, Oregon Brownfields Program up next. Jenn, are you there?
JENN BILDERSEE: I am. I haven't gotten control over yet, for the screen though. There we go.
STEPHANIE CWIK: Great.
JENN BILDERSEE: You can see that Stephanie?
STEPHANIE CWIK: Yup, looks great.
JENN BILDERSEE: I'm Jenn Bildersee. I coordinate the Portland Brownfield Program out here in Oregon and now that it's October we don't look near so sunny as this anymore for another 8 months or so but you can picture it this way. Our program works mostly on privately owned sites. We do, do some work on city-owned sites but most of the sties we deal on are privately owned properties. Like Kansas City, we're getting an increasing number of calls from folks with urban agriculture questions. So, most of the sites that we work on are commercial sites and they're going to become businesses and light industry. So this is an increasing percentage of the calls that we get.
A typical kind of call kind we might get is a church. The church purchased the adjacent property in 1985, it's vacant and they thought they would hold on to it in case the church was ever going to expand. Now they're realizing expansion might be a long way off and they're thinking perhaps they'll do some gardening for the congregation in the meantime and is there anything they should be concerned about. Or we'll get a call from a teacher at a school and they've built a lot of momentum around starting a school garden on a little corner of the property but two weeks before ground-breaking somebody did a quick lead test any they got a lead level of 400 parts per million and what does that mean. So we've been trying to work to develop resources for those types of question since we're getting more and more of them.
I want to share some of the barriers that we've found that have come up for a very specific type of site which are some of the smaller sites that we're really getting a lot of inquiries from. These are some of the folks that are doing gardening all around Portland. Urban ag, as Marcia's early-on slide showed, it certainly includes a huge number, a diversity of different types of uses. I think most of what I'm going to be talking about today is more of the community gardening scale and also on her array of uses it would include a lot of --- I think what were called -- guerilla gardens and some demonstration gardens. Because what we're finding is in neighborhoods that don't have a lot of vacancy and particularly with Portland's kind of do it yourself spirit, we're seeing a lot of gardens kind of shoehorned into smaller spaces, corners of lots, not necessarily larger sites. The resources that are available for larger sites aren't necessarily applicable to these smaller sites. Now, actually to be fair, some of the folks represented on this slide do work on large and long term gardens. The calls that we're getting that are proving more challenging in terms of barriers and tools are the smaller sites.
Since I'm the last presenter in a 2 hour call in a 2 session series of calls, I really wanted to distill the need that I found down to just one point. The point that was really coming up for me again and again was that growers on the types of sites that I'm thinking of really need accessible policy and guidelines in order to flourish. In the absence of guidelines and policy that is accessible a lot of these sites, a lot of these projects just really get derailed. It's not uncommon to hear stories about folks that really got a lot of energy and momentum up behind a project and then an issue came up like a lead test and because of uncertainty and this concern about is it really worth the risk, the project just kind of got called off. It's such an unfortunate loss of opportunity and that's why this seem like the point I wanted to highlight the most for these smaller sites. I say this because this is where I do most of my work and you can see it's not a garden. It's my little brownfields world and the things that are comfortable on a lot of the types of sites that I normally work on with the Brownfields Program just don't translate really well too small community garden sites.
For example, things that really stick out, the timelines, the budgets and the uncertainty that can fit into a real estate deal, a commercial real estate deal on a brownfield site don't necessarily fit into a small garden site. When we start talking about adding 6 months for testing or coming to conclusions that maybe still involve a degree of risk, these are things that often will derail some of the smaller calls that we get. By accessible, there's this kind of 3 things have that have come up on Portland projects and that go into accessibility. For accessibility I mean things are adaptable and reassuring and easy to communicate.
So for adaptable, a lot of the sites we're looking at again, are really small sites. The standard steps that you would go through for a normal brownfield assessment don't necessarily make a lot of sense or fit into the timelines or budgets of these smaller sites. So, I would just be an advocate for decision trees of how you move forward on a brownfield site including and having in mind these much smaller sites.
Reassuring is probably the most difficult problem we've run into on our sites. This is a case where I think that having a little bit of information is often much more problematic than having no information at all. For example, you're starting out on a small gardening site and you do a quick Google search to come up with, should I be concerned about lead in the soil? Or should there be certain things I plant and certain things I don't plant? And you can come across a chart like this. What does this tell you? You can plant corn but you shouldn't plant lettuce. Is a moderate level of lead intake something you should actually be comfortable with? From my point of view it's really interesting and I'm glad that this work is going on and I think it will inform really good guidance but as a communication tool with smaller gardening sites, it's not necessarily providing the type of guidance that is the most useful.
Likewise, and again this is something that is probably very familiar to anybody on this call, if you do a quick Google search to try and find out, what is a lead level we should aim for in this small garden? This took about 15 minutes just to come up with 8 different recommended levels. You have everything from 400 parts per million to zero parts per million too, we don't even actually know what a safe level is. One of the sties we were working on was a garden next to a school and it was right around the same time that the story broke about lead levels in the white house garden and those were less than 100 parts per million and yet it got called out as contaminated with lead and a bunch a measures were taken to address that. Suddenly we were sitting around the table and one of the teachers said well, if we're at 200 and less than a hundred is not even good enough for the White House garden, this isn't good enough for us either. This isn't good enough for our parents and students. It's a very valid concern. So any level that you actually come up with, in addition to the science behind it, I think you need a really straight forward explanation for, well, why is 200 parts per million or whatever parts million good enough for us if in the Netherlands it's 40 parts per million? Where's that difference coming from?
This is a list of steps that I found on a website, again just doing just a real simple search for some common terms somebody starting a garden might be looking for. At first I really liked the idea behind the accessibility of some of these sites. And then you find that it pretty quickly slides into such a level of concern that in the end it really isn't very reassuring. In the end what you end up with is a list of recommendations that makes it sound like you really shouldn't let your children roam around on this garden site. You shouldn't let them touch the soil and you need to make sure the pH is a 6.5. You better have a fence and a hedge. The number of recommendations just becomes very quickly overwhelming.
The last thing in accessibility is that the guidelines be easy to communicate. This is a really neat project we were working on for a school garden. We ended up doing a phase 2 environmental site assessment. Our environmental contractors were able to work with the DEQ toxicologist here and they all put in a tremendous amount of effort to pull apart where the standards come from so that we would be able to decide, is this level any sort of risk for plant ingestion? What sort of risk and then how would we bring that to the parents and students who are involved in gardening on the site? What the report came up with is paragraph at the bottom: "preliminary results from the model suggest that children who rely on fruits and vegetables in native [soil at the site for more than approximately 5% percent of their annual consumption..." This was a really fascinating process and learning experience. But again the end product for the gardeners was not something that was easy to understand or necessarily something that was very reassuring for parents to say, oh they would have to eat more than 5% percent of their vegetables from this site in order to have any risk.
So one of the neat things that happened when I was looking around the web for examples of the guidance that's available was that I was looking at the content of some sites without looking at the sources from sites. I started reading one site after putting in some common terms into Google and I thought wow, this is really the most clear description I've seen so far of the steps that you would take and it turns out it's the EPA's new site. That was really exciting and I'm looking forward to having this as a reference and a tool. The one thing that really came up for me as an addition to the process that's outlined here is that it starts out with step 1, which is survey the property and identify potential risks and contaminants for testing. There's a real clear explanation of how looking into the properties history for red flags, signs of concern, when you would want to move forward with more investigation, it was really clearly stated.
Then step 1B says, need help, apply for brownfields assessment or cleanup grants. This is something that we have done. This is exactly the step that we've taken on several small garden sites. Having done this in Portland, I'm not sure that in all cases -- at least, I think it would be good to open up the discussion -- to whether in all cases, this is the best match for smaller sites. This is a picture of Humboldt School garden which is a garden we worked on about 2 years ago. It's a very small garden site next to a public school and yeah we ended up going through a phase 1 and a phase 2 for this site and found kind of low lead levels, right around the residential levels, maximum levels.
For this small site, given the timeline and the budget of the site and the resources, I'm not sure in retrospect that this was really the best way to go. It's surprising for me to say that because really, this site, at this point, I think everybody involved in it really considers it a success story. It's a great garden and it was a vacant lot next to a school and there's really nothing negative you can say about what came out. This is the before shot of the lot and now it's a great school garden, a learning garden that's used both by the students in the school and by an affordable housing complex right next door as well. They have inter-generational garden programs and all kinds of educational garden programs. But having gone through this process I'm not sure that our tools were the best match for the garden.
I'm a huge fan of EPA Brownfield Assessment Grants. They have made most of the work we at the Portland brownfield program have done possible, and have really transformed dozens of sites all over the city into revitalized uses. For this garden, I look back and think about how it added a couple of months to the process. Again, that doesn't sound like much and on many types of sites it's not much. But for the school year, adding those few months after all that momentum was built up to get to that ground breaking, was very disruptive and actually could have, with less excitement and resourcefulness from the community and the school, it could have easily stopped this project. Additionally, it cost thousands of dollars which we had the fortune of being able to cover that cost through our EPA Brownfield Assessment Grants and they were able to find our program so that we could assist them with this. But I think on many similar sites in places where this resource wasn't available, that concern about lead on the site, which came up because a teacher did a quick lead test and got one hit and that kind of halted the project and they dashed around looking for other resources and found our program. But on many comparable sites I think this would have kind of stopped things right there. Because this is the sort of situation where you have teachers or parents saying it's just not worth the risk.
In the end, after going through all of the assessment, and not because of that assessment, this is sort of the original garden plan, all of the growing that happens on the site is done in raised beds. There's a large kind of paved area which was always part of the plan because that's an outdoor classroom learning area.
Again, looking back, I feel like sometimes that testing make sense but on a smaller site like this, on some of the little more guerilla garden type sites, the little sites that are shoehorned in on properties, it seems to me that the best approach might be assuming the worst and designing accordingly. If you had started out on this site saying lead levels on this site might be really high and how would we design this garden if they are really high? If the cost of that design, assuming the worst, is less than the cost of going through this assessment, I think it's worth on some of these smaller sites, talking more about whether just designing from the beginning is a better approach.
Again, this is just a quick little sketch of what I mean but this left hand track, where you say you know what, if it's a small site and you really don't have any particular need to grow things in the soil, are there really straightforward guidelines and recommendations that we can come up with to disrupt those pathways that will allow the project to move forward without going through assessment steps. That's it.
STEPHANIE CWIK: Thanks so much Jenn. That was a really interesting presentation. You put in a lot of things that we hadn't considered before. Especially like the shoutout to the EPA website which, congratulations to our colleague Ann Carroll in D.C. who put that website together. That is also where these 2 webinars of the series will be located within the next couple of weeks. But now I'd like to pop some questions out to our panel as a whole. Let me make sure that we get all of them off mute there. The first question is building on Jenn's presentation, what are the gaps and policies that we haven't covered yet today? What research still needs to be done? I'll put that out any of our presenters. Anyone? We covered everything?
BRAD ROBACK: This is the city of Chicago. Based on what Portland was saying, you should assume that any urban site, especially in the city of Chicago, there will be issues. The first step should be to evaluate if the site is even appropriate to grow, just from a health and safety standpoint. There are ways to manage issues on site but the absolute first step is part of due diligence, and the course of business is seeing what's there before you start doing any planting.
ANDREW BRACKER: This is Andy Bracker. I wanted to also build on something Jenn had said. It is also easy to overlook the importance of doing a standard phase 1 site assessment. I think many times we read lots of them and we feel there's a lot of boilerplate contained in them but, I had an experience with a typical vacant lot that we did, as one of the 162 we did for neighborhood organization. It's residentially zoned and we didn't expect find anything. The phase 1 turned up that a long time ago it used to be a grocery store. Testing was done just as a matter of course. Because it was a commercial site we found that it had very high levels of lead and arsenic that are believed to have been from rat poisons or other pest control applications done because it was a grocery store and they collected in the low spot of the site that were beyond nonresidential standards and so we're doing a cleanup for the neighborhood there. We may have missed that if we haven't done a thorough investigation of the site history or just said, well we kind of think it's residential. I have more respect now for the phase 1 site investigation for each parcel where we consider any type of reuse.
BRAD ROBACK: City of Chicago, one other thing to mention. In the past, if you just happen to go through a neighbor's garage-- legally, of course. We had an old couple that had passed away about a year ago and I went into the garage. They had a box of Ortho lead arsenic that was used for dusting their plants. So lead arsenic's an issue. My wife's grandmother who lives a block away, I walked into her garage, she had a half-full can of DDT that was used. I couldn't tell you how old it is. I think a lot folks will assume that because a property is residential and is always residential that there's not issues. Just like anything else, appropriate due diligence, and the phase 1 of course, is a big deal, but even without RECs on site, recognized environmental conditions, there still could be unknown issues associated with the site. There's always a level of caution you need, even on a residential property.
STEPHANIE CWIK: Great, thanks guys. I have a question for Marcia. If a state cleanup program determines that a brownfield site meets residential requirements, in your experience, would a local government then find that sufficient for urban ag or do their local requirements tend to be more stringent?
MARCIA CATON CAMPBELL: I actually think we ought to refer this kind of question to Amy and Vanessa because they are state level EPA folks. Although I'm an urban planner and I have some knowledge of these kinds of issues, I'm not around brownfields planner and so I'd rather send the question to someone who can answer it appropriately.
VANESSA STEIGERWALD-DICK: This is Vanessa from Ohio EPA and we have, as you mentioned before, looked at a variety of different scenarios over the years, a lot driven by some of the recreational. And now we have it diving into running different calculations based on potential different urban ag scenarios. Running some amount of contribution from plant uptake, depending on what you might eat, some of the food crops like the lettuces and spinaches that take in more. What overall we are finding is that, yes, if you're using what we call our unrestricted, residential land use category direct contact soil standards, that it does appear that, that will be protective of your general urban ag type exposure scenarios.
STEPHANIE CWIK: OK great and so, kind of a follow-up question. Somebody asked if municipalities should then be building up their capacity to assist the communities with testing and interpreting results or should this fall to the state agencies?
AMY YERSAVICH: This is Amy. If they can build up their capacity, I think that's a good thing, to do the testing. I mean, obviously Chicago has looked mostly at risk management and maybe other cities are looking at things a little bit differently. I know in Cleveland Vanessa and I saw both in ground planting as well as raised beds. So knowing what's there is good but I know resources are limited. For cities, certainly in Ohio, and I'm sure all over the country as a result of the recession and everything else, it's a great idea to be able to do that but I'm just wondering if it's more something that, as far as the actual sampling and things like that, is going to have to be kind of piecemealed together with maybe funds U.S. EPA has, funds the state has, things like that. Hopefully, since we do have a state wide brownfields and voluntary cleanup programs, we can kind of look at some as Vanessa was discussing in the second part of our presentation, some of those things that we can vary as far as exposure assumptions. I think that's a fine role for the state. The big question mark is how do we piece together enough funding to actually go out and sample all these gardens or gardens-to-be?
STEPHANIE CWIK: Great, thank you. Some questions now for the municipalities who've presented. A couple of zoning questions I'm just going to mash altogether. Has anyone considered livestock or how that fits into the municipal zoning? People have also asked about special zoning for hoop houses and greenhouses. So how have each of you all dealt those questions?
BRAD ROBACK: This is Brad from Chicago. We kind of broke our urban ag zoning topics into subcategories and we looked at composting and plant related uses first, thinking that we could bite those off and get them done. Now currently, we're undertaking looking at how our codes deal with animals. More specifically, we're looking at fish and geese. Aquaculture and things along those lines. We're just kind of getting into that realm of animal uses now.
KATHY DICKHUT: There is Kathy. The commercial greenhouses and the hoop houses are used as part of the plant growing. It's the use not the structure related to the use. Those are not a separate thing to look at.
BRAD ROBACK: They're more or less accessory to the principal use.
ANDREW BRACKER: This is in Kansas City. Kansas City is an extremely sparse area of over 318 square miles just in the city limits. So there's a wide variety of land uses over its history. Farming and urban agriculture has included animals, chickens and some livestock on occasion. It is permitted with, I think, special permits but it is considered in the new code that we've adopted.
BRAD ROBACK: This is Brad from Chicago again. I wanted to chime in one more time. There are also other codes that are involved with animal related uses here in the city, specifically public health code and other things that we have to address. It gets back to our process of including all these departments in the discussion and what has to happen in order to make things like that legal.
STEPHANIE CWIK: OK. I guess this is probably somewhere between a heads-up and a question. Someone brought up if anyone has used ATSDR assistance in your communities with testing or interpreting results for your urban ag projects. And has anyone used Brownfield Job Training funds to make the brownfield and urban ag connection.
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: No.
BRAD ROBACK: This is Chicago. I think with ATSDR, I'm not a 100% sure but depending on who you're talking to, and this goes for all agencies, some agencies may only be concerned with upper 6 inches of soil. And depending on your voluntary cleanup program it could be 3 feet versus 10 feet, depending on what your exposure is. Whatever agencies are available, it's probably a good idea to discuss potential issues with them.
ANDREW BRACKER: I'm sorry. In Kansas City, we have included job training in our procurements, our solicitations for brownfields assessment and cleanup services. We've had a really successful job training program here for 10 years. I haven't operated directly it's been OAI, out of Chicago in fact. But they've had a really successful program in Kansas City and we've used several of their graduates on other assessment projects and it's only a matter of time before we include them in urban garden assessment projects.
JIM VAN DER KLOOT: I would especially like to thank all of our speakers. This is where applause would take place in a live meeting. You'll just have to imagine it. I'd also like to thank Stephanie Cwik who was the primary organizer of this and did a wonderful job. Thank you everyone for tuning in. Can we say something about when?
STEPHANIE CWIK: Yes. The September 21 presentation about the state of science and this presentation will both be uploaded soon on the Brownfields/urbanag website. We're anticipating sometime in two weeks or so to get those up. Stay tuned on that. In the meantime if anybody has any questions, feel free to email us via the flyer that you saw to get here.
JIM VAN DER KLOOT: Thank you all very much and take care.