Breanna Hawkins

Breanna Hawkins
Policy Director
Los Angeles Food Policy Council
Los Angeles, California


Some Los Angeles neighborhoods have become food deserts because residents don’t have access to healthy, inexpensive food. Without full-service groceries, families are relying on convenience stores, and are unable to find affordable fruits and vegetables. Despite a growing interest in urban farming, there is limited access to affordable land.


In the fall of 2017, Los Angeles began offering vacant lots to residents to create community gardens. To do so, LA city and county implemented California’s newly enacted Urban Agricultural Incentive Zone Initiative, adopting changes to zoning and tax codes in June.

Landowners receive a tax break in exchange for contracting for five years with urban farmers and the city. The parcels, between one to three acres, are taxed at the agricultural rather than commercial or residential rates, saving as much as $3,000 annually for owners. Produce grown on the plots can be used by families or sold locally.

Lessons Learned

Must work collaboratively with state, county and city officials to implement the program due to the complex tax and zoning rule changes required at every level. Model contract language should be created to protect the rights of all parties to the ground leases.

Breanna’s Job

As policy director for this nonprofit, Breanna oversees implementation of the Incentive Zone Initiative, helping shepherd it through city and county government and guiding the assignment of land to farmers.

The Council was created by the mayor of LA in 2011 and remains connected to the office of the mayor. It is funded by a number of well-known foundations as well as the US Department of Agriculture and the LA County Department of Public Health. It is part of a movement over the last 30 years to develop a food policy system that is not mere fiat by government but the collaboration of numerous stakeholders including farmers, gardeners, chefs, processors, wholesalers, food worker advocates, grocers, food security and anti-hunger advocates, consumers, and other private citizens and organizations, as well as multi-level government agencies.

Breanna’s Background

Born and raised in Gardena (in the South Bay region of LA County), Breanna got degrees in planning from the University of Southern California (BS, ’10; MPL, ‘11). Afterward, she worked with L.A. nonprofits focused on community food systems and urban planning.

Startling Fact

She is Xerox-certified to fix commercial copiers and printers, but doesn’t usually tell anyone.

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