Vacant Land 215 Toolkit
Philadelphia has tens of thousands of vacant parcels. For decades, many communities have tried to put these spaces back into productive use by growing gardens or farms or establishing open, community spaces. But too often gardeners, farmers and community members face challenges trying to gain legal access to new spaces or secure the legal protections they need to maintain their spaces. So, we created a comprehensive self guide for gardeners looking to maintain or create community spaces on vacant land. Through this guide, our community trainings, and www.GroundedInPhilly.org, we are helping community members self advocate to secure access to vacant land.
What is Environmental Justice?
You can find more information about Environmental Justice (EJ) and the history of the EJ movement on:
- The Internet Encyclopedia on Philosophy provides a comprehensive overview of EJ, the history and principles of the EJ Movement, major events in the Movement, and additional references.
- The Natural Resources Defense Council’s website includes a detailed timeline of the EJ movement.
- UrbanAgLaw is an online forum for sharing and understanding legal information, best practices, and tools for supporting urban agriculture
Make Your Neighborhood Healthier & More Sustainable: Resources for Communities
- The Natural Resources Defense Council has published a self-help manual for communities who want to defend their communities from being burdened with addition industrial pollution.
- Department of Environmental Protection Complaint Hotline. To register a complaint, call the toll-free Citizen Complaint Line, 1-866-255-5158.
If your community needs legal representation or guidance due to proposed or existing harm from industrial pollution, you may contact the Law Center.
Urban Agriculture Resources Toolkit
Community Gardening/Urban Agriculture
- The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) has a number of resources available for community gardeners on how to grow various fruits and vegetables, gardening in small spaces, and how to organize your community.
- The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority is the office of city government that oversees vacant land policy.
- Mill Creek Farm is an educational urban farm located in West Philadelphia that is dedicated to improving local access to fresh produce, building a healthy community and environment, and promoting a just and sustainable food system. Their website provides a number of resources.
- Housing Alliance of Philadelphia published a Summary of Pennsylvania Land Bank Legislation: what is a land bank? how is it created? what are the powers of a land bank?
For legal support or guidance regarding a community garden or urban farm in your community, please contact Amy Laura Cahn at the Law Center.
Advocates, Associations & Government Agencies
- Citizens Planning Institute educates citizens about the role good planning and implementation play in helping to create communities of lasting value.
- Clean Air Council works to reduce pollution and advocate for full implementation of the Clean Air Act, along with related state and local laws, to improve air quality.
- Clean Water Action is a one million member organization of diverse people and groups joined together to protect our environment, health, economic well-being and community quality of life.
- Food Organizing Collaborative (FORC) organizes food growers, food workers, and food eaters in the Philadelphia region to reclaim control of our food system and build food sovereignty.
- Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection works to protect Pennsylvania’s air, land and water from pollution and to provide for the health and safety of its citizens through a cleaner environment.
- The Sierra Club, founded in 1892, is the largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States, working to protect communities, wild places and the planet itself.
- United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 3 is the government agency dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. The Region 3 office, located in Philadelphia, oversees EPA’s programs in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.
Statutes, Regulations, & Case Law
- The “Right to Know” Ordinance, drafted and negotiated by the Law Center’s founding Environmental Justice attorney, Jerry Balter, guarantees the right of employees and community residents to be informed about toxic substances in the workplace and in the community.
- The Equal Protect Clause of the 14th Amendment provided one of the most powerful tools for minority communities being harmed by discriminatory policies in the early days of the Environmental Justice Movement. The Equal Protection Clause requires states to provide equal protection under the law to all people within its jurisdiction.
- Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 601, which states that “no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” provides another civil rights tool for ending the practice of burdening low-income and minority communities with the negative effects of environmental impacts.