Lifted ordinance makes starting community gardens easier
By Ashley Mackin | SDUN Reporter
On May 31, District Three Councilmember Todd Gloria and members of the Altadena neighborhood of North Park gathered for a tree planting ceremony and the opening of the Altadena Community Pocket Garden.
Altadena resident Sharon Tittle spearheaded the project to get the garden opened, located at 3245 33rd St. Now the garden’s president, she said the idea came to her as she walked past the unkempt space, overrun with weeds and garbage, before the project started.
“I thought, ‘this is our community. We don’t want to have this kind of thing in our community. What can I do,’” Tittle said.
She then met with Gloria and members of his staff, who told her several of the regulations surrounding a community garden had been lifted as a part of a council-approved initiative. Regulations include no longer requiring individual water meters as well as a lockable fence. Depending on which permits were needed, it had cost up to $50,000 to start a garden.
“Previously, communities that aspired to have community gardens were really hampered due to city regulations,” Gloria said. “Those chains have been removed; the regulation is gone and now people are encouraged to [establish gardens].”
After learning about the initiative, Tittle said she reached out to neighbors, who responded positively. Within one day of sending out an email to members of the Altadena Neighborhood Association Board, she received 20 responses in support of a community garden.
Planning for the garden started in April of last year, on Earth Day. After meeting with the interested members of the community, Tittle and other volunteers started weeding and clearing the area on Sept. 11, 2011, in recognition of the national Day of Service.
“We had our first work day [on Sept. 11, where we] had 17 or 20 people hacking away at all the bamboo and weeding,” Tittle said. “It took about a month to get the whole thing cleared.”
After the space was cleared, planting boxes were constructed for residents to claim and plant whatever they choose. It will be up to the residents to maintain the boxes, and Tittle said all have been claimed.
Additionally, five fruit trees were planted in the garden, all donated by San Diego Gas & Electric. Volunteers maintaining the trees and planting boxes have agreed to donate extra produce to local food banks.
The squash vines that currently grow in the garden are what Tittle calls “volunteer vines.” They grow on their own and re-grow each year, and Tittle said seeing these vines made her want to turn the space into a garden even more.
“When I would walk by and all the junk and all the bamboo and weeds [that] were here, what I saw was this vine growing,” she said. “I thought, ‘its really trying to be a garden on its own.’ We just need to help it along.”
Tittle said those wanting to start a garden similar to the Altadena Community Pocket Garden in their neighborhoods can search for more information on their Facebook page, and Gloria supports residents researching community gardens and taking advantage of the new laws.
“I would encourage any neighborhood to take advantage of that legislation,” Gloria said. “The responsibility is for neighborhoods to identify suitable locations and try to organize a garden, and that in and of itself can be difficult, but no longer is the City [an] impediment.”
Gloria also likened community gardens like the Altadena Pocket Garden to an overall increase in positive social health, including nutrition and environmental impact. “As we look at trying to reduce childhood obesity, improve overall nutrition and just try to work a little more locally [to] be mindful of our impact on the world …” he said, “community gardens are a great way to do that.”