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From The LA Times/Op Ed


Peas in our time
South-central bulldozing suggests we need more
planning for community gardens.
By Robert Gottlieb, ROBERT GOTTLIEB is professor of
urban and environmental policy and director of the
Urban and Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental
College.
June 25, 2006 

THE RECENT bulldozing of the South Central Urban Farm
after 350 gardeners were evicted from the site was a
severe setback for those who want Los Angeles to be a
greener, more livable and more food-secure city. The
problem is that many other community gardens are
similarly vulnerable.

There are about 60 of these gardens around Los
Angeles, most of them small, even tiny plots. That's
not because they are unpopular. The list of gardeners
waiting for a plot is long at virtually all these
sites. At any time, however, gardeners can be evicted
and the land bulldozed.
 
Community gardens offer many benefits. They are a
source of fresh and healthy food for surrounding
residents. They promote physical exercise. They can be
a community gathering place and an outlet for
entrepreneurial activity. And, of course, community
gardens beautify a neighborhood by adding color and
varieties of plant life to an urban landscape. 

So, why are there so few of them, and why are they so
vulnerable? For one, L.A. does not have a citywide
community garden policy. Its Fresh Food Access
program, though small, has helped start a few gardens,
and there is a Neighborhood Land Trust to buy land for
greening purposes. Both programs need to be expanded,
but even if this happened, they would add just a few
more community gardens in the short term because they
depend on land purchases.

There are several ways to create more community
gardens and make them permanent. For starters, the
City Council could change zoning regulations to
establish more open space.

Commercial and real estate developers could be
required to set aside land for community gardens.
Indeed, plots could be linked to building affordable
housing. The city could partner with the Los Angeles
Unified School District to establish more school
gardens that could also serve as community gardens.
Finally, more vacant city-owned land could be
converted into permanent garden sites.

But most of all, the city needs to tie these and other
pieces together in a policy that will institutionalize
community gardens as a public good like parks and
affordable housing.


*********

David King, Garden Master
  The Learning Garden   
  www.thelearninggarden.org  
  office  310.722.3656 

 A garden, where one may enter in and forget the whole world, 
 cannot be made in a week, nor a month, nor a year; it must
 be planned for, waited for and loved into being.

 Chinese Proverb


______________________________________________________
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