At the moment, land use is the hottest topic in Santa Monica. Residents and city officials are currently engaged in revising and updating the 1984 land use and circulation elements in the General Plan, as well as debating the City/Macerich Corporation proposal to redevelop Santa Monica Place, which occupies ten acres in the heart of the city. Tomorrow night, April 21, at the Recreation and Parks Commission meeting, another land use question will be on the table, as Commissioners review proposed changes in the operation of the City’s Community Gardens. The gardens are as small as Santa Monica Place is large, and as bucolic as the mall is urban, but the basic issue is virtually the same: who has the last word on the fate of the land. The City currently operates 70 Community Garden plots on approximately five acres of land. 60 plots are located at 2200 Main Street and ten are on Park Place off Broadway. Plots are available on a first-come-first served basis to Santa Monica residents. There are currently 112 people on the waiting lists for plots. The average wait for a plot is five to seven years. The City proposed changes in the rules and regulations to the gardeners and people on the waiting list in a survey in November of last year. On March 21, some 50 people met with City officials to discuss the proposed changes. Among the more controversial changes proposed was the possible location of the shotgun house at the garden. Threatened with demolition, the historic house was moved from its original Ocean Park site to Santa Monica Airport until a permanent site could be found. If it were located at the gardens, it would occupy two garden plots and would be used exclusively by the gardeners. Another City proposal that has drawn fire is a reconfiguration of the Main Street gardens that would reduce the size of individual plots, while increasing the number of gardens from 60 to 88. The gardeners have developed a number of counter-proposals, which they will present to the commissioners. One of them, Hugh Browning, an architect, is currently circulating a petition asking that the City dedicate some of the land at the Fisher Lumber site on Colorado and Fourteenth Street, which it recently purchased, to Community Gardens. He has also proposed that a more appropriate location for the shotgun house would be the California Heritage Museum on Main Street at Ocean Park Boulevard, but, he said, the museum was not enthusiastic.At tomorrow night’s meeting, City staff would like commissioners to “take public comment and formulate comments regarding proposed modifications to the Community Gardens operation including changes to rules and regulations, license term renewals and physical improvements prior to consideration by the City Council.”
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