Tomorrow night, Thursday, the advisory board for Santa Monica Community Gardens will meet to review the changes to garden rules that have been negotiated between the City and the gardeners.
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. The City currently charges gardeners $60 annually to defray City costs for the gardens.
Plots are available on a first-come-first served basis to Santa Monica residents. There are currently 112 people on the waiting lists for the plots, and 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, 2004, that led to a debate between the gardeners and the City that has yet to be resolved.
Arguably the most controversial proposal is the City’s desire to set limits on community gardeners’ leases. The City Attorney recommended term limits, according to the April 21 City staff report, “because the current system allows private individuals to make exclusive use of City property for an unlimited period of time, the City Attorney has advised the current practice is problematic. Generally speaking, the law requires that public benefits and services be either equally available to all or be allocated on a fair and reasonable basis.”
Also controversial is the regulation that would terminate gardeners’ leases for unkempt plots after inspection by City staff.
Another controversial change proposed was the suggested placement 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 be used exclusively by the gardeners for storage, a small meeting space and a restroom. However, according to the June 9 information item presented to the City Council, the “majority of the gardeners” don’t support “any proposal that would relocate the House either in the gardens or to the adjacent parking lot.”
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 60 to 88.
Also proposed, according to an e-mail from Community Gardener Hugh Browning, is a “a narrowly slated perimeter fence that no one can see through and a chain link fencing for all other fencing at the gardens. Boundary fences and exterior fences shall not be used for plant growth. Frames, trellises, arbors, and archways must be at least two feet from plot boundaries and must (with growth) not exceed exterior fence height. There should be no planting within two feet of any fence regulation.”
Finally, a cleaning deposit has been proposed.
According to City staffer Mary Hume most of the controversial changes have been resolved, but the term limits have not.
The Recreation and Parks Commission will review the revised regulations is September and then they will go on to the Council for their review.The meeting this Thursday, September 1 will be at 6:30 P.M. at the Ken Edwards Center.