Community gardens gain public support

Posted by Christine, June 13, 2011

A proposal to develop Grover Beach, California’s community garden into low-income housing was defeated last week.

The City Council voted 3-2 to sell the 6,620-square-foot parcel, but the proposal failed because the council needed a four-fifths vote for it to pass after some local residents lodged protests to the proposal. Councilwomen Karen Bright and Phyllis Molnar dissented.

Opponents of selling the garden parcel started a website, created signs and even hired an attorney to counter the plan. There are 18 spots at the garden; of those, 10 people lease 17 spots for $5 a month.

They argued that the property isn’t designated for housing and the proposed purchase price was too high and unsupported. Some also worried about the loss of open space, not to mention the hours they’d put in pulling weeds, planting and nurturing the garden.

The Tribune, nearby San Luis Obispo’s daily newspaper, editorialized on the subject on Sunday.

For years, we’ve been urging local governments to do everything in their power to increase the supply of affordable homes.

Last week, though, we found ourselves rooting for the urban gardeners who pleaded with the city of Grover Beach to allow them to keep their small plots of land. The city had been planning to develop affordable housing on the site, but the proposal failed to muster enough votes on the council.

The gardeners got a reprieve — along with their carrots, tomatoes and zucchini.

We believe that was the right choice.

Certainly, it’s important to provide decent, low-cost shelter in every community. However, this site would likely have accommodated two units at most. It makes more sense for the city to look for a site that will allow more density.

Also, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that “food insecurity” — the bureaucratic term for worrying about where your next meal is going to come from — is a mounting concern that also must be addressed.

While we recognize that not every community gardener is motivated by economic need, a growing number of local residents who are struggling in today’s economy could benefit from having access to a plot of ground, as well as the fellowship and expertise that other gardeners can provide.

Local food: an idea whose time has come.