SYLVIA'S SOAPBOX: SUPPORT COMMUNITY GARDENS

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Petition calls on City to help residents start community gardens

By Sylvia Hampton

 

August 3, 2010 (San Diego) -- I remember the Victory Gardens promoted by the government during WWII. Foods like sugar, butter, milk, cheese, eggs, coffee, meat and canned goods were rationed to assure enough supplies for the soldiers. Labor and transportation shortages made it hard to harvest and move fruits and vegetables to market. So the government asked citizens to plant "Victory Gardens."

 

They wanted individuals to provide their own fruits and vegetables. Our family did not have one because we lived in a second floor flat in Chicago, but some of the neighbors did and they shared with others. It was wonderful to have a neighbor show up at the door with a basket of tomatoes or squash. A donation to the grower plus a cup of coffee was what my mother offered. After the war all that was forgotten and we went the way of fast and packaged foods and corporate farms.

 

We see the results now: An epidemic of obesity, food shipped from hundreds of miles away and corporate farms trashing the environment. Everyone who views the film “Food, Inc.” is appalled at what we have done to our food supply. You can watch the full movie on your computer at < http://www.watchfullmovieonline.com/watch-food-inc-full-movie.html >
 

In response, the organic food movement and farmers markets have exploded in the last few years. And part of the General Plan for San Diego includes supporting this effort. While there are no restrictions on home gardens, community gardens have roadblocks that must be overcome. The group San Diego Food Not Lawns < http://www.sdfoodnotlawns.com/index.php > wants us to cut back on grass and vacant lots and go for the lettuce. They have a petition to the Mayor and City Council that you can sign online.

 

This is what it says:  “Community gardens have the proven potential to improve individual and community health by offering local sources of nutritious, fresh, affordable food, nutrition education, and exercise. Community gardens also provide a cost effective way to increase open space, enhance community pride and ownership, decrease storm water runoff, and increase property values.
 

The City’s current permitting process requires extensive review and is costly. Permit applicants must submit professionally drawn plans, and pay a minimum deposit of $5,000 toward an unknown amount of City staff time, billed at $82 to $144 per hour.
 

We ask that the City:
 

• Streamline the community garden permitting process for gardens by reducing paperwork to an application, site map/plan and the garden's member user agreement;
• Establish an affordable, set fee for a community garden permit (replacing current variable staff-time costs and deposit); and
• Institute a citizen taskforce to develop a citywide program to identify appropriate sites for gardens, to assist community groups wishing to start gardens, and to review and make recommendations regarding City community garden policies.
 

We, the undersigned, ask the City of San Diego to implement its 2008 General Plan policies to encourage community gardens. (For more information, email sandiegofood@live.com.)
 

I signed it today.
 

Sylvia Hampton is a community activist inducted into the San Diego County Women’s Hall of fame for 2008 for her work in the fields of healthcare reform, social justice and reproductive health. She is past president of the League of Women Voters of San Diego County and served on President Nixon’s Title X Family Planning Council. Her monthly Community Forum column is published in the Sun Signature Community Newspaper, Diamond Gateway Signature, and her Soapbox in the East County Magazine. Opinions are Sylvia’s alone and not to be interpreted as the policies of the League of Women Voters or East County Magazine.