Daily Press Staff Writer
Residents fortunate enough to already have control of one of Santa Monica’s 121 community garden plots throughout the city will experience some changes in the coming year as the program moves into a permitting process.
The changes will not help those on the 580 person waiting list get a plot of land any sooner.
The estimated wait time to get a plot is seven years.
The permitting process will allow the Community and Cultural Services Department to update the current paper licensing system with a digital format, according to a report by the department’s director Karen Ginsberg.
The report promises the new system will be more efficient, eliminating paper agreements that have to be physically carried in boxes to separate departments for approvals.
The system also formalizes rules governing the Main Street, Park Drive and Euclid Park gardens.
For example, the city’s gardeners are expected to spend a minimum of five hours a week tending to their plots throughout the year.
“Those kinds of rules are there to enforce active gardening,” said Talia Tinari, who chairs the Community Garden Advisory Committee. “You could probably spend a couple hours easily on the weekends weeding, planting, and harvesting.”
Gardeners who need help are encouraged to enlist volunteers from the extensive waiting list of people waiting for plots.
Once a resident has a community garden, they can keep it as long as they maintain an active garden and follow the rules intended to make good neighbors.
Once someone gets a plot, they are responsible for purchasing all their own materials and tools as well as paying the City $100 per year.
Tinari says her group and the city are both looking to expand opportunities for aspiring gardeners in the upcoming years.
For example, Ishihara Park’s learning garden has been a major success – allowing locals to share the space instead of licensing it to a handful of people.
“With all the new opportunities for people to be involved with gardening we set up some new rules to build a community,” Tinari said, who noted everyone shares in the produce that is grown there.
“We specifically required using organic products and no pesticides.”
With the permitting process streamlined, local gardening advocates are turning their attention to expanding opportunities to get a plot in Santa Monica.
Current plans for the Airport Park expansion include space for 60 new community garden plots.
Plots are allocated on a first come, first serve basis.
“You don’t have to be an experienced gardener but you do have to understand that it takes time and you have to make room in your life for gardening,” Tinari said.
There are 73 community garden plots on Main Street between Strand and Hollister, 38 plots on Park Drive between Santa Monica Boulevard and Broadway, and 10 at Euclid Park at 1525 Euclid Street.
The Euclid Street park includes two handicap accessible and three short-term plots.
The City has explored the idea of dividing up large plots when they become available to give more opportunities to garden.