Santa Monica schools often take children to the farmers market to learn about food. A new project in the works will show them exactly where it comes from.
The Planning Commission will review Jan. 16 a plan to demolish a vacant 18-unit apartment building at 401 Montana Avenue and build the Rainbow Garden, a children’s learning center and 10,000 square foot garden. The center will employ a teacher to educate visiting pre-school through third-grade classes about growing and cooking organic produce.
“The lessons will relate to organic gardening, such as vermicomposting, digging, seeding, growing and maintaining plants and harvesting the produce,” the project application says. “The curriculum also includes using the produce to teach the students how to create healthy, delicious meals from food grown in the garden.”
The garden will feature a variety of fruits, vegetables, berries and fruit trees. The application lists the potential for an ABC Garden for flowers and plants beginning with each letter of the alphabet, a Scratch and Sniff Garden and a Rainbow Garden designed to inspire art projects.
The center will also include a roof garden, an underground cistern for water capture and irrigation, a chicken coop and a tool shed.
Mockups of the site show a low black building set back about 90 feet from Montana Avenue with the main garden positioned in front of it. A long row of floor-to-ceiling windows open onto the garden.
The site will include seven parking spaces – the owner anticipates that children will be dropped off and picked up after class – and a four-foot wire fence, which is six inches higher than allowed and will require a special permit.
The vacant two-story apartment building that currently occupies the corner of Montana Avenue and 4th Street was built in 1947 and is in poor condition, staff said. Tenants were evicted under the Ellis Act several years ago.
Nearby resident Thao Ma owns the property, according to the North of Montana Neighborhood Association, which heard a presentation on the project Jan. 10.
The application indicates that Ma was inspired by the Edible Schoolyard, a one-acre garden attached to a public middle school in Berkeley, Calif. Celebrity chef Alice Waters, who founded the restaurant Chez Panisse, launched the project in 1995.
Like the Edible Schoolyard, the center will feature a teaching kitchen where students will learn to prepare and cook fruits and vegetables.
“The non-profit Rainbow Garden project grew from a desire by a Santa Monica couple to feed their children nutritious, local, organic food,” the application says.