City Council discusses Sacramento community gardens
Four City Council members discussed ways of increasing community gardens in Sacramento on private and public property during the Law and Legislation Committee meeting Tuesday.
According to Joy Patterson, the principle planner for the city, the proposed ordinance will lay out how community members can use vacant properties for the development of community gardens where people can come together for the purpose of growing food and personal use.
“Several city departments have looked at the issues surrounding community gardens on public property and private property and have prepared a draft ordinance for community gardens on private property for the review and discussion by the Law and Legislation Committee,” Patterson said.
City Council members Jay Schenirer, Sandy Sheedy, Darrell Fong and Steve Cohn voted to revisit the proposed ordinance at the Law and Legislation meeting on May 17 in a unanimous decision Tuesday.
Councilman Steve Cohn said he is in favor of the project and that it is one of the less costly projects.
Cohn had worked previously on several gardens with Bill Maynard, the city’s community gardening director.
“I think it’s something we need to push forward with,” Cohn said. “It needs to be on the list.”
Councilman Darrell Fong said that his staff will be planting a community garden in a Valley Hi park.
“We’ve had very little dialogue and I want to talk to some staff because I haven’t had a long time to (talk) to staff about this ordinance,” Fong said. “I’d like to have some further comment.”
The two components that they will be looking at are the rules regulating the use of private property and the public property for community gardens, Councilman Schenirer said.
“I think we would want a generic set of guidelines, rules and regulations on developing public land as a private community garden,” Schenirer said. “I also have concerns about the city’s involvement in some of these gardens and the costs that are generally associated with that and where’s the bang for the buck on this.”
Councilwoman Sheedy said she is also in favor of implementing the gardens, but wants everyone on the same page so they are not rushing to get the project done. Sheedy said she wants to avoid going back and doing the process all over again.
“I want to do it the right way,” Sheedy said.
At the meeting, several community members voiced why community gardens are important.
Paula Lomazzi, a Sacramento resident and gardener at J. Neely Johnson Park, said she has a strong concern for reducing our carbon footprint and gardens help provide her with food.
“This is a great step forward to make us more sustainable,” Lomazzi said.
Dan Frankfield and Laura Lough are on the garden advisory board of the community garden at J. Neely Johnson Park.
Frankfield said that many years ago they had to convince the neighbors around the garden that it would reduce crime around the park and that it would not add to the negative issues.
“I think that it’s generally a good idea as long as there’s checks and balances for homeowners and gardeners alike,” Frankfield said. “I hope to see it come through.”
Maynard said he wants people to be aware of the costs.
“I think it’s a great step forward,” Maynard said. “It has to be affordable for people to do this.”
Rhonda Lake, superintendent of the Department of General Services Facilities/Property Management-Real Estate Services for the city said she will be looking at the issue because one of the complicating factors is that the staff is working with Coldwell Banker to identify surplus assets of the city’s needs so that (they) may be sold, leased, or put to another beneficial use.
“It would probably take us the next 30 days to look at it,” Lake said.
Kathy Les, vice president of Slow Food Sacramento, a branch of the Slow Food international organization that aims to promote good, clean and fair food, was surprised that the proposed ordinance was on the agenda.
“It’s great that it’s on the agenda so soon and is moving along,” Les said. “They [community gardens] are a great way to feed people and to localize community spirit.”
Paul Towers, the state director of the Pesticide Watch Education Fund said he is disappointed that the discussion about the gardens is moving so slow.
“We clearly need to act now to increase the amount of healthy, fresh and local food in our communities,” Towers said.
The item will be revisited at the Law and Legislation meeting on May 17. The meeting will be held at 3 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 915 I Street.