Are you in Favor of a Community Garden in South Pas?

The idea has been tossed around for some time now. Should we take action and make it happen?

Patch Asks: Are you in favor of turning the unused plot of land at Grevelia Street and Fremont Avenue into a community garden? Feel free to share your thoughts below. 

For more information on the potential project, contact Vice Chair of the Natural Resources and Environmental Commission David Margrave at plumbbusy@aol.com. 

Joanne Nuckols September 05, 2011 at 02:51 PM
Great idea and perfect for South Pasadena, but why stop with the one vacant lot? There are other vacant lots owned by Caltrans in town as well as undeveloped commercial property that would be perfect locations.
ALICE HUDSON September 05, 2011 at 05:36 PM
Ricky Grubb September 05, 2011 at 06:25 PM
I will provide anyone who wants to plant them, local wild native plant seeds for the garden for free, asking only u b versed in the plant's ecological requirements of the (seed) species
Paula September 05, 2011 at 06:42 PM
That would be wonderful!!
Diana B September 05, 2011 at 06:50 PM
I think the soil in any lot adjacent to the freeway or any heavily used road that is being considered for this use needs to be tested for lead. There are communities in the foothills who have been warned not to eat home-grown produce because decades of smog from leaded gasoline has contaminated their soil. The same could be true of the lot along Grevilia, given its proximity to the freeway, which would make growing food there a bad idea.
Barbara Eisenstein, Contributor September 05, 2011 at 10:39 PM
A great idea. It would be great for people with small yards, or apartment dwellers, and also for those who don't have enough sun to have a vegetable garden. It also provides an opportunity for the community to work together on something. I agree with Diana B that soil testing for heavy metals and other toxins would be important.
Jessie September 05, 2011 at 10:40 PM
I so hope this happens-I miss having a garden. Tried having one on my porch-and it doesnt work.
Ron Rosen September 06, 2011 at 12:10 AM
If we have too many gardens, someone will want to put a freeway there!
Elliot Kwock September 06, 2011 at 12:18 AM
I believe that area is old railroad right of way. It could have some heavy contamination.
spidra September 06, 2011 at 01:48 AM
I'm in favor of it. Like Joanne, I think we could use more than one community garden in South Pasadena, too. We used to have a community garden that was started with the cooperation of the YMCA. http://ymcacommunitygarden.blogspot.com/ My understanding is that it couldn't continue because the city imposed some costs having something to do with zoning code. They couldn't afford what was being asked of them. Last year, South Pasadena implemented several pages of new zoning code on community gardens. It's pretty onerous, requiring a Phase I ESA assessment that in itself would cost thousands (and wouldn't even test the soil as part of that cost), then add in the costs for fencing, notifications to neighbors, etc. and it puts starting a community garden out of reach for the very population that would most need/like a community garden. http://qcode.us/codes/southpasadena/view.php?topic=36-3-36_350-36_350_230&highlightWords=community+garden&frames=on
spidra September 06, 2011 at 01:49 AM
I would *very much* like to see the City Council amend that zoning code to make it less unfriendly to gardeners and less prejudicial to lower income members of the community. Soil testing costs could be eliminated or lessened by growing in raised beds, which are more accessible for the elderly and disabled anyway. With large enough raised beds, you can just bring in clean soil and have done with any worries about ground contamination. Of course, that substitutes the cost of soil testing with the cost of obtaining clean soil, but it assures you that you know exactly what soil you're growing in and it helps with accessibility to elderly & disabled gardeners. However, food grown close to roads that get heavy use will need to be thoroughly washed before eating regardless. Washing them with vinegar with a little hydrogen peroxide will help with getting rid of particulate smog. I think you'll find that gardeners that have no other place to grow would be happy to sign whatever waiver you need saying they know the environment is an urban one and may have some issues.
Linda Lynch September 06, 2011 at 02:40 AM
I believe community gardens in South Pasadena would be a great addition to our small close knit community. It's another way for our townspeople to make new friends, have new experiences, and come together for advancement of our wonderful little city. There has been much renewal of streets, buildings, and areas that has taken place in South Pasadena. It sure would be nice to also make available small plots to our residents who have little or no land so that they may raise their own vegetables, fruits, flowers, and ornamental plants. I don't know the precise stats (although I think it is near 50%) on apartment dwellers in South Pasadena, but availability of series of community gardens has to be a plus in attracting nurturing type folks to live in this city. Community gardeners tend to be respectful of other people's property and in general are just the kind of folk we want in our city. Since about half of our city is comprised of non land owners, community gardens may give them a greater sense of investment in all aspects of South Pasadena from the land to merchants, schools, and the city's image.
Linda Lynch September 06, 2011 at 02:41 AM
I think that the rental price of plots could be set at a level reasonable enough to the gardeners while at the same time providing enough funds to keep the area esthetically pleasing to the near by residents. Sensitivity to the needs of the residents close to the garden as well as to the desire and needs of the gardeners themselves should bring about community gardens that enhance the South Pasadena experience for all.
linda krausen September 06, 2011 at 09:38 AM
Yes. On magnollia is a good ide because there are two apartment/condo buildings right there, Grevelia is another possibility although it might not get enough sun. Starting with one would be fine. Once we get the hang of it, start a second one. But just start.
Gretchen Robinette September 06, 2011 at 03:27 PM
A number of us have talked about and advocated a community garden in South Pas for some time now and are ready to move ahead. However, there are provisions in the Community Gardening ordinance that was drafted by the city that impede the progress of this effort. I would ask the Council and the City Attorney to revisit the ordinance with regard to soil testing requirements in particular - costs for the required testing would be prohibitive and the whole issue can be dealt with by using raised beds that would have non-polluted soil and amendments from reliable suppliers. I hope all of the Ciry Council candiates get behind the community garden movement in South Pasadena. This is an excellent way to build community, create more healthful living and beautify our city. Gretchen Robinette
Marina Khubesrian September 06, 2011 at 04:49 PM
As a city council candidate, I would love the opportunity to make this happen for our community. It's a great way to bring people together, outdoors, get kids away from electronics, and teach those who don't have a ton of time about the calming effects and good exercise benefits of gardening. Only 5% of our city land is allocated to parks and recreation. The City of Trees can do better. Marina Khubesrian, MD
Catherine Welch September 06, 2011 at 10:19 PM
Absolutely! The YMCA garden was a lot of fun for everyone involved. We did run into a few hurdles going into the second year, hence the reason it was discontinued. During the season that we did have it, there was a good amount of support, and it was great to see people who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to grow fresh vegetables doing so in a community environment. We even had a composting expert come give a talk and a chef come show us how to make a delicious meal out of our harvest! The garden had something for everyone, kids and adults, beginners and expert gardeners. I truly hope the City Council will support a Community Garden for South Pasadena!
marty c September 07, 2011 at 05:45 PM
Better than eating from Trader Joes trash containers .
Kim Hughes September 07, 2011 at 05:49 PM
The concept of a South Pasadena community garden has been on the "radar" for both the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Natural Recources and Environmental Commission. In order to make a garden a reality, the city needs all interested residents to come together and express interest and support. As the City of South Pasadena works to provide key services in a difficult economic market, funds for a community garden would be very limited. The NREC offered in the spring a survey to capture the "pulse" and interest in a community garden. Over 67 residents took the time to share their thoughts and opinions. The majority were in favor of creating a garden, but in order to do so, we need work on the issues of soil testing, security, water use, space allocation, storage, etc. A community garden could be an important city assest that would help educate our young people as to where their food comes from, the value of natural gardening, as well as perhaps providing food to low income and senior citizens. In addition, a local food source could be helpful in the case of natural disasters, where transportation corridors become impacted. It would be appreciated if all interested parties would contact Commissioner Margrave and express your interest in a community garden. We would then set-up a planning meeting and data base of all interested parties, so we can get the process going of making a South Pasadena community garden a reality.
marty c September 07, 2011 at 05:51 PM
Thanks spidra "Last year, South Pasadena implemented several pages of new zoning code on community gardens. It's pretty onerous, requiring a Phase I ESA assessment that in itself would cost thousands (and wouldn't even test the soil as part of that cost), then add in the costs for fencing, notifications to neighbors, etc. and it puts starting a community garden out of reach for the very population that would most need/like a community garden. http://qcode.us/codes/southpasadena/view.php?topic=36-3-36_350-36_350_230&highlightWords=community+garden&frames=on"
Olivia Padilla September 08, 2011 at 03:47 AM
I agree with Spidra. We must amend the South Pasadena Zoning Code before we can even begin to think of putting a community garden together. All the other Cities have community gardens and they do not have such strict zoning codes as South Pasadena. What is the use of contracting a lot without being able to meet the South Pasadena zoning requirements?
Olivia Padilla September 08, 2011 at 03:52 AM
I agree with Marty C.
Lisa September 10, 2011 at 03:32 PM
The zoning code is NOT unreasonable considering the exposure to liability the city could face if their requirements are not met. I've built a school, so "building" a garden will be very straightforward in comparison. I'll be happy to lead this. Dave: let's chat! Lisa Grabow
Olivia Padilla September 10, 2011 at 07:22 PM
Llisa, I absolutely agree, but who is going to pay for the thousands of dollars in soil testing, the Phase 1 ESA assessment, and the other items? It would be great if the City of South Pasadena paid for these requirements or if they were donated.
Olivia Padilla September 10, 2011 at 09:22 PM
It is my understanding that the reason that the City of South Pasadena closed the YMCA South Pasadena/San Marino Community Garden was because the City Zoning Code came into effect; there was no money to pay for the Phase 1 ESA assessment, the soil tests, etc. that the garden needed in order to stay open.
spidra September 11, 2011 at 11:52 AM
Right now the zoning code would require a Phase I ESA regardless of whether a proposed community garden is on public or private land. This is overkill and the wrong tool for the job. If the point is to make sure the soil is not toxic, you can simply do a soil test for toxicity. As far as I can see, a Phase I ESA requires very expensive consultants to conduct it and does *not* include an actual soil test. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_Site_Assessment
Drew Ready October 20, 2011 at 06:54 PM
There is a free LA community garden conference in Altadena this Saturday, 10/22! Please forward to anyone interested in starting a community garden in South Pasadena that you can think of. Fifth Annual LA Community Garden Council - Gathering of Community Gardens Saturday, October 22, 2011 8am-3pm Loma Alta Park and Community Center / Altadena Community Garden http://lagardencouncil.org/oct-22-2011-save-the-date/
spidra March 06, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Apparently proposed changes to the zoning code on community gardens is on tomorrow's City Council agenda. (City Hall, City Council Chambers, 7pm) All of you in favor of community gardens in South Pasadena, please show up for the public comment period. I don't know if *any* community input was solicited when this portion to the zoning code was added (or whether anyone familiar with gardening was even consulted), but it's been a long hard slog trying to get the city to look at making it less onerous. Right now you'd have to be quite wealthy to afford to start a community garden in South Pasadena.
Lucia April 26, 2012 at 01:46 AM
Is there a way to test soil in the yard? My granddaughter lives near that power plant on Glenarm and I wonder if there is mercury or lead in her front yard. I also wonder about community gardens near freeways. Do you have a test for toxins before you plant or harvest. Lucia
spidra April 27, 2012 at 03:02 AM
It looks like this lab does soil tests for toxicity as well. http://www.bettersoils.com/pricelist.cfm If you suspect toxicity, the cheapest thing might be simply to build raised beds and fill them with soil from a known clean source. Any place (not just community gardens but private residences) near a freeway or a busy street like Fair Oaks or Fremont will likely have some contamination from car pollution and tire dust. I used to live near a very busy street but it didn't stop me from growing my own food. I used raised beds and I washed the produce thoroughly, adding a little vinegar in the wash for anything that worried me. http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/home/kitchen-garden-toxic.htm Some of us are in unhealthier places than others but everyone living in a metropolitan area like this is being exposed to pollution. I get too much enjoyment from growing plants to give it up. And at least when I grow my own food, I know exactly what I put into it. When I buy food in a supermarket, I don't really know that it's any less polluted than what I can grow myself. In fact, many of the places in CA where large agricultural business is located also landed high on the pollution list: http://laist.com/2012/04/26/los_angeles_has_some_of_the_dirties.php You're right to be cautious about being near a power plant, but I think you can still garden with some modifications.


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