Wednesday, March 28, 2007
The Root of the Problem
When local residents set up a garden in an open space on Fulton and Stanyan opposite famed Golden Gate Park, they set off a firestorm of controversy that reverberated throughout the urban gardening community. This gardening group did not have the one thing that scores of other community gardens have, and it's not potatoes. The crucial ingredient lacking in this latest attempt at city farming was the legal right to use the land.
The small patch of land adjacent to the apartments on the corner of Fulton and Stanyan is owned by the same out-of-state landlord who also owns the apartment complex. The landlord is not interested in having a community garden on the site, never gave permission to place a garden there, and is actively attempting to have it removed. In the city of San Francisco, the landowner is well within the law to kick the gardeners off the property. Indeed, this is the only regulation on starting a community garden in San Francisco, said Jude Koski of SFGro, a major community gardening organization in the City.
"It would be one thing if it were public land and it weren't being used for anything," said Koski. "But if the owner decides they don't want them [the community gardeners] on that land, that's it."
Koski said his group has offered to broker a deal between the gardeners and the landowner, but such an agreement looks unlikely given the owner's present disposition. Koski said that SFGro is ready and willing to step in if both sides are ready to negotiate, but won't force the issue.
"The site has a lot of question marks," said Koski.
It seems those questions may be answered with a resounding, "No." If the landowner refuses to participate in negotiations, residents at the garden may have to get their vegetables at the local grocery store instead.