Community Garden Park closes in on permanent roots

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By Tasmin McGill, Guest Contributor

South Laguna Community Garden Park members receive $500,000 from Laguna Beach City Council to go toward the purchase of the land. Photo/South Laguna Community Garden Park

The South Laguna Community Garden Park is looking to purchase the property it has called home since 2009 for $2 million. During the Aug. 22 Laguna Beach City Council meeting, councilmembers voted unanimously to stand by its pledge of $500,000 towards acquiring the land.

Initially, when the owner placed the land on sale, the asking price was $5 million. However, with a price out of budget and no knowledge of the landowner’s identity or how this purchase would take place, community members waited with bated breath regarding the garden’s expansion.

With the property now listed at $2 million, the Community Garden is in 30-day escrow, and $1.2 million raised, and even an additional $1,000 pledge made during public comment of the Aug. 22 City Council meeting; what once seemed to be a long shot, is now within reach. 

“This is the moment we have been waiting for 14 years,” Community Garden Project Director Ann Christoph said during the city council meeting. “We are so grateful that the council has provided for this particular item to make your commitment that you have made for many years now.”

Christoph and community garden members proposed to acquire the land nearly 14 years ago. Originally, when the owner placed the land on sale, the asking price was $5 million. Now, it has been decreased to $2 million. 

When it came time for public comments during the city council meeting, a handful of Laguna residents thanked the council members for its $500,000 pledge and encouraged others to join in, citing its importance to the community.

Resident Lorna Shaw expressed how grateful she is that the city is putting money into a project she believes in. 

“I go down to the garden, and I go down for the sing-a-longs. I go down for the community spirit of it. I go down for the camaraderie and the joy and the mixing of age groups and different people from all over town,” Shaw said. “I think it is one of the best things Laguna has going, and I am grateful the city is going to put its money, my money for the city, into this project.”

South Laguna resident and farmer Ryan Goldsmith highlighted that the garden is also important to the abundance of wildlife that calls it home.

“Being involved in agriculture, I think it is pretty obvious, but it really does feed the soul. It feeds the community. This is a really conservation move also,” Goldsmith said. “I mean, if you have visited the garden you have seen the wildlife that is in there. It is a huge draw, not just for our human residents, but for our wildlife too, and that is a really important measure here.”

Councilmember George Weiss pointed out that although the price tag on the property has decreased and community members have pledged a significant amount of money towards the purchase, a sizeable amount of money still needs to be raised.

“I’ve heard you have $1.2 million in pledges, but that includes our pledge of $500,000, and that’s $700,000 you have pledges for. You really need $2 million in 30 days. That’s a big number,” Weiss said. “How can you accomplish that?”

Christoph, not accepting anything else, believes the goal will be met one way or another. 

“With the help of everyone and the sound of my voice,” Christoph said. “We have contacted the people who have pledged, and they are standing by their pledges. We will provide $2 million so we can close escrow one way or another and your help is much appreciated.” 

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