Garden Park Supports Multi-Use



I would like to clarify two points made by Mr. Hills in an article (“Collision Over Preservation and Property Rights,” June 19).

Regarding “investing tax dollars” in allocating funds toward the purchase of a permanent site for the South Laguna Community Garden Park:  Rather than “tax dollars” the funds came to city coffers as a result of a 1927 gift of parkland to the county by the developer of Coast Royal, and then a gift of that same land to the city by the county. This enabled the city to sell the unused park land and deposit the $250,000+ proceeds into the park in-lieu fund.  Those were the funds the Council allocated for purchase of a permanent garden park site. Possible sites for a garden park are a short distance from that originally dedicated parcel, and the garden park use would fulfill the original intent of the park dedication.

The funds are not expended.  The council decision merely allocated the $250,00 to be used when a permanent site has been found and the added funds needed to complete a purchase are raised. No check would be written by the city until those conditions are met.

Regarding “Subsidizing limited use properties instead of general use parks”: I would contend that the garden park is every bit as much a multipurpose park, if not more, than many of the parks in Laguna.

Not only is it used by families to raise organic vegetables—some times two or more families per plot–there are community areas set aside for other gardeners, as well as the Children’s Garden for parents and kids programs, and another for produce for the Friendship Shelter. The garden park is open to the public with the maintenance provided by garden volunteers. All are invited to regular potlucks and workshops.  Educational tours for youth are provided and the park serves as a venue for classes. Finally, the garden park is enjoyed by many neighbors and tourists who enjoy walking around or eating at one of the tables and benches throughout the park.

This, to me, defines a “multi-purpose park” certainly as much as tennis or basketball courts, which I equally support.

I would like to thank the City Council for their generous contribution and support, without which we would find it much more difficult to raise the additional needed funds. They have watched the garden park evolve and personally visited it. By their recent decision, they believe this is an important and valuable addition that helps to promote community togetherness.


Myron Wacholder, Laguna Beach

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  1. The letter of July 2 by Myron Wacholder published in the Laguna Beach Independent is Exhibit A in why any City Council sequestration of public funds for the South Laguna “Community Garden” is bad fiscal policy and a reckless community development precedent.

    It is simply wonderful that the local neighborhood and the owner of private property have created a place for people to grow vegetables and flowers and have gatherings. As long as that is what the owner wants to do with his land it is a success story for all concerned.

    Having said that, the logic of Myron’s letter utterly escapes me. Words have meaning, and a small parcel of land used as a place for private invitees to garden is not a “multi-use” public park. Is a single use and non-public. If it truly is multi-use and open to the public, as soon as that becomes known it really will become open for lots of other uses by lots of people who don’t give a damn about gardening.

    A public park with picnic facilities, a baseball field, a playground and tennis courts is a multi-use public park. Heisler Park and Bluebird Park have splendid concert venues, state-of-the-art playgrounds, picnic grounds, and even historic dedications to a lawn bowling and youth activities, respectively.

    In contrast, the high school tennis courts are not a public park, that is a school district/city joint single use facility. Do I really have to explain this, Myron?

    If the people who like this private gardening project want to keep a good thing going as they envision it, then they need to find private donors to fund the institutionalization of it. If that is their goal instead of a wonderful private communal event sustained by the informal spirit in which it was created, then those who want to bequeath ownership of it as a dedicated use legacy to the community need to privatize it without city funds.

    The taxpayers should not pay for a private legacy project. The way to do that is for the government to step in and make it public, then the normative standards and disciplines for public ownership and use that apply to the rest of us must be observed.

    Otherwise, I am going to start a community surfing club at a private location and ask the city to dedicate $250,000 in public funds to its development and use for that purpose. Then I can solicit private donations to purchase the property and operate the surf club holding out the promise of city money for capitalization of my surf club. Surfers have contributed more than $250,000 to city coffers, and we want our money back.

    Similarly, if public money is used, the city will take over and do more for the public than than a few youth gardening projects and symbolism of growing some veggies for the Friendship Shelter. In addition to toilet facilities and parking for the public, maybe a garden plot and sleeping accommodations for at least a few homeless to help the whole city with that problem would justify public funding.

    This is Civics 101, folks. It is about public versus private ownership. There can by public/private partnerships, but there are criteria and ground rules that apply to prevent private use of public property.

    For example, right now those who use the property are social invitees and I assume someone is paying for liability insurance. Costs, use management, rule-making, maintenance, regulation of activities and access as well as governance of this privately sponsored limited access collective use are all presumably determined by the owner and those who use the owner’s property.

    No one should have a problem with any of that as long as the same city rules and code enforcement practices applied to the rest of us are applied to the use of that property. If the city wants to change its mind about the suitability of the site for a public use, acquire, own it and make it a public park dedicated to gardening, that is a political and fiscal decision the city can make.

    What is not right is for the city to make a decision not to invest in the property for a public use park, then sequester the public funds generated from the sale of the gifted land for de facto subsidization of a private enterprise to develop that private property for a use that has not been approved and that does not truly serve as a public park.

    The idea that selectively self-appointed residents using the formerly city owned property have a right of first refusal or preemptive call on the use of public funds generated by the sale of the property is anti-democratic and discriminatory. If the city does that then I want my surf club subsidized too.

    If former city officials who were public servants at the time the city acquired the property and those who have benefitted from its current use have a first call on the funds generated by the sale, that is tantamount to claiming something in the nature of a private property interest in revenues generated by actions of the city while they were government officials. Think about it, it is as if they believe the proceeds of the property sale that belong to the public are like “profit” in which they acquired an interest that survives their separation from government service.

    As a Navy JAG lawyer serving in the National Security Council I represented the U.S. in the federal courts in a $4 billion claims case arising from the U.S. nuclear testing in the Pacific. Because we won in the courts Congress was able to fund a $150 million final settlement of those claims. By the logic that public funds generated by the actions of the city should be used as advocated by private citizens who were government officials at the time, I should have more say than other American citizens on how the federal government spends the 3.85 billion I saved the taxpayers.

    Hey, maybe Verna and Ann are right after all. They want 100% of the “profit” they made by using the city to raise money by selling surplus property. If I get just 1% of what I saved federal taxpayers I won’t need city money to leave a surf club as my legacy to “community surfing.” I take it all back, Myron, you are a genius.

    Howard Hills


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