Opinion: Green Light

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City Hall Pledged to Support Community Gardens

Then-Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger championed passage in 2006 of AB 32, the nation’s first statewide law to put a price on carbon to address climate change. As a result, the City of Laguna Beach’s Environmental Committee spent more than a year drafting what became Laguna’s Climate Protection Action Plan. Councilmembers passed the plan unanimously in April 2009.  A provision of that plan reads: “Encourage edible landscaping and community gardens.”

Until now, City Hall has done a pretty good job of acting on its pledge to support that provision. A case in point involves the South Laguna Community Garden Park, established in late 2009.  Our local government helped considerably with permit fees and more. Councilmembers have visited the Garden Park and have spoken at events.  Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow requested the city fund half of the cost to buy the land on which the garden rests and when he was mayor sent letters of interest to the property’s overseas owners. Votes of support have come from Mayor Whalen, Councilmembers Toni Iseman, Kelly Boyd, and Rob Zur Schmiede. Until very recently, the partnership between the City and the Garden Park has been solidly dependable.

In past months, however, amid pandemic pressures on the City budget, some officials have called for backing out of the pledge above and redirecting the $500,000 our local government has been holding in trust to purchase the Garden Park space. Importantly, the Council will take up this matter on June 23 as part of a budget workshop.

By keeping the City’s pledge to combat climate change by, among other things, promoting community gardens and abiding by its promise to help purchase the only community garden in town, the public’s trust will be upheld and an award-winning public space will continue to gladden hearts near and far. 

There are more reasons as well. Perhaps some councilmembers should be reminded that this treasure received a Merit Award from the Southern California Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, a Humanitarian Award from California Landscape Contractors Association, and Environmental Awards from the Laguna Beach Beautification Council and our own city. Gardeners have contributed some of their produce to the city’s homeless shelter, seasonal festivals attract people from throughout town, a visiting group of Tibetan monks have chanted and prayed there; the Laguna Beach Police Department has hosted its Taco with a Cop event there; and Laguna Beach firefighters grow vegetables there.

So at the same time that the garden’s tomatoes, lettuce, carrots and other plantings are absorbing and reducing carbon pollution in Laguna, a host of wonderful other benefits have accrued to folks from one end of town to the other. Please visit the City’s website to thank Councilmembers for their support of the Garden Park and urge them to continue safeguarding this Laguna treasure. 

What better way to keep faith with the City’s pledge to implement the Climate Protection Action Plan, thank those working toward ownership of a community garden and pay homage to a beautiful public space that provides joy and solace to many in Laguna and beyond.

Tom is a California and environmental historian, who chaired the group that wrote Laguna’s Climate Protection Action Plan

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