Open Letter to the Mayor and Councilmembers in Response to Option 6

Mayor Leppert & Honorable Council Members:

Yesterday’s decision by the Environmental Quality and Transportation Committee to move forward on Option 6 for Community Gardens on vacant property was disappointing but not surprising.

It was clear that the members of the committee were ready to move forward with some kind of plan, but still obvious that this is not the Option everyone was hoping for. Option 6 carries an annual permitting fee of $215 to cover the cost of city staff examining a required site plan and contains provisions against sales and livestock. This is an issue of community, not one to be policed by recommendations made without a single bit of research and presented with photos from other cities.

If Option 6 manages to reach general council and become part of our development code we will lose, as a city, the opportunity to bring our communities together through food production. The inevitable truth is that we are all facing hard times. Our city needs to reexamine our plans for undeveloped vacant lots and an underutilized workforce. These lots are often tucked between two single family homes or near apartment complexes. Having the right to garden or farm these lots without added fees and regulations is the best way to encourage community revitalization, reduce crime and educate our next generation about environmental and social justice issues.

The field of Urban Agriculture including: School, Community and Church Gardens, Urban Farms and Microfarms and Agritourism is experiencing a reawakening. It has been estimated that much of our food travels an average of 1,500 miles from its source to our plates. By reusing vacant spaces to grow food we decrease our energy consumption. The idea of using a vacant lot to grow food is not a new one. In Dallas victory gardens once numbered in the thousands.

As Councilman Kadane pointed out during the briefing, a Community Garden is not for everyone but everyone should have the opportunity to be a part of one. To date there has only been a single instance in our city where neighbors were so divided on this topic and it happened to be in Councilman Kadane’s district. Typically Urban Agricultural spaces grow organically from the surrounding community. Few gardeners want a long commute to garden. Here in Oak Cliff we have some gardeners that come from Highland Park. We welcome them and in turn they take their experiences back to their own communities.

Also during the briefing, Councilwoman Medrano questioned staff as to the amount of gardens in existence within the city. At that point the room got so quiet that I could hear a cricket chirp. Staff did not know the answer. One of the reasons the number of gardens is unknown is because they do not create code complaints. Gardeners and Farmers are hard workers. Piles of dirt and mulch are needed for planting and are mostly used before anyone knows they are even around. Also, trash has no place in a garden. It is quickly cleaned up so as not to attract urban fauna. Nothing is worse for crops than a band of rowdy raccoons attracted by trash.

I invite you to visit our Community Gardens of Oak Cliff. Come and have some homegrown pesto in the garden. We won’t be selling it, but we are more than willing to share. Also, once you taste one of our sun warmed and ripened watermelons the one from the grocery store might not taste the same. If we were allowed chickens and bees, we might even share eggs and honey with you.

We look forward to your response.

Very truly yours,

Mariana Griggs

President, Community Gardens of Oak Cliff

Option 6 passes the TEC

Dallas Morning News reports 3o minutes ago that the latest version of Community Garden regulation called “Option 6” has passed the city’s TEC (Transportation and Environment Committee)  See report here

An official Community Gardens Response to come shortly!

CGOC Board

CGOC Responds to latest Community Garden Regulations

Gardeners,
Find attached the new staff recommendation to the city Environmental and Transportation committee. This is option 6 and I STILL think they need to go back to the drawing board. In this option, chickens (and bees) will not be allowed and a permit and site plan will be required. The cost for the permit is $215/year. This is NOT the right option. We should not be charged for growing food. Please make you comments know to the following council members before Tuesday’s meeting:
tom.leppert@dallascityhall.com

Also, if you would like to speak at the meeting please include that in your comments.
Thanks,
Mariana

OPTION 6

Community Garden Briefing Today!

This from our city’s Community Garden Coordinator:

Dear Community Gardeners and Supporters,

The official date has been formalized for the next Community Garden briefing to the Council Transportation and Environment Committee.

Please join us on Tuesday, August 10th between 2 and 4 pm.  Public seating is on 6ES.

We hope to achieve a final vote from the Committee on this issue and move forward!  Thanks for all of your support and interest along the way.

Closer to the time, you can view the briefing and agenda at: http://www.dallascityhall.com/committee_briefings/index.html.

In the future, if you have any questions about community gardens, contact the Office of Environmental Quality at 214-670-1200 214-670-1200      or GreenDallas@dallascityhall.com.

Best wishes,

Hannah Kolni

Outreach and Community Garden Coordinator

City of Dallas, Office of Environmental Quality

214-671-8980 hannah.kolni@dallascityhall.com

To learn how to build a greener Dallas, visit GreenDallas.net!

Great weather in store for Great Bicycle Ride!

The weather is looking perfect for the upcoming “Spring Has Sprung Garden Ride”, this Sunday May 23rd starting promptly at 1:00pm in the Bishop Arts District!

Excitement is building for the best Bike Friendly Oak Cliff ride this  year, and our community gardens are ready to possibly greet over 200 people  expected to attend.  There will be so much to see from home grown veggies to bees-scapes on this ride, so put on your suntan lotion, grease up your bike chain and crank it!

Here is the schedule in route order (all stop times are approximate):

12:45pm Rider’s congregate in Bishop Arts at the intersection of 8th and Bishop Ave
1:00pm Ride begins
1:15pm Arrive first stop:  Community Garden of Cliff Temple
1:35pm Depart first stop
1:50pm Arrive second stop:  Methodist Hospital System Garden
2:30pm Depart second stop
2:50pm Arrive third stop:  St. Cecilia’s Community Garden
3:10pm Depart third stop
3:20pm Arrive fourth stop:  Jefferson Median Project
3:40pm Depart fourth stop
3:50pm Arrive fifth stop:  Urban Acres Farm Store
4:10pm Depart fifth stop
4:20pm Arrive sixth and final stop:  Eno’s Pizzeria

Natinsky would be an “Unhappy camper” if community garden near his house

After yesterday’s decision not to approve the recommendations for policy regulating private community gardens for the 2nd time in two months and kick it back once again to city staff to start over, Council member Ron Natinsky was reported by Rudolph Bush of the Dallas Morning News as saying:  see full post here

“I can picture the lot next door to where I live (becoming a community garden). I wouldn’t be a happy camper even if the rest of the neighborhood were in favor of it,” Natinsky said.

After hearing this, Community Gardens of Oak Cliff vice president issues this response on Rudolph’s post:

“Natinsky:  While you sit on your hands, flipping channels, sucking on the cold air coming out of your vents, and becoming more lethargic with old age, Dallas citizens of all ages are feeling the earth between their fingers for the first time. They’re smelling the honey suckle growing on the fence, harvesting locally grown, sustainable foods that are taken into their own kitchens or a soup kitchen, bartered with their neighbors, and yes, even selling them to local restaurants to keep food distribution local. This discovery is happening to kids who sometimes don’t know the difference between a potato or a tomato. While you have the right to not want this in your own neighborhood, making it difficult for others is not right. My recommendation would be to visit several different community gardens in Oak Cliff that are thriving and making a difference in peoples lives everyday. I will personally take you on a tour, as I’m the vice president of Community Gardens of Oak Cliff. Please email me at jrbraddick@gmail.com if you’re interested. If you don’t take my invite, I won’t be hurt. But my assumptions will be true about you.”

Community Garden’s by Right…just don’t plan on actually gardening, you won’t have time!

Gardeners,
Firstly, I hope that you are enjoying the wonderful weather this weekend. I have been working hard at planting lots of crops and the rain last night will surely help us all out. I am emailing you in hopes that you can join me for the next community gardens briefing in 6ESouth at city hall tomorrow from 2-4. Staff will be recommending “Option 4: Community Gardens by Right with Neighbor Input”.

Next, I would like to inform you of the possible setbacks to community gardens that this option will create. Obviously the members of city staff who have recommended this option have never tried to start a community garden themselves. Photos in the presentation were taken from internet sites such as TLC (Discovery, The Learning Channel). While I have learned a lot from the internet, about community gardens, I have learned more from all of you, and from myself too. Some examples include: 1. Gardeners are busy people and do not have time for lots and lots of meetings, 2. Following through on ANY task that involves paperwork, forms, proofing and such easily falls by the wayside for busy people who are consistently bombarded by emails. 3. We make vacant lots look better without being forced to do so by city ordinance, without having to fill out copious amounts of forms, without being threatened with code compliance officers, and without certificates of occupancy. When the neighbors come to our community gardens they usually want to join and we don’t turn anyone away.

This recommended option will change the way we have created community gardens so far. First, there will be lots of meetings, with neighbors and interested parties (you know no one will be able to meet at the same time). Then there will be required signatures from everyone that lives within 200 ft. of any proposed garden (I want to know if this includes other vacant lots, homes under foreclosure and homes for sale). The next phase will be to create a site plan (if its winter, you’ll just have to say that you will garden in the area that suspiciously looks like poison ivy even if you won’t know that it is until the spring) and finally to apply for a permit (how long this process will take has not been hypothesized). If you could not find those neighbors from 200 ft away, the city will hold a public hearing at the expense of $500 (maybe, it could be less, they don’t know yet). In the end, the proposed community garden can have 400 sq. ft of structural space (in the rear only and I won’t even get started talking about the need for a pavilion to collect rain water and host gatherings), no animals grazing or produced (forget about anyone’s goat grazing on that poison ivy so that you can follow through with the proposed site plan, and forget too about those chickens you were thinking about. Seeing as how bees are animals too, they really aren’t allowed either), and no selling of harvested produce (though I am hoping that bartering does not count here).
Its true, we are on the cutting edge of a food revolution and there will always be attempts to stifle those who work hard to move our society forward, but I also know you would not garden if you did not believe that as a community we should fight for the right to grow food wherever we can. I am calling on your fighting spirit to overcome this recommendation. The members of the TEC committee are listed here so that you may contact them (even one email will help, and yours is important) and tell them you don’t want more meetings, more unnecessary fund raising (to cover added permit costs) and more bureaucracy all in the name of growing your own food. Please let them know what your experience tells you: Community Gardens can regulate themselves.

City of Dallas, Transportation & Environment Committee
Chair
Linda Koop 214-670-7817, linda.koop@dallascityhall.com
Vice Chair
Sheffie Kadane 214.670.4069
Members
Jerry R. Allen 214-670-4068, jerry.allen@dallascityhall.com
Tennell Atkins (214) 670-4066, tennell.atkins@dallascityhall.com
Carolyn R. Davis 214-670-4689, carolyn.davis@dallascityhall.com
Vonciel Jones Hill 214-670-0777, vonciel.hill@dallascityhall.com
Angela Hunt (214) 670-5415,  angela.hunt@dallascityhall.com
Delia Jasso   214-670-4052, delia.jasso@dallascityhall.com
Pauline Medrano, Deputy Mayor Pro Tem 214-670-4048, pauline.medrano@dallascityhall.com
Ron Natinsky, 214-670-406,  ron.natinsky@dallascityhall.com

Thanks, and hope to see you tomorrow,
Mariana
214-215-5627