Monday, April 23, 2012

More community gardens where pain used to be

Community gardens in San Francisco have come a long way from their rulebreaking origins. (See, for example, Chris Carlsson's photo essay here on The Farm, an unauthorized hippie gardening project on land around the 101-Bayshore interchange at what was then Army Street, now Cesar Chavez Street).

Now the idea of gardening on vacant lots even has the endorsement of SPUR, our local business-oriented think tank. The SF Chron reports that, in cooperation with Supervisor David Chiu, they want to make the regulatory permissions easier to start more gardens on vacant lots around the city.

SPUR has had some less inclusive ideas of uses for public space over the years, especially when it comes to getting homeless people out of public space, so this is nice to see.

Not that community gardens are always completely inclusive. They do sometimes shut out the general public in favor of authorized workers at the garden. Really that's the only way they can keep going usefully. But at least they're not income-exclusive, or anyhow not necessarily so. Maybe you know that, as in any small neighborhood organization, garden politics can get super-hairy, and snobbery does play a role in that kind of politics. But at least neighbors in these groups are talking to each other, not pretending they live on different planets. Fundamentally garden membership tends to be based on neighborliness and honest interest in growing good food, not on how much money someone has.

One of the newer community gardens is in a place with special meaning for people who were around the Coalition on Homelessness in 2000. It's the Tenderloin People's Garden, pictured in this photo that appears with today's Chronicle story. That lot on the corner of McAllister near City Hall is where homeless Street Sheet contributor Trent Hayward died tragically just as he was finding success as a writer. Chance Martin's angry, rude, well-written obituary for him has been reposted here. Kevin Fagan's in the Chronicle is here. (Chance's article links to it too, but the link there is a little off.)

The Chron article quoted one of Trent Hayward's friends calling that corner "a crappy place to die." Now it's a garden. That's a good memorial. It's a good reclamation of space. One that even SPUR can be happy about.

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