July 10th, 2009 · No Comments
BY NICK DIAMANTIDES
The Wrigley Community Garden is finally a reality, and some planting could begin this Saturday, July 11. Garden director Sasha Kanno described its progress at a presentation she gave during the monthly meeting of the Wrigley Association on Monday night. About 30 people attended the meeting at the Veterans Park community center.
“We are here tonight to promote our garden,” she said. “We are now taking plot reservations, and we will be there this Saturday laying out all the plots.”
The garden, located at 1950 and 1960 Henderson Avenue, was conceived by the unincorporated nonprofit group Wrigley is Going Green (WIGG). That organization and 6th District Long Beach City Councilman Dee Andrews worked together to persuade the city council and the Long Beach Housing Development Company (LBHDC) to allow the garden to be developed on the site that once contained two apartment buildings notorious for the drug dealers that occupied the units.
The two properties were acquired by the LBHDC (an arm of the City of Long Beach) several years ago, and the buildings were demolished in 2007 to make way for affordable housing that will eventually be developed there. The land has been vacant since the demolition.
“We have the garden space for two years before we turn it back over to the city which will use it for Habitat for Humanity housing,” Kanno said. “Our goal is to turn this property into a temporary learning space for the neighbors that live there and actually teach them to grow their own food.”
She added that the garden will also encourage residents to step out of their homes more and get to know some of the people who live in the area. “We are also going to take those neighbors into the permanent (garden site) that we are looking for,” she said. “The plots start at $20 for Henderson Avenue residents, $25 for other Wrigley residents and will go up depending on how far from the Wrigley area you live.” Standard plots are four feet by 12 feet. Half plots are also available at a lower cost.
Kanno said the garden will grow pumpkins and have art and social activities. “We are super neighborhood friendly, and we are going to have a really good time,” she added. “Later, we are going to write grants and have plant sales.”
After Kanno’s presentation, Wrigley Association President Annie Greenfeld told the audience that the Henderson Avenue apartment buildings were right behind her house. She explained that she had tried for nine years to get the city to force the owners to get the buildings up to code and to screen potential tenants properly. “There were huge drug dealers (operating) any time of the day or night,” she said. “It was graffiti ridden, gang ridden and a horrible place to live. I am really, really happy to see this garden go in.”
Greenfeld noted that 72 percent of the people in Wrigley are renters. “If we have the opportunity to have apartment dwellers come out and grow their own food, by all means let’s do it,” she said.
After Greenfeld’s comments, WIGG members Kanno, Lisa Wibro and Mauna Eichner spoke more about the garden with the Signal Tribune. “The Long Beach Housing Development Company approved the garden on June 17,” Wibro said. “There are some conditions of approval.” She explained that WIGG had to appoint a garden director, agree to vacate the site in two years and agree to conduct community outreach so that the public understands the garden may only be located on Henderson until 2011.
“We are looking for a permanent site, hopefully along the river,” Wibro added. “The garden on Henderson will be our showcase so we can show a future landlord what we will do at the more permanent location.”
Kanno noted that LBHDC also required WIGG to take out liability insurance and establish rules for all gardeners to follow.
Eichner said it is not too late in the year to start a garden and many vegetable plants grow better in late summer and early fall. “Last winter, in my own garden, I had bok choy and Swiss chard, and parsley grows all year round,” she said. “Lettuce, spinach and all the greens grow better when the weather is cooler.”
Wibro noted that a crew working in the city’s “Operation Mulch-A-Lot” program mulched the garden site recently at no cost to WIGG.
For more information about WIGG or the Wrigley Community Garden, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org,or call Andrews’s office at (562) 570-6816.