ENCINITAS — City Council voted unanimously to support the idea of a community garden and directed staff to form a sub-committee to study the idea. Yet, the council disagreed on the particular site for the project.
Parks and Recreation staff and volunteer commission members joined environmental commissioners to craft a report on community gardens.
Councilman Dan Dalager said he supported the concept but with certain “caveats.” He said there were no specific plans for the Quail Gardens Drive property. He said he wanted to keep the city’s options open. He said he was leaning toward the Indian Head Canyon site for a community garden study.
Jerome Stocks said he supported a partnership between nonprofits, educational institutions and private businesses in managing and maintaining the garden.
Stocks said he doesn’t support the Quail Gardens site because “it is not the highest and best use of land with a tentative parcel map on it.” He also said the site is too sloped and close to neighbors who might complain about noise and dust.
Councilwoman Teresa Barth gave proponents praise for their work on studying the logistics of a community garden. “I wholeheartedly support this.” She said she supported the Quail Gardens Drive site. “As far as the best and highest use of land, the health and happiness of our community not the dollars that the land could possibly bring,” Barth said to applause of the crowd.
Councilman James Bond said the Quail Gardens Drive site was worth at least $5 to $7 million in the current market. “There’s nothing wrong with sitting on it,” he said. He said he preferred the Indian Head Canyon site because it is rural and cannot be sold by the city.
Mayor Maggie Houlihan argued that the cost of servicing additional housing that could be built on the nine-acre parcel would not pay for itself. “I really want to explore all of the options,” she said. “This land belongs to the taxpayers.”
Projected costs are based on a one-acre garden with 50 plots. Annual dues would be collected. The city would not have any costs associated with maintaining the garden or have a role in oversight.
Encinitas resident Gordon Smith presented the council with approximately 1,500 signatures of citizens who support the idea of a community garden. He said that local landscape businesses are also supportive
Shirley Finch, a senior citizens commissioner, said that from a senior perspective the garden makes perfect sense. “To me this is an opportunity to get out, get some fresh air and socialize.” She also suggested that seniors be paired with youth to work on plots together to strengthen multi-generational relationships. “So, for seniors I can’t imagine anything more healthy.”
Over a million community gardens exist nationwide.
Speakers emphasized the benefits of growing organic foods with neighbors. Janet Neal, an Encinitas resident, said she spoke to residents of Quail Gardens Drive where the city owns a large parcel of land. “I think it’s a big asset,” she said.
On the issue of using that particular piece of land as a housing sub-division she invoked the early leaders of New York City in preserving a huge swath of land for Central Park rather than commercial or residential development. “I think it’s important in our city to have a greater vision than that,” she told the council.
Activist Kevin Cummins asked the council if it already had a vision for the Quail Gardens Drive site. He said that the history of the site includes a land swap idea from 2004 that did not come to fruition. Cummins said that all of the options for the property should be addressed.
Carris Rhodes said the community garden is a way to preserve the city’s cultural heritage. She said agriculture was historically an important part of the community but has diminished over the years. “This is a real chance for the city and the community to come together in an amazing partnership,” she told the council.