The Coast News Group
Vista City Hall
Street view of Vista City Hall. Photo via Google

Seeds for community gardens planted by Vista City Council

VISTA — Community gardens may be sprouting up in the coming months in Vista following City Council discussion at its Dec. 10 meeting.

Council directed city staff to bring back more information regarding the mechanics and logistics of the gardens during the meeting.

The item was brought forward by Councilwoman Corinna Contreras, who said community gardens or biodiversity hotspots would be a much-welcomed addition to beautification efforts.

“I have heard from people all over the city and in every district that they want community gardens,” Contreras said.

She said one goal for the council was to figure out any challenges or obstacles preventing the gardens from forming. It’s the reason she added biodiversity hotspots, which would allow for planting of California native plants and other site-suitable plants providing native and migratory species the opportunity to forage and thrive in an increasingly urbanized environment.

The hotspots, from the city’s perspective Contreras said, are taking a micro approach, rather than using the traditional macro-level definition, which is applied across large swaths of land.

“Increasingly urbanized environment is something we’re seeing here in the city,” she said. “We do have, as public land, an opportunity to not even purchase other property to pursue a community garden. There is no reason we can’t beautify our city with a community garden component or biodiversity component.”

Community gardens are collaborative projects on shared open spaces where participants share in the maintenance and products of the garden, including healthful and affordable fresh fruits and vegetables.

Gardens may offer physical and mental health benefits by providing opportunities to eat healthy fresh fruits and vegetables; creating green space; beautifying vacant lots; and creating green rooftops; along with decreasing violence in some neighborhoods and improving social well-being through strengthening social connections, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Contreras said.

She said there is no reason not to overlay Vista’s land availability with this type of beautification project.

Currently, a community garden is only allowed are mixed-use zones and the Downtown Specific Plan, although “zoning allows for a community into one of the existing land use categories.” Biodiversity hotspots, meanwhile, are permitted in any zone.

The cost is estimated at about $50,000 or more, which includes a water meter connection.

“I like the idea of proactively cultivate biodiversity,” Councilman John Franklin said. “I believe in being outdoors and being good stewards of the outdoors.”

Several residents spoke in support of the gardens noting such benefits as educational opportunities for children, growing different foods or plants and nominal annual fees for upkeep. In addition, residents also spoke of gardens strengthening social constructs, utilizing sun and rain cycles and saying being out in nature helps personal environments grow.

“You can grow healthy pesticide-free food,” said resident Mary Jo Poole. “With your power, you also have the ability to impact people in their daily lives. You can help feed people.”

As for the council, Mayor Julie Ritter, and council members Amanda Rigby and Joe Green were also in support of the gardens. The discussed how the city could gain traction, partnerships with private landowners, a possible grant program and the benefits gardens can bring to the city.

“We have to look at every single thing because there is a cost to it,” Contreras said. “I would be in favor of a nonprofit of taking the reins of it. I think it’s great to hear that we want to explore this as a possibility.”