(Pictures to the right - experimental (top floor of public parking structure) container garden in Chicago. Examples of "wading pools" and used automobile "tires" as containers for a community garden. For more info, see: "Urban Agriculture: A Guide To Container Gardens". CLICK on pictures to enlarge.)
The City of Santa Monica City Council had an item on the Agenda that may be of interest to you.(also see Staff report on this item)
5-A: Community Gardens proposed rules and regulations - recommendation that Council approve the proposed rules and regulations for the operation of the City's Community Gardens. This item may be of interest to cyclists, skaters, and pedestrians in Santa Monica.
The city council is being asked to put term limits on Community Garden plots space rentals. The staff are considering a one year term limit. There reasoning is that the space is public space and therefore should be shared more broadly with the public.
This is a very interesting dilemma. On one hand, there is a large population in Santa Monica whom rent apartment and are landless (gardenless). I highly suspect that group is a majority in Santa Monica.
Placing term limit access to our community garden plots would be counter productive, figuratively and literally, to the purposes and benefits of why people garden.
On the literal side, gardens, like other living things are not bound by the lifespan of human created term limits. Some plants have vast lifespans, that extend beyond the one year term limit proposed. Some plants don't even begin to bear ther fruit for a few year or more. And on the psychological and emotional side, gardens, like homes, are often acquired as a life time lifestyle or cultural experience, not limited to one year.
It may be of interest to you that there are community gardens in other parts of the world that in cities, sometimes called "urban farming" or "city gardens", or "movable gardens" which use existing, unused, paved space for their gardens.
One, that I think may be of interest to you is the use of the top floor of public parking structures as community garden space. This could significantly increase the amount of community garden space in Santa Monica with least impact and significant benefit.
In the guide, "Urban Agriculture: A Guide To Container Gardens", there is directions and pictures on transforming the top floor of public parking structures to community gardens using "container gardening" method.
In the first picture to the right, you can see the garden containers, 3 per car spot, in the space where cars used to park. Further, there are instruction on making gardening containers from used car tires(see pictures to the right).
I thought that was quite interesting to see a community garden on the top of a public parking structure which uses old automobile tires as the containers for their community garden.
Using used car tires in space that was formerly used to park cars is intriguing.
I would also like to note that this space could be used as a theraputic tool for people with disabilities, seniors and as an education tool for all our community, including those, and all other adults and children to learn about growing gardens, food, and sustainable living skills.
Also, Santa Monica could experiment with using some of this space as a green house community garden and for hydorponic year round gardens.
In Santa Monica, the top floors of the public parking structures are often the least desirable and least used floors of our public parking structures.
People in cars often want to park under the cover of a ceiling and closest to the ground level to keep their vehicles out of the sun and rain and to have less distance to walk and drive.
However, those least desirable space for parking cars make the most desirable spaces to grow gardens.
Further, this space is also a great space to make a relaxing outdoor space as well.
Think of sitting and lounging in a chair, reading a book, enjoying a beverage, have lunch, with the sound of the seagull and waves in the far distance. With the sun shining up above.
It also could be used a meeting or performance space for our community.
For example, we could have community screenings of films or the performance of plays. We could have the display of public art, in which people could come to see and enjoy.
The space would give access to the wonderful sun and the ocean breezes. And in some cases a spectacular view of the ocean.
The top of just one of these parking structures, if there were two container plots per parking, six rows of twenty five car spaces space per top floor of each public parking structure could yield 300 container plots. If you multiply three hundred times the seven public parking structures in downtown Santa Monica, you get two thousand one hundred new garden plots. See the picture to the right of the top of one of those downtown Santa Monica Parking structures.
If you use three container plots, as shown on the picture to the right, or add an additional two per row in the in the middle aisle, that number jumps to seven hundred and fifty (750) per parking structure, for a total of five thousand two hundred and fifty if their were container gardens on the top floor of all seven public parking structures in downtown Santa Monica.
If we could accommodate 300 on the top floor of all of them, we would have an additional 2100 community garden plots. That is around 2000% more than the number of people currently on the waiting list for the existing community gardens.
It seems that the public parking structures could easily accommodate the weight of a container community garden. I estimate that maximum weight of each container plot of a few hundred pounds after a good watering. Many cars weigh anywhere from two thousand to over four thousand pounds each(empty).
Additionally, this space would give people refuge, a place to relax from the traffic noise, fast pace, hustle and bustle traffic streets down below. It would also give those living or working in downtown a place to go for time out from their work and to get out of the their house.
Using this space would be in line with the sustainability commitment of Santa Monica, by providing local opportunities to grow food, produce more clean air by growing more plant life, possible use of rain water collection system, and rain fall in the containers to grow the plants, lower rain water run off. It would provide more opportunities for our city dwellers to learn and practice growing gardens, including edible plants.
These gardens will provide opportunities for the production and use of more waste for composting.
This space will also add for more park-like opportunities in downtown Santa Monica. It will also provide for possibility for more cultural and arts opportunities in downtown Santa Monica.
The city could also collect a nominal fee for use of this space.
And I think preference should be given to our Santa Monica residents whom live in apartments. Also, we may consider giving preference or fee reductions to those residents whom are car free or whom commit to some level of car free transportation, such as by using public transportation, bicycle, walk, and or skate.
Also, if this comes into flurition, or if there is consensus to move this idea forward, perhaps, we could have the first public parking community container garden be officially opened with ceremony on Car Free Day, September 22, 2006.
Here are some links for your review and reference on this subject:
- Meadows Community Garden
- Chicago Community Garden video report
- American Community Gardening Association
- Tips to start a Community Garden
- Organizing Your Community Garden
- Community Garden Start Up Guide(UC Davis)
- Community Garden Leadership training course(by FoodShare)
- Send Email to Cycle Santa Monica!
- Cycle Santa Monica! community forum
- Friends of Co-opportunity