Changes Proposed to Increase Community Garden Access

Changes Proposed to Increase Community Garden Access title=
Changes Proposed to Increase Community Garden Access
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By the City of Santa Barbara

The City of Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation Department is proposing several changes to reduce waitlists and increase access to Department-run community gardens. Currently, the Department manages two community gardens, Yanonali Community Garden on the Eastside and Rancheria Community Garden on the Westside. In total, these gardens contain 134 plots, all of which are rented, with a combined waitlist of almost 100 households.

The proposed changes are as follows:

New Annual Renewal Period – Currently, the annual renewal period mirrors the City’s fiscal year, July through June. With this change, the annual renewal period would follow a calendar year, January through December, to better align with the typical growing season. Gardeners have not been billed for a renewal fee since July 2022, while policy changes have been in progress. If approved, the annual fee will be prorated to account for the months of January and February.

One Plot Per Household – When demand for community garden space was low, and no individuals were on the waitlist, individual households were permitted to rent more than one plot. Over the past ten years, as demand and waitlists grew, the Department has continued to honor the renewal of these legacy duplicate plots. With this change, households would be eligible to rent and renew only one plot. This new policy would allow 24 additional households to participate in the Community Garden Program and reduce the waiting list by more than 25%.

Release of Abandoned Plots – Throughout the annual rental period, it is common for Parks and Recreation staff to find abandoned plots. This refers to plots with excessive weeds, dead plant matter, and the build-up of trash and non-gardening items. With the proposed changes, renters of plots found to be abandoned will be notified that they are in violation of the Community Garden Rental Agreement and given seven days to return their plot to a satisfactory condition. Plots that remain inactive after seven days will be forfeited and released to the next household on the waitlist. In the case of a short-term hardship that prevents garden maintenance, gardeners may notify staff in writing to avoid receiving a violation notice.

Release of Mis-Used Plots – Throughout the annual rental period, it is common for Parks and Recreation staff to identify plots being used in violation of the Community Garden Rental Agreement. This includes the use or installation of prohibited plantings, treatments, structures, and furniture. An updated Community Garden Rental Agreement contains a list of prohibited items and uses to provide clarity for gardeners. With the proposed changes, renters of plots that violate the Community Garden Rental Agreement will be notified and given seven days to remedy the violation. Plots that have not been remedied after seven days will be forfeited and released to the next household on the waiting list.

The Community Garden Program is a valuable resource to increase the community’s access to fresh, nutritious foods. As a community service, roughly 90% of the program is subsidized by the Parks and Recreation Department budget.  In Fiscal Year 2022, the annual resident rental fee for a garden plot was $67, bringing in a revenue of $9,782. In the same year, the total cost to manage and operate the community garden program was $70,659, including $12,636 in water, $1,000 in materials and supplies, and $66,805 in administration, oversight, and maintenance of the gardens and program. This includes facilitating the rental process and fee collection, weekly garden inspections, repairs, and ongoing maintenance of the common areas and infrastructure.

Department staff will present the proposed changes to the Parks and Recreation Commission for further recommendations on Wednesday, January 25, at 4 p.m. at City Hall. Written public comment regarding this agenda item may be emailed to RNevarez@SantaBarbaraCA.gov. All written public comments will be provided to Parks and Recreation Commissioners and will become part of the public record. Comments received no later than 24 hours before the meeting will be submitted to the Parks and Recreation Commissioners prior to the meeting.

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