SOS Yanonali Community Garden!
By Chauncey Gardener
This post is the first of continuing Edhat posts, we hope, about the Yanonali Community Garden, a cherished section of the 2.32 acres of the Eastside Neighborhood Park. Our garden, and although we are but tenants, we think of it as ours, has been a happy and rewarding veggie-producing location for many Eastside residents for almost 50 years!
According to 1977's Histories of Individual Parks by Mary Louise Days, City Planning Division, the "Mendolia Property", was purchased from the Santa Barbara Elementary School District in 1970. It was subsequently transferred to park usage and "(n)eighboring residents (of the long-established residential area) established a community garden on a portion of the unnamed park."
Fast forward to now, descendants of some of those families are still gardeners while the rest of us mostly live within the walking distance area; some are newcomers, some have been gardeners for more than 20 years.
This weekend, I tallied 79 10' x 20' ground-level plots, 6 raised beds, and 5 semi-raised beds along the western fence. Although there's been a disturbance in the usual springtime hive of activity, most are actively gardened. For the $67 annual rent, the gardeners provide their own organic soil amendments and some have dug deep, 18-24", 200 sq. ft., and laid gopher-proof hardware cloth, strong wire mesh, to defeat the hungry critters.
This spring the peacefulness has been upended: we learned that Parks & Rec have firm intentions for "improvements". Last October, there was a meeting in the garden which a few of us attended. Associate Planner Denise Johns told us that all the plots will be razed and then rebuilt to a quarter their size, from 10'x20' to 5'x10'; they'd remove those along the west side to "facilitate mowing"; they'd remove the garden shed to prevent "unspeakable" misuse; and they'd aim to generally make the garden more of a neighborhood gathering, with picnic space along with educational benefits such as an insectarium and lectures.
The few of us there were shocked. We were told it would not happen until the following year, grant and other monies would be known about in April, 2022, plans firmed, work started at the end of 2022, the garden locked off to all when the plots would be bull-dozed and then we'd be assigned new ones; no rental fee would be charged in the usual July. It was all very hard to believe!
What we were NOT told was that several days later, on October 11, Parks would go to ABR, Consent Calendar, the location for items that are routine, quick-moving. There is no video of the meeting so we don't know if the Garden was even mentioned as part of the overall plans for the Eastside Park; two of the three ABR Consent members present passed it forward, with the usual 10 days for Appeal. On April 18, the full ABR praised and ratified the plans. No 10 days, no Appeal since we, the gardeners affected by what are called "improvements", did not know of the meeting.
Many who are there gardening for their families and neighbors, think that, except for minor things, repairing some of the hoses, redoing the lock system, the garden does not need these "improvements".
To their credit, Parks has called meetings this spring; to our disappointment, the only change has been in the distance the west fence will be moved: retaining the 6 larger plots but not the lemon tree or the 5 smaller plots. Mayor Rowse and councilmember Sneddon have visited and talked with us; councilmembers Oscar Gutierrez and Mike Jordan came to a Parks Dept. meeting and spoke with some of the gardeners. The intended thousands of dollars, grant monies do come from somewhere! and, as the $100,000 ARPA funds, are often special-purposed, could be much less and spent in replacing the lock system and repairing what is only a bit worn down in places, not in moving the chain link fence, razing years'-long work, and rebuilding.
Although there has been welcome publicity in the "Indy", we wanted the wider community to know more about where things stand now. City budget hearings are on-going. Follow-up posts by other gardeners will describe why a community garden is such a jewel and why the City should spend monies on developing more Community Gardens, in more neighborhoods, as councilmember Sneddon said she favored, not fixing what isn't broken.
802 have signed the petition to preserve Yanonali Community Garden. Parks has indicated they are only interested in what the gardeners have to say, but their pending survey, available on the City website, does ask opinions of non-gardeners. If you haven't signed the petition, here it is: https://bit.ly/SaveOurGarden
We also have a Facebook page, Friends of Yanonali Community Garden, that a Yanonali gardener built; come visit!
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