SOS Yanonali Community Garden!

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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: 

We also have a Facebook page, Friends of Yanonali Community Garden, that a Yanonali gardener built; come visit!

Op-Ed's are written by community members. The views and opinions expressed in Op-Ed articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of edhat. Do you have an opinion on something local? Share it with us at

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Minibeast May 09, 2022 04:55 PM
SOS Yanonali Community Garden!

Is this true? Are we all on the same page now about Parks & Rec not paring down Yanonali Community Garden and installing "improvements" that the users of the garden do not want or need? Here is the reply I received from Mayor Rowse 5/09/22:

My understanding from your fellow gardeners is that the Parks and Rec department has been working with them cooperatively.

Seal of the City of Santa Barbara
Randy Rowse
CITY OF SANTA BARBARA, Mayor & City Council
(805) 564-5322 |

a-1652324168 May 11, 2022 07:56 PM
SOS Yanonali Community Garden!

Minibeast, Not that we have seen or heard. The survey results will be released this weekend or so; and apparently, soon there will be a schedule of what they intend to do. There is absolutely no indication that they intend to retain the present garden without the bulldozing and moving the fence inward. Hope you see this reply.
a Yanonali gardener

Rinconer May 07, 2022 07:42 AM
SOS Yanonali Community Garden!

The only “unspeakable misuse” here is by the Parks and Rec. department. Shameless food grab masquerading as “improvements”.
Time to get a Posse of Lawyers.

Luvaduck May 07, 2022 07:11 AM
SOS Yanonali Community Garden!

Another bureaucratic-sanctioned "improvement" that in fact is a degradement for the neighborhood. In middle-class, home-owners' larger lots excess produce goes in baskets to the curb and neighbors take a few of the tomatoes, squashes, lemons and so forth. Community gardens in rental areas supply the same "home-grown" food in season to family, neighbors and friends. It's a learning tool for kids. Sacrifice that for yet more picnic benches and schoolyard toys? A step backward for the community.

Lucky 777 May 07, 2022 05:53 AM
SOS Yanonali Community Garden!

I recently responded to the City survey about Stow Grove Park
and enthusiastically advocated for a community garden there. They seem bent towards sports fields, but in my belief more good could come of a community garden where neighbors could come together to grow food and interact.
This old community garden is an important asset to the Eastside, and deserves our support. If the last 2 years have taught us anything it is how easily the Government can cause us to lose touch with each other, and become afraid of human contact.

Bird May 07, 2022 07:07 AM
SOS Yanonali Community Garden!

Thanks for the reminder of this survey — it is for all who use/visit the park and not just Goletans? There is a dreadful suggestion of locating a skatepark there! Those who want such should listen to the skatepark in Santa Barbara —- very noisy, not appropriate for the ocean, beach side, absolutely inappropriate for Stowe Grove.

Transparent May 06, 2022 10:24 PM
SOS Yanonali Community Garden!

I like to walk in that neighborhood. That lemon tree is essentially dead... I understand you may have beautiful memories of its better days, as I do... but the future doesn't always look like the past.

a-1651932076 May 07, 2022 07:01 AM
SOS Yanonali Community Garden!

The lemon tree needs pruning of the dead branch; it does not look “essentially dead” from seen from within the garden. Moving the fence so the old tree is outside the garden and adjacent to the “adult exercise” area will mean that it will be dead. Having a row of citrus on that side was suggested by one of the gardeners at the city meeting. Helpful to all to learn about the special requirements of citrus nut to share the fruit. A focus on exercise machines that have to be located in that particular place because they said they will be there is odd. Not mentioned in this story is the ABR-approved plan to run a road for parks vehicles along the eastern side, cutting in half the plots there. That idea has not been abandoned, at least there's been no notice to the gardeners.

Bottom line is that this COMMUNITY garden needs tweaks of upkeep, not a bulldozing and there is a lot of other space for the “adult exercise” that, unlike the family exercise within the garden, requires machines.

Minibeast May 06, 2022 09:42 PM
SOS Yanonali Community Garden!

When I was 17, I lied and said I was 18 years of age ---- so that I could sign up for the Organic Gardening class at Adult Ed. Where the MTD Transit Center is now located (SE corner of Figueroa & Chapala) is the plot of land that we planted. ------------- I was the youngest student. The eldest was 87 years old. -------------- To state that that class was a life-changing, joyous experience would be to only ever so vaguely do it justice. Warren Pierce was the instructor. The skills I learned and people I met in that series of gardening classes helped me gain a sublime appreciation for planet Earth and all it has to offer. I think there is nothing better than to be outside and be close to the soil. When you're gardening, you don't only engage with and learn about plants. You learn to love the creatures who join you in your work: Birds, bees, butterflies, lizards, ants, sowbugs, earwigs . . . Not only the creatures you can see, but the microbial life as well ----- Everything contributes, everything has its place and its special occupation. Gardening is an involving, evolving and never-ending culture. It teaches you about yourself and also helps you to learn more about the world around you. ----------- The City of Santa Barbara, by condoning Parks & Rec's recent actions re: attempting to groom and disarrange the Yanonali Community Garden, is not working in the best interest of its citizenry. -------- I hope that everyone will come together on this issue and put their backs into keeping Yanonali Garden a thriving, viable, happy place to be. Let's have the gardeners decide what is best for their garden space. If the gardeners don't welcome their area being interfered with---- then leave them to their own devices. Let Yanonali remain a peaceful, mentally and spiritually engaging place for the users to connect with the earth. And let the City of Santa Barbara get to work adding more Community Gardens rather than disrupting what is already established and immensely beneficial to our residents.

SB_93117 May 07, 2022 08:29 AM
SOS Yanonali Community Garden!

MINI BEAST: what a lovely story and one I wish I heard from other youth of today. If the councilmembers wanted to do something more for those gardens, they should create a project where teenagers are able to learn the same skills you learned to help them get off their electronic devices and get their hands in the dirt instead. You beautifully and eloquently explained how important it is for us to learn more about, and spend more time with and in, nature. Gardening truly heals the soul. I thank you for sharing your experience and proving that gardening brings people of all ages, all cultures, all histories, and all socioeconomic statuses together for one purpose. Well done!!

RHS May 06, 2022 07:17 PM
SOS Yanonali Community Garden!

The city posted a survey on this subject. But the survey was limited to those who already use the garden. The rest of the people couldn't offer any opinion. This is absurd. The garden is a community resource so we should all be able to opine on it. I think what is being done is cruel and short sided. If the city management/elected representatives want direction they should take if from all of us.

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