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Save Yanonali Community Garden!

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Our goal is to stop the city of Santa Barbara’s plans to shrink Yanonali Community Garden on Santa Barbara’s Eastside, a working class community. Santa Barbara has only two community gardens left. The city’s Parks and Recreation department’s plans for revamping the park call for moving in a fence and reducing the size of the garden. Moving in the fence wipes out twenty garden plots and displaces at least ten gardeners. The plan also calls for reducing the size of all the garden plots inside the garden to as small as 1/4th their current size. This is irresponsible planning and does not respect the work of the gardeners.

This garden was started in the early 1970s by community members, not the city. Many area residents do not have other land on which to garden. We are asking the City Council to stop construction before it begins in April 2022. If you are a Santa Barbara resident or local business and want to show your support, please sign the petition below and add an affiliation such as “Santa Barbara resident” “Yanonali Garden gardener,” “Rancheria gardener” and so on. Further details are below. Thanks!

--Yanonali Gardeners: Godfrey Trujillo, Keith Heiber, Liz Rothman, Robbie McKelvey, Juan Trujillo, Danah Williams, Robert Reith, Tarja Reith, Betsy Cramer, Kevin Mahn, Kate Connell, Kristina Meusel, Fred Nadis, Tom Bronzan, Lucy O’Brien,Chrystal Lee, Pamela Regan, Benjamin Bernal, Emmy Guzzon, LIsa Turner, Kymberly Ozbirn, Jack Rief, Shayna Hallman, Angela Coady, Victor Arroya Dominguez, Miguel Hernandez, Elizabeth Rothman, Karen Prescott

We, gardeners at the Eastside Park’s Yanonali Garden, and other Santa Barbara gardeners and concerned citizens urge the city of Santa Barbara City Council to reconsider the Parks and Recreation Department’s plans to decrease the overall size of Yanonali Garden as part of its renovation of Eastside Park. We request that the current plan to move the fence line in roughly forty feet be halted immediately. Gardeners of twenty plots have been ordered to abandon their gardens to make way for this fence. We are shocked, as well, with the plan to tear out all current garden beds and replace them with garden plots as small as one-fourth the current size. Decreasing the size of the overall garden and then downsizing individual garden plots, while charging the same rent price, will decrease the ability of Eastside gardeners to raise healthy organic food for their families and neighbors. Food insecurity is a serious issue in pandemic times and in our working class neighborhood. How is this an improvement plan? We request a meeting with both of you, council members Friedman and Gutierrez, to work on saving the garden.

1) The renovation plan moves the garden’s eastern perimeter fence in about 40-50 feet—providing less garden space. This will wipe out twenty existing garden plots. Those gardeners have been notified that they must vacate their gardens by March 31, 2022. At a public meeting the reason given was that a "straight fence will be easier to maintain when cutting grass." Helping people put healthy food on tables or making it easy to cut lawns—which is more important? If the fence is moved, slicing off a large proportion of the entire garden, this will automatically create a space shortage. With space diminished, and demand increased, the parks and recreation department’s follow-up plans to drastically decrease the size of individual garden plots will become self-justified. Moving the fence will have a negative impact on the garden and must be rejected.

2) When explaining why gardeners as of June 2022 will be allowed only one plot per household rather than two, city staff has noted that “many people are on the waiting list.” If there is a waiting list and shortage of gardens, don’t eliminate twenty plots at Yanonali. Pilgrim’s Terrace no longer is open to the public, making Rancheria and Yanonali the city’s only community gardens. Why, in the face of increased demand, make Yanonali garden smaller? It is time to create more community gardens not shrink the few that are left.

3) The park renovation plan recommends reducing the size of a plot from the current 20’ x 10’ or 200 square feet, to 5’ x 10’ or 50 square feet. This is not adequate space for the typical gardener. Vegetable gardening and organic gardening, in particular, require “crop” rotation; this will be impossible in such a small space. We have our own tools, tomato cages, posts, compost containers and worm bins, all of which the city’s rules require to be inside our plots. Very little can be grown on 50 square feet, perhaps two or three zucchini plants. That’s no longer a garden. Many of us have, at considerable expense and effort, improved the soil in our plots, and even dug out 400 cubic feet of soil (down two feet), to line the plots with gopher wire. Contending with gophers and insect and other pests, and long growing times, gardeners need enough space to yield produce. This plan wipes out all improvements gardeners have made and provides insufficient space for growing food. How does this show respect for the hard work and commitment of the community’s many gardeners?

4) Plans for the garden’s common areas must be rethought. Adding a “picnic area/event” space is not the best use of garden space. Nearly 1/3 of the outside park will have a large “picnic zone.” Gardeners do not need their own sequestered picnic zone. Why not put in a greenhouse instead? How about a compost system that all can use as at the Carpinteria community garden, Santa Barbara High School, or at SBCC? An area where gardeners can share seeds or starts? The toolshed is very useful and should not be removed because of purported issues with homeless persons. Other solutions are surely available.

We urge you and the city to reject the planned shrinking of the garden. Eastside Park has sufficient square footage for a renovated recreation area and a flourishing community garden. If enacted as proposed, rather than build and promote community, this plan will do considerable harm to gardeners in this neighborhood. Re-engineering the recreational space may bring in more park users—but why alienate those of us who have been here all along maintaining a productive, positive, healthy space?

The Yanonali Community Garden is a treasure for the entire Eastside neighborhood; children love roaming its paths; while many gardeners share their seasonal produce—that is locally sourced, sustainably grown, and organic—with friends and neighbors as well as their families. This garden’s legacy includes helping lower income residents grow and enjoy fresh produce.

It is time for city representatives, including the Eastside representative Alejandra Gutierrez and Eric Freidman, the council’s liaison to Parks and Recreation to meet with Yanonali Gardeners and create a more rational plan. For those interested, we have started holding meetings, outdoors, socially distanced, at Yanonali Garden on Saturday mornings at 10:00 a.m.

Let’s make this improvement plan work for everyone!

If you support our petition and are a resident of Santa Barbara or Goleta please sign below. Add any garden/environmentalist affiliations that fit. Thanks much!

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