Editorial: Garden sale a bad idea, then and now

Six months after the Grover Beach City Council blocked the sale of a city-owned community garden, the proposal is back on the table. We believed the sale was a bad idea then. We still consider it an unwise move that should be considered only as a last resort.

A one-time infusion of $235,000 — the suggested price six months ago — may temporarily solve the city’s budget crisis, but what happens next year? As City Councilwoman Phyllis Molnar points out in today’s Viewpoint, what is really needed is a comprehensive plan to reduce expenses and increase revenue over the long term.

We also question whether selling this particular lot for residential development makes sense. It would first require a general plan amendment and zone change, which would take time.

On top of that, the land located on Brighton Avenue would accommodate two housing units at most. In terms of meeting the needs of the community, that’s a small return when you consider that this piece of land had been purchased for future park development. That plan never materialized, but the land has served a good purpose as a community garden.

In that respect, Grover Beach has been ahead of the curve. Many cities are just now jumping on the urban garden bandwagon as the advantages become ever more apparent. Fighting obesity; keeping food costs down; beautifying neighborhoods are just a few of the benefits derived from community gardening.

To its credit, Grover Beach appears willing to continue its gardening program. Staff is looking at other city-owned properties that could accommodate gardens in the event that the Brighton Avenue property is sold. It’s identified a couple of other locations that would yield as many — or more — plots of land.

That’s encouraging, but we’re still concerned about paving over an existing garden when that will do so little to solve Grover’s economic plight.

Ideally, the city should keep the garden on Brighton and add garden plots at one or two other locations. We also urge the city to review its policies for community gardening, to ensure that a maximum number of families are accommodated. For example, gardeners should not be allowed to rent more than one plot of land whenever there’s a waiting list of people who want space. We also recommend giving priority to city residents.

We recognize that in these economic times, many communities face tough choices. But selling off important assets — and we include urban gardens in that category — for short-term fiscal relief is a bad idea. We urge the Grover Beach City Council to reject it.