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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

San Ramon Gardens to be Destroyed

The Finance/Policy Committee of the City of San Ramon’s Parks & Community Services Commission met with a handful of local community gardeners on Tuesday, September 16, 2008 to give them the bad news about some rather drastic changes they propose to make at Crow Canyon Community Gardens, one of the more significant green activities existing today in San Ramon.

San Ramon GardensBeautiful and historic Crow Canyon Community Gardens, located at 105 Park Place in San Ramon, have flourished since 1990 when land to be used for this specific community purpose was conveyed to the city by Virginia Mudd, founder of the nearby Mudd’s Restaurant. These somewhat eclectic, traditionally organic, gardens are located in a tranquil, off the beaten path, heavily wooded nature area that has given immense joy and a deep appreciation of nature to hundreds of Bay Area families for many years. For a wonderful and colorful history of these magnificent gardens please go to Mudd's Restaurant History Page.

San Ramon Gardens GrowerCommunity gardeners at Crow Canyon Gardens include individuals and families from all walks of life-- professionals, academics, blue collar workers, retired persons-- and represent a collection of cultures as diverse as the community of San Ramon itself. Some of the non-resident gardeners work in San Ramon and temper their commutes by unwinding in their garden plots. Many gardeners involve their children in witnessing nature’s magical processes first hand – some include their grandchildren.

The policy changes now being imposed represent the culmination of an ongoing battle the City has waged against its community gardeners for more than a decade. The conflict between the two sides is a basic one: Which is more important? Continued expansion of the City’s tax base through increased development or providing an opportunity for people to enjoy the quiet comforts and rewards of green, organic gardening. Clearly, San Ramon has chosen to expand through increased development.

The protracted, adversarial relationship between the City and the gardeners has taken a heavy toll. Many gardeners who just wanted to till their gardens in peace and enjoy the fruits of their labor have grown tired of the City’s persistent, negative treatment and are giving up their plots.

Under its latest policies, among other things, the City proposes to destroy twenty individual garden plots that have been under constant cultivation from the very beginning of Crow Canyon Gardens. Each of these individual plots represent thousands of hours of loving, but demanding physical labor and cash outlays of hundreds of dollars by gardeners over the years. The City now demands that these twenty garden plots be destroyed. Fences, arbors, trellises, planting beds and all plant support structures must be removed by this coming December. Valuable, rich and productive top soil will be lost forever when it is bulldozed over.

According to Jeff Eorio, Director of the San Ramon Parks & Community Services Department, the space occupied by the twenty garden plots is needed by the City for expanded youth activities. This will apparently result in increased revenues for the City.

One might think the existing 425 acres of current park space in San Ramon would be sufficient for its youth activities, but the City doesn’t agree. It wants the less than 1 acre of land now occupied by these 20 community garden plots brought into the park fold.

Over the years, gardeners have come to realize that San Ramon pays lip service to but places no real value on community gardening. At every meeting with the gardeners, the City reiterates its intention to eliminate what it describes as an “eyesore” or “hodge-podge” of visually diverse, individual community gardens and says it wants to achieve greater uniformity or evenness within the area. City representatives assert they have received complaints about the lack of a pristine, consistent, homogeneous appearance of the gardens. When pressed, however, they confess such complaints have only been verbal, and not in large numbers.

As one community gardener succinctly described the situation, “The City wants to take away the basic uniqueness of the individual gardeners from our community.”

The present Parks & Community Services Commission sees no redeeming value to having a “green” activity like organic gardening in San Ramon, and does not perceive any tangible benefit derived from the local production of an estimated 15,000 pounds of fresh, organic vegetables each and every year for the nourishment of gardeners, their friends and neighbors, and the Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano, a regular recipient of the gardener’s produce.

The gardeners suspect the absence of any actual gardeners on the Parks & Community Services Commission is a major problem for them. Even so, the persistent anti-green, anti-gardening posture of the Commission seems rather surprising in this enlightened age of universal environmental concerns and an ever-expanding affinity for “earth-friendly” types of activities. Their posture is consistent, however, with the “growth at any cost, more plastic and chrome” direction the City of San Ramon is heading.

To demonstrate San Ramon’s historically negative bias against community gardening, the gardeners point to a checkered litany of actions (and inactions) the City has taken:

  • Raising the current Garden Allotment Fee from $50.00 to $138.00 per year. [This proposed new fee amounts to an increase of 275% and is three times the national average garden allotment fee.]

  • ]Raising the current deposit fee from $60.00 to $150.00. [This proposed new deposit represents an increase of 250% and is fifteen times the national average deposit fee.]

  • Scheduling meetings of critical importance to the gardens with only 24 hours advance notice to the gardeners - and then holding those meetings at times and locations logistically inconvenient to most gardeners.

  • Granting garden plots to new families over the past year but not informing these new gardeners of the City’s imminent plan to take over those same plots in less than a year. The significant time and money investment made by these new gardeners on their plots, especially in these tough economic times, could have been avoided if the City had just been honest with them.

  • Routinely opposing the gardeners’ use of metal stakes and fence wire around their individual plots - but employing the exact materials, in the same manner, at the immediately adjacent City-operated gardens.

  • Forcing several gardeners to give up garden plots they had tilled for many years because they shared the same last name of a related gardener, despite the fact the relatives were adults and they maintained separate San Ramon households!

  • Failing to honor commitments repeatedly made to gardeners such as: Identifying a permanent city employee to interface with the gardeners; installing a bulletin board at the gardens; allowing gardeners to access a portion of the City’s Web site; and working closely with the Gardeners Committee on any proposed changes to garden policies. None of the above promises were kept.

According to one departing CCG gardener who has decided he’s had quite enough of San Ramon’s shabby garden politics, “I have gardened on community plots for eight years in three different cities and this experience has been the toughest.”

The Finance/Policy Committee plans to present their final policy recommendations to the full Parks & Community Services Commission at a public meeting to be held on October 8, 2008. The City indicated they would mail all Crow Canyon Gardeners a timely copy of their final policy recommendations and timely official notice of the full commission meeting.

The community gardeners plan to enlist the support of the Bay Area gardening public and appear in significant numbers at the October 8th meeting to express their opinions. Readers who wish to attend this meeting are welcome and email or written correspondence to San Ramon city officials is encouraged.

For more information or to interview individual Crow Canyon community gardeners contact:

Crow Canyon Gardens
Gardeners Committee

Contact: James R. Conner
(925) 735-3408

Local Food Bank Pick Ups

Food Bank Pick Ups

Food bank truck picks up the vegetables.
San Ramon Gardens Vegetables


Anonymous said...

I do not understand why the city of San Ramon is so set against the community garden. Have they not heard that this world needs more healthy, green activities? Not more metal? This garden also provides for those in need - what can be more important than that? It is not only a benefit to those who get some of the organic produce from the gardeners, but also to the people who are tilling the soil and growing the vegetables. Everyone knows that outdoor activities such as these are good for you physically, emotionally and mentally. There are so many positives to maintaining the existence of these gardens, it is difficult to understand why anyone would want to eliminate them. As someone who has grown up in an agricultural area, I would hate to see this small plot taken away from people who would have no other opportunity to grow their own food and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Priorities of the city need to be questioned.

Anonymous said...

I do not see in any way how this makes sense. What happens to all of the improvements that gardeners have made to their plots? Aren't they aware of the current popularity of eating local, eating organic, eating healthy? Don't they care about the health of their citizens? Especially of the children who can get fresh locally grown organic produce? What about the benefical aspects of gardening in general to San Ramon's citizens? This is crazy! Makes no sense!! ( I think I already said that)

Unknown said...

It seems this would go against any "Green" initiative out there as well. We are encouraging local farmer's markets but not encouraging residents to grow their own vegetables, etc. It is very sad this story and seems to be against any environmental initiative. The City of San Ramon may want to view this as an A+ on the environmental issues of today. Mudd's promotes natural growing of vegetables as do these gardens. Another park? Give me a break - the parks we have today aren't used enough. I wonder what the real motive is behind the City of San Ramon's iniative to remove the gardens? Something else is going on.....don't give up - !! Fight them....

Anonymous said...

The city has a record of not informing the gardeners until it's too late for public review or participation. The proposed perimeter fence will keep out people and maybe deer and dogs, but not the gophers. Many gardeners have spent a lot of time and money building elaborate gopher proofing schemes to make this land gardenable.

The removal of these will destroy the ability to garden at all. I believe this is the intent of the city when they did not mention the perimeter fence in the two public meetings. This kind of politics puts the City to shame. Don't the employees of the Parks Dept have real work to do? Maybe we need to review their jobs and find out why they are not focusing on real work for what they are getting paid.

Concerned Community Gardener

Unknown said...

To the Mayor and distinguished members of the San Ramon City Government,

As residents of San Ramon for the last six years, my wife and I have come to love this area for its beauty and diversity. It's amazing to see a goat farm, several farmers' markets, horse riding facilities, cows, sheep, and an auto museum within just a few miles of our home, and all sorts of wildlife from wild turkeys to pheasants, coyote and quail right outside our door. There are beautiful fountains, flowers and parks all over the area.

We realize that to keep the area in this condition requires planning and a higher level of funding from citizens. We have decided to make that sacrifice, based on our desired lifestyle. Being in a very pricy real estate market, not all residents want or need a single family home with a yard and have chosen a condo or apartment for their residence. The obvious downside to this is that those who love to have a small plot of land to plant a garden or flowers cannot do so. That is why we were so pleased to hear from our neighbors that San Ramon had a community garden where residents could rent a small space and enjoy these activities. Ever since we have been here, these neighbors have shared their bounty with many families, in addition to the County Food Bank.

We now read in the San Ramon Tribune that the city has raised fees on this activity to usurious levels and even plans to shut down some of the gardens altogether. We read that the city needs to add this one acre parcel to the 425 acres of (frankly underutilized) parks. We also read that city leaders have received "complaints about the lack of a pristine, consistent, homogeneous appearance of the gardens" and that this is another reason to close them down. We seriously doubt that statement. With all the new schools, stadiums and parks being added in this area, we are not convinced that taking away an obviously community friendly, environmentally friendly, educational activity is in the best interest of the residents. This activity may be just the exercise that some folks need to help with a healthy lifestyle so that they continue to be able to contribute their tax revenues to the city.

There are many other ways to increase revenues besides taking away city services. For example, if we erected web cameras on the two fountains on Dougherty Road and prosecuted folks who would clog their function with soap, we would save not only city workers time, but would insure that we collect the appropriate restitution from the perpetrators. Post those cameras on the web and let an occasional San Ramon resident review what was happening in real time or record the images for later review and we would have a win all around.
We would like to see the city take another look at this situation with the Community Gardens and do a side by side comparison of the benefits and costs of each. It is hard to imagine that the city would gain from annexing this land for another use. Has anyone from the San Ramon Food Bank weighed in on this situation? It seems that they would have experience the greatest impact (after the gardeners themselves) if the City plan goes through. And shouldn't the voters get to vote on something like this before it is implemented?


Chuck and Gayle Swafford
The Lakes at Canyon Lakes
San Ramon, CA 94582

Anonymous said...

During a visit to San Ramon from our home in Minnesota this past spring, my husband and I were given the opportunity to visit the community garden in San Ramon and were so impressed with the beauty and peaceful atmosphere and all the work the gardeners had done on their plots. As life-long, 4th generation farmers we recognized the long-term committment shown by these people. Certainly, it is important to provide youth ample areas for recreation, BUT let's not forget the older generations that should also be allowed the opportunity to pursue their interests, also - benefiting not only themselves but actually benefiting others as well. Doesn't that sound like an excellent life style example for our youth?

Anonymous said...

The City is up to it's old tricks again! No notification to the citizens! The Mayor, Abram Wilson and "his council" Scott Perkins, Carol Rowley, Dave Hudson,and Jim Livingston are now taking away the citizen's rights to their beloved garden created for health and well-being! These "old-boy politicians" need to go! Just some of their recent games against San Ramon citizens: 1)they allowed 55 houses to be built on the ridge (off of Old Ranch Rd) in violation of the "Save Our Hills Ordinance.";2)They shut down the recycling center; 3)Rezoned the City Center Property to allow higher building densities for Alex Mehran's hotel, retail, and condos in violation of the General Plan!4) Continue to Falsely advertise City Center property on corner next to City Park (this property belongs to Alex Mehran - developer); 5)Sued a SR Citizen who tried to add stop signs in Windemere for safety of his kids!;6)Voted to implement "Eminent Domain" for City use over the next 12 years! In opposition to San Ramon citizens outstoken views!;and, 7)tried to shut down Beta Court Business owners and take their property to build 724 more condos! All at the expense of San Ramon citizens! Get these croonies out! VOTE NO - ABRAM WILSON - ASSEMBLY. Protect the State of CA!

Anonymous said...

We really appreciate the great vegetables we get from this gardening project and will hate to see it go. - Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano

Mark Barnett Twin Creeks San Ramon said...

This attitude within the City appears to be against anything unique and original (I might add artistic and imaginative). The Gardens have been apart of the community since the early '80s and have been a place of health mindedness and education to many (children and adults). It should be allowed to remain historical landmark.

Mark W Barnett
Twin Creeks, San Ramon.

Anonymous said...

This is very sad news. I live up the street and noted the leveled plots just yesterday. But I am not suprised by the city's and the Parks Commission attitude and lack of commitment to the gardens. They have been antagonist for years. I remember even back then thinking, it's soon going to be just like the song:
"They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot"!

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