[ Photo: Marciano “Chango” Cruz (left) is a founder of the Beach Flats Community Garden. Cruz marches with Beach Flats Gardeners, including Don Emilio Martinez Castañeda (center) who has been cultivating in the garden since it began over twenty five years ago. ]
On February 9, hundreds of people marched through downtown Santa Cruz from the Beach Flats Community Garden to the city council meeting. Gardeners, along with a large coalition of supporters, are seeking a creative solution to preserve twenty five years of cultivating food and culture in the heart of the Beach Flats.
Over the past year, the gardeners have asked for community support, and when 4,000 people signed a petition and 200 people showed up to a city council meeting last fall, the city agreed to attempt to negotiate a sale with the owners of the property, Seaside Company, who also own the Beach Boardwalk and much of the rest of the Beach Flats neighborhood.
Santa Cruz City Council recognized that the city’s master plan calls for far more green space than Beach Flats currently enjoys and that the Garden is all that is left. They also responded to the argument that cultural and agroecological diversity are crucial to Santa Cruz, a city rapidly gentrifying. However since that meeting, city leaders have failed to represent the community’s needs. Instead of negotiating a long-term solution with Seaside Company, the council is agreeing to a short-term lease of three years for only 60% of the property.
Beach Flats Community Gardeners and their supporters rallied at the Garden and marched to City Hall on February 9 to ask that the City Council:
- Take real steps towards negotiating for the acquisition of the garden, such as doing an appraisal and bringing in the Office of Economic Development.
- Protect the whole garden by asking the Seaside Company to not damage anything in the 40% they want to take over while negotiations over the acquisition of the property are going on.
- Refrain from taking legal action against the gardeners or punishing their activism by not giving them space in the garden they have worked so hard to preserve.
In a letter to the City Council, gardeners restated their desire to continue respectful conversation with the goal of finding a mutually acceptable path forward. The group also wants to make it clear that they do not intend to sue or otherwise take legal action against the City of Santa Cruz, but they do wish to continue gardening at the Beach Flats as the process moves forward. The English translation of the letter reads:
“We the Beach Flats Gardeners are trying to come to agreement with the City and the Seaside Company through respectful conversation, to protect the work we have done in the Beach Flats Community Garden over the past 25 years. We agree that we wish to protect 100% of the garden.
We have no intention of suing the city of Santa Cruz. We have heard that the city is considering legal action against us.”
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