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City Council Backs Community Garden Annex

Despite some neighborhood opposition, proposal to expand the public garden into a space next to the Public Safety Buildings moves ahead.

A longstanding effort to build a annex on land near the took a major step forward Monday night when the Mill Valley City Council approved the garden’s location.

Now the group behind the project must find the money – approximately $40,000 – to turn their quest into a reality. The eventual construction of a community garden annex would be a boon to the some 60 people who sit on a waiting list to get into the main community garden behind the .

“We have more families in Mill Valley on waiting list than any community in Marin,” said Joan Irwin, a Mill Valley resident and member of the Marin Master Gardeners, noting that Mill Valley had 60 of the 200 people countywide waiting for a spot in the eight community gardens in Marin. “With community gardens, families do get to grow healthy food and people really learn to reconnect with the land. This is especially true for children who come to the garden.”

The 6,400-square-foot annex on Hamilton Drive would include space for 20-30 plots of varying sizes, a stark increase from the approximately 38 plots for use at the .

The project has the backing of the police and fire departments, the latter of which plans to use the space as a demonstration area for the types of fire-safe landscaping and vegetation to plant around a home.

Douglas Nelson, a Parks and Rec Commissioner who is a landscape architect with Royston, Hanamoto, Alley & Abey, has volunteered to design the garden annex for free. Supporters must then seek private donations and grants to pay for the city’s construction of the garden, or go to the city itself for funding if it can’t raise the money.

Julie Hanft, a founder of the Marin Open Garden Project, said the creation of the annex would have broader impacts on reducing the carbon footprint of the town.

“That’s less food that we need to bring in from the Central Valley or up from the desert regions,” she said.

Sylvia Jones, a 43-year Mill Valley resident, compared neighborhood resistance to the garden to past opposition to the townhouse complex on Blithedale Court where she lives, and her own subsequent initial resistance to hearing a “pizza joint” was moving into the old Perry’s Deli location across the street.

“ is a gracious, conscientious neighbor who serves considerate customers,” Jones said. “Whether it is NIMBY or ’not in my front yard,’ it’s the fear of the other.”

Jones suggested that community gardeners pay a “periodic tax of fresh produce” and that neighbors meet with gardeners to learn more about the project as it evolves.

No one spoke in direct opposition to the annex at the council meeting, though there has been plenty of criticism of the plan from neighbors in the past. Those concerns have centered on aesthetics, parking and traffic, potential for rodents

David Ward, a resident of 1 Eucalyptus Knoll St., told Mill Valley Patch earlier this year that aesthetics was the biggest reason neighbors opposed the idea.

“It’s not just looking at flowers and rows of vegetables,” he said. “It’s sheds, compost, bags of fertilizer, dead vines and leaves during the winter. For aesthetic reasons, many of us in the area thought that this was not the right place to expand the community garden.”

“We understand the positive values a garden represents for these people,” his wife Renee Ward said. “But why not seek a more discrete, less public area?”

The council directed Sansom to make sure that the aesthetic issues be addressed in the design phase. The city will also make sure that the annex is specifically monitored for rodents

Several councilmembers said the annex fit well with the goals of the city and of a larger movement throughout Marin and beyond.

“Mill Valley has a wonderful story to tell,” said Councilwoman Stephanie Moulton-Peters, who just attended the Marin County Community Garden Summit. “It’s a model that many other towns covet.”

The approval comes less than two weeks before the countywide Marin 100+ Garden Challenge, a campaign to create more than 100 gardens  in each city and town in Marin between May 14 and May 21.

Jill Fugaro May 03, 2011 at 02:04 PM
Terrific idea that I fully support! The current community garden is a beautiful spot that brings the community together in healthy ways. Any project with Joan Irwin involved will be developed in ways that truly serve others. Bravo Mill Valley for leading the way! Jill Fugaro Past President, Marin Master Gardeners

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