Path smoothed for Encinitas Community Garden


The long-delayed Encinitas Community Garden cleared a key hurdle at the July 17 Planning Commission meeting.

The Planning Commission unanimously decided community gardens are allowed in the Encinitas Ranch Specific Plan, meaning the project doesn’t need a minor-use permit to move forward.

As a result, Gordon Smith, president of the Encinitas Community Garden Committee, a nonprofit heading the project, said he hopes it debuts in the next month or two.

“We’ve been working on this for six years,” Smith said after the meeting. “Finally, it looks like we’re close.”

The Encinitas Ranch Specific Plan allows horticulture services and agriculture operations, but it doesn’t specifically mention community gardens. So the Planning Community had to decide whether a community garden was similar to various agriculture uses.

“If a community garden — where we’re going to grow things in an agricultural sense — doesn’t fit into agriculture, we have a problem,” Planning Commissioner Anthony Brandenburg said at the meeting. “I mean, it seems to flow naturally.”

Yet the project still needs a coastal development permit to take root.

Organizers are working to attach the garden to an existing Encinitas Union School District CDP to fast-track the process.

The garden proposes to sprout on part of a 10-acre property on Quail Gardens Drive owned by EUSD. Plans call for crops, educational facilities and other features on the rest of the land.

After the meeting, Elizabeth Taylor, counsel for the Encinitas Community Garden Committee, said city staff will weigh in soon on whether the garden can be included in the coastal development permit with little effort or whether a lengthier amendment is necessary.

Smith said the community garden will have about 80 large planter boxes; about 15 are already built.

“People will get to experience what it’s like growing food for their friends and family,” he said.

A small farmstand to sell produce might be a future feature, though not for at least a couple years, Smith said.

He noted about 30 people have volunteered to set up the garden, and another 40 have expressed interest in plots.

“We haven’t even advertised the garden, but word is starting to get out,” Smith said.

Last month, during a meeting addressing the garden’s delay, the City Council expressed interest in waiving certain fees for the project if they arise at a later date.