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Path forward proposed for stalled community garden

A community garden has been in the works for five years at this Quail Gardens site, but hasn’t taken root. The council recommended a path forward on June 11.
(Jared Whitlock)

Residents have tried to establish a community garden on Quail Gardens Drive since 2009, only to hit a series of roadblocks.

The council suggested a path forward for the stalled garden at its June 11 meeting.

The hold-up is largely because community gardens aren’t explicitly defined as agriculture in the city’s municipal code. In turn, city staff members said the project needs a $1,600 minor-use permit to move forward.

Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz said whether or not it’s spelled out in the municipal code, a community garden certainly falls under the definition of agriculture.

“We can call it purple or something other than community garden if that’s what we’re wrapped around the axle about,” Kranz said.

With the aim of expediting the project, the council then directed the Planning Commission to determine whether community gardens fall under the definition of agriculture.

A ruling in favor of the garden would eliminate the requirement for a minor-use permit.

The council also agreed to consider waiving any additional city fees associated with the project that could arise at a later date.

However, garden organizers would still have to submit a state requirement — a coastal development permit (CDP).

Completing a new CDP could take eight months, but it would be faster to attach the garden to an existing EUSD (Encinitas Union School District) CDP, according to city staff.

EUSD owns a 10-acre parcel on Quail Gardens Drive, about an acre of which has been reserved for the community garden’s raised planter beds.

The district has stated the remainder of the land will host crops and a farming education center for district students in the next few months.

Residents lined up to speak in favor of fast-tracking the garden at the meeting.

Andrew Moore, a sophomore at San Dieguito Academy, said he was a fifth grader when the council first issued support for the community garden.

“I bike, I hike, I go camping — but the one thing I do not do is grow my own food,” Moore said. “I live in a relatively small complex where there just isn’t enough space.”

“I think it’s a pretty common-sense decision — a community garden is agriculture,” said Elizabeth Taylor, a member of the Encinitas Community Garden Committee, a nonprofit heading the project.

Planning Director Jeff Murphy said community gardens aren’t permitted by right on the land. As such, the city stipulated the minor-use permit to mitigate potential traffic, dust and odor issues.

A use permit is the mechanism to review the project and address potential concerns, he added.

Murphy noted garden organizers were given a choice more than a year ago: complete a minor-use permit or go in front of the Planning Commission for a ruling on whether community gardens are in fact agriculture.

Neither option was pursued, he said.

Councilwoman Teresa Barth said she initiated the agenda item to hopefully propel the garden forward.

“It’s about finding a solution — and that’s what we’re here to do tonight,” Barth said.


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