Planting a vegetable garden beside a road is no longer a fineable action in Los Angeles.
In a major victory for TED speaker Ron Finley, otherwise known as the renegade gardener of South Central, the Los Angeles City Council voted 15-0 on Tuesday to allow the planting of vegetable gardens in unused strips of city land by roads. The council is opting to waive the enforcement of a city law that requires sidewalks and curbs to be “free of obstruction” in the case of vegetable gardens designed for community use. The city will stop enforcing this law immediately.
Ron Finley: A guerilla gardener in South Central LAOn the TED2013 stage, Finley described getting a citation for planting a vegetable garden on his curb.
“I live in a food desert, South Central Los Angeles, home of the drive-thru and the drive-by,” he said. “So what I did, I planted a food forest in front of my house. It was on a strip of land called a parkway. It’s 150 feet by 10 feet. Thing is, it’s owned by the city. And somebody complained. The city came down on me, and basically gave me a citation saying that I had to remove my garden, and the citation was turning into a warrant. And I’m like ‘Come on, really? A warrant for planting food on a piece of land that you could care less about?’”
After getting the citation, Finley circulated a petition. And the number of signatures he collected made an impact on Council President Herb Wesson. Last week, after two more urban gardeners were issued citations, Wesson raised the motion to amend the “Residential Parkway Landscaping Guidelines” and stop fining for vegetable gardens. Many of his fellow council members agreed. As councilman Mike Bonin put it to the Los Angeles Daily News, “We deal with a lot of big issues, but this is one that helps shape community character.”
Finley himself was very happy with the change, and that he got a personal shout-out during the council session. “I was pretty elated. It’s beautiful,” he tells the TED Blog. “It goes to show that one person can make a difference.”
His next battle: pushing for more vacant lots to be turned into community vegetable gardens, so people can learn the self-sufficiency of growing their own food. “It shouldn’t be abnormal,” says Finley.