The City is moving
forward at breakneck speed to replace the City Hall lawn trampled during the Occupy protests. As debates continue
regarding the benefits of native plants versus the benefits of turf grass and historic preservation, city officials, landscape architects and journalists rarely mention edibles as part of the discussion.
At Farmscape, we are proud
of LA’s track-record as an innovator in urban agriculture, and we believe that it has the potential to be even greater, as Jesse observed in his love letter
to the city. In a lot of ways, food is a key part of the LA’s identity – after all, farmers cultivated vegetables on more than 50,000 acres of Los Angeles County when City Hall was constructed in 1928. Today, countless residences, schools and vacant lots grow many tons of fresh produce.
Mayor Villaraigosa has made good food policy a priority, forming the LA Food Policy Council and appointing a senior advisor for food policy. Now, the mayor has the opportunity to re-craft the City Hall landscape to reflect those values at a time when public attention is focused on the project. What better way to show a commitment to facilitating access to fresh produce than growing food that could be donated to the LA Regional Food Bank, incorporated into dishes served in the City Hall Café, or used as part of one of the many ceremonies or events held on the City Hall lawn.
Yet, we are behind cities such as San Francisco
, and even Provo, Utah,
who have already converted turf at their city halls into vegetable plots. Most of these plots are relatively modest in size – between 500 and 2,000 square feet – but are used to symbolize the city’s commitment to providing fresh, healthy food to its citizens.
Given the many trees on the City Hall lawn, only select areas of the site will get sunlight. Nevertheless, there are portions of the lawn and planters on the southeast side of the building which get full sun. And, as edible garden projects in other cities have shown, it only takes a modest square footage to send a strong message.
The next meeting is before the Arts, Parks, and Neighborhoods Committee on January 25th, when there will be time for public comment. From there, it is on to the Cultural Heritage Commission on February 2nd, where we imagine they might enjoy edibles most if the landscape architects incorporated Jesse’s design for an art deco raised bed.
The Department of Recreation and Parks is continuing to solicit feedback regarding all aspects of the design, including the plant palette; please encourage them to set aside a space for growing edibles by going to this link.