Smack dab in the middle of Downtown L.A. sits a wonderful anomaly, a brilliant aberration. It’s over at 220 S. Spring Street. It’s called Spring Street Community Garden. And it’s a wonderful anomaly because you don’t expect to find individuals fertilizing soil and growing organic crops next to a parking garage in Historic Downtown L.A.
The President of Spring Street Community Garden, Arye Lipman, agreed to an interview. He graciously provided an overview of the garden and how the project came to fruition.
Spring Street Community Garden
Spring Street Community Garden came into existence when two people – Marty Berg and Stacie Chaiken – had a conversation with the manager of Joe’s Parking. There was strip of weed-covered land next to Joe’s Parking that was essentially going to waste. The idea was to turn the land into a garden. Joe’s Parking liked the idea and decided to support it. Joe’s Parking offered the organizers a zero-cost lease and agreed to pay for a fence. The lease is for two years, but allows for perpetual renewal. Joe’s Parking even donated funds for the project.
When City Council member Jose Huizar heard about it, he thought it was a grand idea. Mr. Huizar is very interested in community projects. He allocated funds from his discretionary fund for the garden. The organizers formed a leadership team, consisting of Arye Lipman, Marty Berg and Stacie Chaiken. The group went to work.
Over a six month period, the land was cleared and above ground boxes were constructed, resulting in forty garden beds. The beds were assigned by means of a lottery. Bed leases are for two years and carry a very nominal fee, around $5 per month. As part of their emphasis on inclusiveness, the garden offers free bed leases to indigent community members.
The grand opening of the Spring Street Garden occurred during the summer months of 2016.
By hooking up with the Los Angeles Community Garden Council, the Spring Street Garden operates as a non-profit organization. Twenty percent of the beds are distributed to local non-profit community organizations.
The emphasis of Spring Street Garden is edibles – peas, beans, carrots, fruits, along with other crops. The grows are organic, thus the use of artificial pesticides is not condoned. When the crops are harvested, they are shared with the community at no cost.
When asked about the local response to the garden, Arye Lipman said, “You know, people have been really engaged, really enjoying it. For me, the best part is to be working in the garden and people from all walks of life poke their heads in and find out what we’re doing and want to join. It’s been a way to get to know my neighbors better.”
Arye went on and explained, “Eventually, we’d like to get some other programs going. Bring in students for educational projects. The primary goal of the garden is inclusiveness and to involve the whole community.”
The Spring Street Community Garden is supported by Joe’s Parking, City Council member Jose Huizar, L.A. Community Garden Council and Hipcooks. The garden’s objectives, according to its website, are:
- Provide an urban community garden where people can rent a plot to grow their own fresh produce.
- Teach organic urban gardening techniques, sustainable growing practices, and educate members of our local community about nutrition and cooking basics.
- Organize and enable community members to grow produce for people in need.
- Beautify our neighborhood.
To find out more about Spring Street Community Garden: https://springstreetcommunitygarden.org/