A Community Garden Is Sprouting Up In The Middle Of Downtown L.A.

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An empty lot of weeds in downtown L.A. is being transformed into community garden plots for nearby residents. What was once just an unused, weed-covered stretch of dirt next to a parking garage on Spring St. between 2nd and 3rd streets, will become the Spring Street Community Garden next month, according to Downtown News. Volunteers from the neighborhood have been working for months to clear the 2,700-square-foot lot, and are about halfway through building 40 three-by-four and six-by-two feet raised planters that will then be filled with nutrient-rich soil (as not surprisingly, the dirt in the urban lot did not test well for growing veggies). Downtown residents have until Sunday, March 27 to apply for a garden plot and members will be chosen by lottery.

The idea for the community garden began when downtown resident Marty Berg, who lives in the Higgins Building adjacent to the lot, wondered if the vacant plot could be put to good use. Berg met with other residents and reached out to the community to develop support and plans for the plot, eventually setting it up as a non-profit with a five-person board. Not long after, Berg’s wife, Stacie Chaiken, met Kevin Litwin, COO of Joe’s Parking, who has since offered free use of the land for five years—with options to extend—along with $2,500 to help with expenses. The project has also received support from City Councilman José Huizar, who has helped contribute $15,000 in funds as part of the DTLA Forward campaign, which promotes open-space amenities and pedestrian-friendly projects. Water in the garden will be managed efficiently through the use of a drip irrigation system.

"This is something that we think will be really special for this community," Berg told Downtown News. "Not only is it people coming together, but they will be working to grow great fruits and vegetables where you usually can't."

The membership fee for the garden will be $120 a year, and they are offering subsidies for those who qualify as low-income residents. The Spring Street group has partnered with the Los Angeles Community Garden Council, a non-profit that advises and assists gardens with finances and other business tasks. The garden will also have some larger communal plots available for those who don't make the cut for the lottery. There will also be a waitlist for plots, which the Garden Council will help to manage so plots can be rotated to new members after a certain number of years.

And while there are a number of rooftop and private urban gardens scattered around downtown, this is one of the few available to the public. Councilman Huizar is hopeful that the Spring Street Community Garden will inspire others in the area.

“We have a lot of plots that could be gardens, and that’s a good problem to have. We just need to find the means to assist them to kick off, and my office can,” Huizar told Downtown News. “These are low investments with a really high return for the community.”

Downtown L.A. residents can apply for a plot on the group's website until March 27.

Learn more at laist.com