Fight Continues for Beach Flats Garden

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By Keiera Bradley and Juan Cristian Villamil

By 7 p.m., Santa Cruz City Hall was filled with about 100 Beach Flats community garden supporters wearing neon green shirts and handmade vegetable-shaped paper hats. The crowd was a mix of Beach Flats residents, UC Santa Cruz students and allies. The youngest supporter, a baby girl, sat in a stroller holding a sign that read, “Save the Garden.”

One of the co-founders of the garden, Gia Dent, recalled a time 23 years ago when the garden didn’t exist.

“When the garden started, there was a lot of garbage dumping,” Dent said. “There was actually a burnt car here when we first started. There was a fair amount of drug dealing going on here, a lot of things have improved and the garden has been one of the pieces of that puzzle in improving the neighborhood.”

The Santa Cruz Seaside Company owns the Beach Flats garden property, which is about half an acre in size. For the past 25 years in which the land has been on loan to the gardeners, the garden has fed residents of the Beach Flats with sustainably-grown produce like corn, beans and other crops. Since many of the residents can’t afford the organic food sold in Santa Cruz, the garden has been a public resource for those of low-income backgrounds.

The public hearings began when Seaside Company’s spokesperson Kris Reyes offered to allow the Beach Flats community to keep two-thirds of the garden and extend the lease by three years. After hearing from garden supporters and Beach Flats residents, Santa Cruz City Council members voted unanimously to accept the lease offered and pursue further negotiations with Seaside to keep the entire garden and establish a permanent space.

To settle the differences between the two parties, the City of Santa Cruz will attempt to purchase the property from the company and locate possible funding sources.

“This has been, as folks behind me would agree, a challenging process for everyone involved, ourselves included,” Reyes said. “It’s been very difficult to navigate through this, separate fact from fiction, stand up to some of the negativity that has come with this issue.”

The rally began in the garden around 5 p.m. when gardeners, other Beach Flats residents and supporters clapped to the chanting of “Si se puede.” Irene O’Connell, one of the march’s organizers and a staff member at the Resource Center for Nonviolence, announced the plan for the evening.

“We are marching here to inform the City Council just how important the Beach Flats garden is,” O’Connell said. “We are asking the City Council to come up with a creative solution to work, as best as they can, for a permanent garden.”

The group moved to the corner of Cooper St. and Pacific Ave., where gardeners and community members gave testimonials and gathered more support before making their way to Santa Cruz City Hall.

Farmers, children, UCSC professors and community activists gave personal accounts of the garden’s significance, which made for an emotional atmosphere in City Hall. In a plea to save the garden, the farmers and Beach Flats residents appealed to the cultural value of the space.

“The cultivation and preservation of our culture — I see that as the main reason … why the garden is important to us,” said organizer Carolina Morales Ceseño.

Ceseño spoke to City Council, stressing the significance of the garden to farmers and Latin@ immigrants.

“The beans come from Oaxaca, Mexico,” she said. “The beans come from El Salvador. It all comes down to where they are from and what reminds [the gardeners and migrants] of home.”

The community demanded that it remain permanently open to enable the provisions of healthy and sustainable food. The location also secures jobs of the farmers, and maintains a safe gathering place that has cultural value to local Santa Cruz residents.

“Estamos aquí en la lucha, para que el jardín permanezca, en Santa Cruz,” testified one Beach Flats gardener in Spanish. “We are here in the fight for the garden to remain in Santa Cruz.”

By 7 p.m., Santa Cruz City Hall was filled with about 100 Beach Flats community garden supporters wearing neon green shirts and handmade vegetable-shaped paper hats. The crowd was a mix of Beach Flats residents, UC Santa Cruz students and allies. The youngest supporter, a baby girl, sat in a stroller holding a sign that read, “Save the Garden.”

One of the co-founders of the garden, Gia Dent, recalled a time 23 years ago when the garden didn’t exist.

“When the garden started, there was a lot of garbage dumping,” Dent said. “There was actually a burnt car here when we first started. There was a fair amount of drug dealing going on here, a lot of things have improved and the garden has been one of the pieces of that puzzle in improving the neighborhood.”

The Santa Cruz Seaside Company owns the Beach Flats garden property, which is about half an acre in size. For the past 25 years in which the land has been on loan to the gardeners, the garden has fed residents of the Beach Flats with sustainably-grown produce like corn, beans and other crops. Since many of the residents can’t afford the organic food sold in Santa Cruz, the garden has been a public resource for those of low-income backgrounds.

The public hearings began when Seaside Company’s spokesperson Kris Reyes offered to allow the Beach Flats community to keep two-thirds of the garden and extend the lease by three years. After hearing from garden supporters and Beach Flats residents, Santa Cruz City Council members voted unanimously to accept the lease offered and pursue further negotiations with Seaside to keep the entire garden and establish a permanent space.

To settle the differences between the two parties, the City of Santa Cruz will attempt to purchase the property from the company and locate possible funding sources.

“This has been, as folks behind me would agree, a challenging process for everyone involved, ourselves included,” Reyes said. “It’s been very difficult to navigate through this, separate fact from fiction, stand up to some of the negativity that has come with this issue.”

The rally began in the garden around 5 p.m. when gardeners, other Beach Flats residents and supporters clapped to the chanting of “Si se puede.” Irene O’Connell, one of the march’s organizers and a staff member at the Resource Center for Nonviolence, announced the plan for the evening.

“We are marching here to inform the City Council just how important the Beach Flats garden is,” O’Connell said. “We are asking the City Council to come up with a creative solution to work, as best as they can, for a permanent garden.”

The group moved to the corner of Cooper St. and Pacific Ave., where gardeners and community members gave testimonials and gathered more support before making their way to Santa Cruz City Hall.

Farmers, children, UCSC professors and community activists gave personal accounts of the garden’s significance, which made for an emotional atmosphere in City Hall. In a plea to save the garden, the farmers and Beach Flats residents appealed to the cultural value of the space.

“The cultivation and preservation of our culture — I see that as the main reason … why the garden is important to us,” said organizer Carolina Morales Ceseño.

Ceseño spoke to City Council, stressing the significance of the garden to farmers and Latin@ immigrants.

“The beans come from Oaxaca, Mexico,” she said. “The beans come from El Salvador. It all comes down to where they are from and what reminds [the gardeners and migrants] of home.”

The community demanded that it remain permanently open to enable the provisions of healthy and sustainable food. The location also secures jobs of the farmers, and maintains a safe gathering place that has cultural value to local Santa Cruz residents.

“Estamos aquí en la lucha, para que el jardín permanezca, en Santa Cruz,” testified one Beach Flats gardener in Spanish. “We are here in the fight for the garden to remain in Santa Cruz.”

By 7 p.m., Santa Cruz City Hall was filled with about 100 Beach Flats community garden supporters wearing neon green shirts and handmade vegetable-shaped paper hats. The crowd was a mix of Beach Flats residents, UC Santa Cruz students and allies. The youngest supporter, a baby girl, sat in a stroller holding a sign that read, “Save the Garden.”

One of the co-founders of the garden, Gia Dent, recalled a time 23 years ago when the garden didn’t exist.

“When the garden started, there was a lot of garbage dumping,” Dent said. “There was actually a burnt car here when we first started. There was a fair amount of drug dealing going on here, a lot of things have improved and the garden has been one of the pieces of that puzzle in improving the neighborhood.”

The Santa Cruz Seaside Company owns the Beach Flats garden property, which is about half an acre in size. For the past 25 years in which the land has been on loan to the gardeners, the garden has fed residents of the Beach Flats with sustainably-grown produce like corn, beans and other crops. Since many of the residents can’t afford the organic food sold in Santa Cruz, the garden has been a public resource for those of low-income backgrounds.

The public hearings began when Seaside Company’s spokesperson Kris Reyes offered to allow the Beach Flats community to keep two-thirds of the garden and extend the lease by three years. After hearing from garden supporters and Beach Flats residents, Santa Cruz City Council members voted unanimously to accept the lease offered and pursue further negotiations with Seaside to keep the entire garden and establish a permanent space.

To settle the differences between the two parties, the City of Santa Cruz will attempt to purchase the property from the company and locate possible funding sources.

“This has been, as folks behind me would agree, a challenging process for everyone involved, ourselves included,” Reyes said. “It’s been very difficult to navigate through this, separate fact from fiction, stand up to some of the negativity that has come with this issue.”

The rally began in the garden around 5 p.m. when gardeners, other Beach Flats residents and supporters clapped to the chanting of “Si se puede.” Irene O’Connell, one of the march’s organizers and a staff member at the Resource Center for Nonviolence, announced the plan for the evening.

“We are marching here to inform the City Council just how important the Beach Flats garden is,” O’Connell said. “We are asking the City Council to come up with a creative solution to work, as best as they can, for a permanent garden.”

The group moved to the corner of Cooper St. and Pacific Ave., where gardeners and community members gave testimonials and gathered more support before making their way to Santa Cruz City Hall.

Farmers, children, UCSC professors and community activists gave personal accounts of the garden’s significance, which made for an emotional atmosphere in City Hall. In a plea to save the garden, the farmers and Beach Flats residents appealed to the cultural value of the space.

“The cultivation and preservation of our culture — I see that as the main reason … why the garden is important to us,” said organizer Carolina Morales Ceseño.

Ceseño spoke to City Council, stressing the significance of the garden to farmers and Latin@ immigrants.

“The beans come from Oaxaca, Mexico,” she said. “The beans come from El Salvador. It all comes down to where they are from and what reminds [the gardeners and migrants] of home.”

The community demanded that it remain permanently open to enable the provisions of healthy and sustainable food. The location also secures jobs of the farmers, and maintains a safe gathering place that has cultural value to local Santa Cruz residents.

“Estamos aquí en la lucha, para que el jardín permanezca, en Santa Cruz,” testified one Beach Flats gardener in Spanish. “We are here in the fight for the garden to remain in Santa Cruz.”