New community garden preservation rules released

Parks intends to preserve community gardens under its jurisdiction. There are more than 600 community gardens participating in the City’s GreenThumb Program. Since 2001, gardens on City-owned lots have been administered pursuant to practices memorialized in a 2002 agreement between the City and the State Attorney General’s Office, which expired on September 17, 2010. Prior to its expiration, the Department of Parks and Recreation published a new set of rules that codified and strengthened the agreement’s practices and established formal regulations for administering the 283 gardens under Parks’ jurisdiction.

The new rules require Parks to renew the license of any community garden as long as it satisfies the registration criteria. If a garden fails to comply with the registration criteria, or the garden is abandoned, Parks will attempt to identify a new group to take over the garden. The rules also increase Parks’ responsibility for identifying alternate garden sites in the event that an existing garden’s lot is transferred or developed. The 2002 agreement’s Garden Review Process required Parks to provide the garden’s representative with a list of available vacant City-owned land within a half-mile radius, if any existed. Under the new process, if no vacant lots are identified within a half-mile radius, Parks will extend its search to the entire community district. According to the new rule’s statement of purpose, Parks intends to preserve all active gardens that are in good standing. Parks will only apply the transfer provisions to abandoned or persistently noncomplying gardens and only if it has been unable to identify a new group to care for the garden.

On the same day Parks published its rules, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development published rules for the nineteen gardens under its jurisdiction. While similar to Parks’, HPD’s rules differ in important ways. HPD is not required to renew garden licenses, and the rules do not include explicit language stating that gardens will be preserved as long as they are in good standing. HPD also does not explicitly limit its transfer provisions to abandoned or non-complying gardens. According to HPD, the transfer provisions will ensure that detailed information about the garden and any proposed project is provided to interested parties as part of the land use process.

Both sets of rules went into effect on October 13, 2010.

Department of Parks and Recreation, City Record, Sept. 13, 2010, at 2549; Department of Housing Preservation and Development, City Record, Sept. 13, 2010, at 2547.

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