On a sunny groundhog’s day in Pacific Beach, workers gathered in front of St. Andrew’s by-the-Sea to begin construction on a lost community gem. A crew from Tourmaline Construction built 10 planter boxes in front of the episcopal church at 1050 Thomas Ave., providing the labor for the “new” PB Community Garden that has been missing for more than three years.
Though New Year’s Eve is supposed to be a happy day, on Dec. 31, 2015, PB lost a tradition that went back 40 years. On that day, the land occupied by PB’s blossoming Community Garden in Crown Point was sold to developers.
So St. Andrew’s by-the-Sea stepped up to be the new the site for 10 planter boxes that will serve as the reincarnation of the lost PB Community Garden. If that sounds like a small amount of boxes to you, then you’ll gasp at the Herculean effort that project organizers went through to get them!
Paula Ferraco is on the board of beautifulPB, a non-profit civic group committed to deploying community resources in many efforts toward sustainability. They’re the creative minds behind the Clean & Safe Program that is helping homeless people keep the boardwalk area clean, and North PB Sip’n Stroll, the summer street festival that benefits surrounding businesses.
Ferraco runs the Urban Agriculture portion of the board. “I lobbied the City Council for (garden land) for over three years,” she tells PB Monthly, then she chuckles, “I’m a very persistent person.”
Ferraco said she was just one of the many residents saddened by the loss of the garden. “The only way we can have public park land is to get in on something like De Anza, when it’s brand new and hasn’t been designated for other purposes already,” she told The San Diego Union Tribune, three years ago.
She’s speaking about the De Anza Revitalization Plan, the land in Mission Bay that was recently reallocated. “So far, my plea is falling on deaf ears, as all space and all land in PB is designated.”
Ferraco thinks it’s completely reasonable for the City to allot one acre out of 180 for a community garden to feed hungry PB residents, but the land has been assigned to other uses (campgrounds and wet land protection), so the garden had to be planted elsewhere.
She said St. Andrew’s is not the final destination for PB’s new Community Garden. These 10 humble 3.5- by 7.5-foot planter boxes that cover .02 acres are meant to be the seeds that grow the garden. Hopefully, some land will open up in the near future that will provide the permanent home.
The fight for De Anza is not over though, as several public meetings are being held prior to workers breaking ground on the project. If that’s something you want to be a part of, visit the beautifulPB website for details at beautifulpb.com and be sure to check out its PB EcoDistrict Project, from which the PB Community Garden has sprung. But for now, organizers say, St. Andrew’s will do just fine for PB gardeners who don’t have yards large enough to grow their own vegetables.
It just so happens that beautifulPB holds its meetings at the church and a fly on the wall must’ve told the powers-that-be the group needed land for a garden. Even so, land is just the start of the project. There’s still the matter of building it up and shaping it, and then planting roots in the soil.
Tourmaline Construction president Ben Ryan said the garden boxes were “a team-building event,” which the company looks to do once each year. Last year, employees completely remodeled a house for a family in need, and the year before that, they built a ball court for Bird Rock Elementary School.
“When I heard about the PB Community Garden, I thought, it seemed like a great project for us,” Ryan said. So Tourmaline Properties donated the labor, fences, boxes and materials such as the water meter, hose bibs and more. In one day, the crew righted a three-year wrong when they erected a white picket fence in front of the church to enclose the garden that promises to bring community members together.
“The Community Garden project was a really fun day for us,” Ryan added, “and we’re looking forward to doing more projects like it in the future.”
Greta Aiken, who sits on the Garden Board acknowledged that “Tourmaline Properties was our biggest contributor. The next step is to get the dirt bought, dropped off and the boxes filled.”
Aiken said the first “work” party took place Feb. 25 and was the first time people who rented the planter boxes got together.
Right now, Aiken said, they are all rented ($20 per month) and there’s a wait list of more interested people. If you want to rent a planter box or get on the list, e-mail Aiken at BPBCommunityGarden@gmail.com
So far, the boxes have been rented by local families; a private preschool that will use the food grown to provide snacks for students; and BeautifulPB, which will likely donate most of its produce to people in need.
“Now, I’m working on getting a composter and a compost program going,” Aiken said. “Do you know anyone who can help?”
On Feb. 13, Ferraco arrived at St. Andrew’s with bags of soil and young vegetable plants that will bear the fruits of more than three years of hard work. It’s a small step in an effort that took an entire community to create. And it will take an entire community to make it grow.