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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Turning a profit off a green thumb can get urban farmers in trouble *

Councilman Eric Garcetti and his partner, Amy Wakeland *, have transformed their hillside lot in the Elysian Heights section of Echo Park into a large edible garden, complete with fruit trees, a vegetable patch and a "worm-factory." But if Garcetti and Wakeland ever tried to sell some of their home-grown crop to a local market they might violate an obscure 1946 city law called the Truck Garden Ordinance. The law prohibits homeowners from selling some types of edible foods and flowers grown in residential areas of the city. The ordinance forced Silver Lake flower grower Tara Kolla to switch from flowers to vegetables allowed under the law. Now, at the urging of community gardening and green advocates, Garcetti has proposed updating and clarifying the act to give urban farmers more flexibility to sell what they grow. It's been dubbed the Food Flower & Freedom Act, which is being championed by a coalition called Urban Farming Advocates.

"There's definitely a growing interest in locally-grown food and I'd like to see increased accessibility to these products," Garcetti said in a statement.

* Correction: Previous versions of this story identified Amy Wakeland by the wrong last name.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Take a slow hike down a high speed rail line

A proposal to build a California high-speed passenger rail line along the Los Angeles River has picked up speed. But constructing that line means digging a 100-foot-wide trench through neighborhoods like Cypress Park and Glassell Park, where trains would zoom through at more than 110 miles an hour, as reported previously in The Eastsider. Neighborhood activists like Glassell Park resident Helene Schpak are concerned that many residents still don't know about the high-speed rail line or what will happen to the homes, shops, parks and schools on or near its path. That is why Schapack, as a member of the Glassell Park Improvement Assn., is helping organize a Sunday Nov. 8 walk along proposed route of the high speed train between Union Station and Glendale. It promises to be a long, 7.5 mile journey in which volunteers will help photograph and document what sits in the path of the train, Schpak writes on the NELA List:

"The purpose of this urban expedition is to gather information with the goal of informing and engaging more members of the community in a dialogue on the pros and cons of the proposed rail alignments. Given a greater base of balanced information, we hope to encourage a live and informed discussion on all possible alternatives before the [California High Speed Rail Authority] imposes their choices upon us."

Click on the NELA link for details.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The best of plans sometimes don't work out - just ask Ed Reyes

For a man trained as an urban planner, this week has certainly not gone as planned for First District Councilman Ed Reyes. On Monday, Reyes saw months of work as head of the council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee go up in smoke after a Superior Court judged blocked the city's campaign to close hundreds of pot clinics. Reyes and fellow committee members had held countless hearings over the summer reviewing requests by the marijuana dispensaries seeking exemptions from the very same moratorium that the judge threw out this week. Now, Reyes and fellow council members are rushing to adopt some tough restrictions on the clinics that open.

"We painted ourselves into a very tough position and now we act," said Reyes, according to the LA Times.

On a different matter, Reyes on Wednesday faced a well publicized set back at the hands of neighborhood activists when the city council failed to approve his proposal to raise fees to appeal zoning decisions and building permits. Reyes said the higher fees were needed to cover the costs of processing and hearing such appeals. But neighborhood activists said the ordinance would only help developers by silencing residents who could not afford to pay the higher fees to challenge real estate projects. As a result, Reyes said he will comeback with a revised proposal in about 30 days. At least that was the plan.

Photo by JimW/Flickr

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Will Boyle Heights vendors give up the sidewalk for a parking lot?

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Councilman Jose Huizar has proposed the creation of an evening "farmers market" in a Boyle Heights parking lot to provide an alternative to street vending. The market would operate out of a city owned parking lot near Cesar Chavez and Chicago avenues in an area where an increase in outdoor vending has increased competition and tension, according to a recent story in The Eastsider by Ana Facio Contreras.

The motion introduced by Huizar in August calls for the testing of a market organized and operated by nonprofits with the assistance of city agencies. The market would be located in a city parking lot on Chicago Avenue south of Cesar Chavez Avenue. "Vendors interested in taking part would have to register with the nonprofit and follow certain rules and regulations, particularly as they pertain to food preparation and public health," according to the motion. But will the vendors who now crowd the sidewalks be interested in moving to a parking lot?

Martha Nunez Marin, 53, a street vendor who sells snacks from a shopping cart on Cesar E. Chavez Avenue and Soto Street said she is distrustful of any proposed plans the city has to set up an official vending market.

“We would have to see what they (the city) want to do. I don’t want to go there and then have the city take everything away. Maybe it’s a trap. I don’t know if I would move there. I sell more here than there. I don’t want to lose my spot.”

The Eastsider is seeking more details and comment from Huizar's office regarding the plan.

Ana Facio Contreras contributed to this post.