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Garden Approved, Community Angered

The Loma Vista project has nearby residents in an uproar.

Depsite frustration from a number of Seaview Ranch residents, community gardens may soon sprout like weeds around Watsonville.

The Watsonville City Council approved the Community Garden Program Guide at its meeting Tuesday night—which includes a long list of potential garden sites—and gave the go-ahead for green thumbs to break ground on a new community garden on Loma Vista.

The proposal was approved with a 4-2 vote; council members Nancy Bilicich and Emilio Martinez voted no.

It didn't come easy; the Loma Vista garden site has been a point of contention in the city and that was evident at the meeting. More than 15 people addressed the city council about both sides of the issue. Clapping, outcry and residents speaking out-of-turn punctuated the meeting.

"Excuse me, you can't keep commenting," Mayor Eduardo Montesino, who used to live in the neighborhood, scolded the crowd at one point. "... I'm going to have to clear the room if you can't stop the outbursts."

Residents who are short on land but big on home-grown veggies are supportive of the new garden, which will be built on land intended for a park. A total of 71 neighbors representing 65 homes would like the garden to be put in, according to a petition filed with the city, Bob Geyer of the city's Public Works Department said.

Sofia Vasquez Quintero, who lives on nearby La Jolla Street, said there are enough parks in the neighborhood and she supported the garden.

“I don’t know what your yards are, but my yard is small. Very small," she said. "...I would love to have a piece of this. I would love to be a part of this.”

Brandon Marquez of Watsonville told the council he learned how to garden as an elementary school and loved working in the sun with friends, growing food.

“Most importantly is a garden unites and builds up a stronger community, and a stronger Watsonville," Marquez said.

Still, most Seaview Ranch homeowners—including the Homeowners Association itself—came out in force against the garden project. Residents worry about traffic, trash, the safety of their children, the health of the wetlands and the loss of wild land.

"There's very very limited parking on that street, which we struggle with all the time," said Holly Heath, who's on the board of directors of the Seaview Ranch HOA.

Douglas Ow, an 18-year Watsonville resident, lives across the street from the garden. He proposed to his wife at the end of this open space, and hoped he would have a place to come back to and celebrate that moment.

“I think it will be a little different if I’m standing in that place amid tomatoes, cucumbers or watermelons," said Ow, who added he would likely move out of Watsonville because of the garden.

Under the plan, the garden will be organic (pesticides will be banned), Geyer said. It will include 25 plots overseen by a garden manager elected from those who are utilizing the land.

“The community gardens are self-managing, for the most part,” Geyer said.

The garden sits below “Tarplant Hill,” a protected site owned and managed by Watsonville Wetlands Watch, Geyer said. That organization, which aims to protect the Pajaro Valley slough system and educate the public about the unique ecosystem of the coastal marshes, has not taken a stance on the community garden.

“It’s sloping out to the slough … so erosion from the garden is going to end up in the slough just from rain. You’re not going to be able to prevent it," said Watsonville resident Darren Dylan. "This is not an appropriate site for a community garden.”

The proposed garden exceeds the city setback requirement from the wetlands, Geyer added.

Two Patch bloggers wrote about their opposition to the garden, "" and "," a contributor who does not represent the Watsonville Wetlands Watch official views.

Other publicly-owned locations identified as possible sites for community gardens include:

  • an unused city parking lot at Main and Front streets;
  • an alleyway that's been used as a garden in the past at California Street and Palm Avenue;
  • the Davis Street community neighborhood services location;
  • a vacant parcel across from Ramsay Park at Main and Longview streets;
  • a large, vacant piece of property behind center field at Franich Park, 795 Vista Montana;
  • Hazelwood Park, the large area below Rolling Hills Middle School, 297 Herman Ave.;
  • a 2-acre parcel at 195 Airport Blvd, off Roache Road, that's an airport-owned clear zone;
  • 52 Ninth St.

Two private parcels also have been listed as possible garden sites: behind the old courthouse on Freedom Boulevard where the FEMA trailers were set up after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake and at the Pajaro Valley Health Trust off Neilson Road.

David Rameriz April 25, 2012 at 05:07 PM
I think this is a wonderful thing and idea having these gardens put in throughout the community of Watsonville. The beautification of Watsonville is a good step to bring the positive vibe back to the community. This will help us in the community as a whole. Imagine the children having the garden and opportunity, to have the time to spend with their parents and other family members to talk and hang out while at the same time growing healthy food to eat. Instead of going to a fast food place eating unhealthy, fat saturated, chemical induced food. Having a place where they can go and feel safe, while at the same time learning a very viable skill that could one day possibly be used as survival. As an Agricultural city, we need to reflect who we are and what we represent as a city. I personally have seen the plot on Loma Vista, and what I see is something that is being blown way out of proportion. It’s a small piece of weedy and dry land that is not being used for anything. By adding the garden this would bring together the neighborhood and enhance the beautiful scenery.
David Rameriz April 25, 2012 at 05:07 PM
I’m shocked about the straight up negative language that is being used here. And it seems to be coming only from a handful of people. Is this what Watsonville really thinks?? It doesn’t matter to me if you agree or not, that’s your opinion. But talking about people in this manner is first of all pretty childish. At least sound more respectable when you are putting someone down. It looks like no matter what the city does, there is always going to be someone that is not happy. We need to stick to the big issues instead of worrying about growing plants. The money that is being used from my understanding is grant money. This is not financially hurting the city. It will be a self sustained garden ran by volunteers in the neighborhood. Regarding the parking, the nay sayer’s make it sound like it’s going to be an amusement park or A’s vs. Giants game. The land that is being used is land that was already destined for a city park. Now it seems to me that it is cheaper to put in a garden that is financially paid for by grant money and that is ran by volunteers. As compared to putting in a full functioning, CITY FUNDED and CITY MAINTAINED Park system. It’s pretty much one or the other.
randy April 25, 2012 at 05:19 PM
EXCELLENT POST. One thing is that I believe Luis Alejo is behind all these goons. He and his tan band. Carlos runs the city like it is his own private country club. This is the opinion of this poster
David H. Perez April 25, 2012 at 05:22 PM
David Rameriz said, "It looks like no matter what the city does, there is always going to be someone that is not happy." Maybe many of us are so angry because once again the "big five" on the city council ignored what the people want, and keep rendering their decisions based on what helps to further their own (and their leader's)personal agenda. Much of their agenda seems to be making sure Emilio Martinez and Nancy Bilicich do not have a voice in any matter at all. Then there is the impact on the environment which many commenters don't seem to care about.
randy April 25, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Mr. Rameriz what watsonville thinks doesn't matter to the majority on the city council. Their minds are made up before the meeting ever starts. Also, the "city" voiced their opinion last night only to be put down and "timed". these people in SVR were not notified properly. This cannot be denied. The people spoke and the city ignored. As for the Mayor,, he should not have voted. He lives, temporarily anyway, in the SVR. There is more to the story of his losing another house. Our council are puppets for the Tan Clan . This is the opinion of this poster
Jennifer Squires April 25, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Council Member Emilio Martinez blogged about the meeting. He said there was talk of calling the police for crowd control at one point... http://watsonvillefishingreport.com/posts/city-council-notes-0
Cathy P. April 25, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Can District residents recall their city council person if that person was appointed instead of elected?
Jennifer Squires April 25, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Yes. Also, they're all up for election in November. Now's the time to get candidate paperwork filed.
Watzon McWats April 25, 2012 at 07:12 PM
This repeated, generations long behavior from our city council is why Watsonville may never be the great city that it can be. The foul goes far beyond parking and environmental issues and comes down to blatant disrespect for immediate neighborhood wishes and concerns. Point blank: I'm disgusted.
David H. Perez April 25, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Disgusted? You and me both. So the next step - what are we going to DO about it?
David Rameriz April 25, 2012 at 08:02 PM
According to the Parks and Rec Dept. the city had several times, did outreach to the surrounding Community, by going door to door handing out flyers of the proposed idea. There were also City announcements of the proposed idea . If you want proof, call the city yourself and find out as I did. How many times does the city have to announce everything? It’s the responsibility of the individual citizen to be self informed of what’s going on as well. It sounds like You want everything handed to you on a golden plate. And where did race come into play? I said nothing about race. But it’s ok to say “Tan Klan”?? Or it’s ok to say “look beyond your nose”? That sounds like a racial remark towards the Jewish community? It’s also ok to make fun of a family who might lose a home? It seems to me that these nay sayers have a personal issue with the city that’s getting in the way of something positive. It’s ok though, these people can keep crying on the patch all they want, while real people in the real world are putting in work to do positive things in the community. It’s only a dam Garden! I think some people here need lives?
David H. Perez April 25, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Yeah, I have a personal issue with the city. I am tired of the corruption on our city council.
Cathy P. April 25, 2012 at 09:30 PM
"If you want proof, call the city yourself..." ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Now THAT'S funny!
Cathy P. April 25, 2012 at 09:41 PM
"But it’s ok to say “Tan Klan”??" ----------------------------------------------------------------- It's a joke, like Brown Berets.
David Rameriz April 25, 2012 at 10:20 PM
“It’s a joke, like Brown Berets” Wow, The hatred and negativity is pretty apparent here. Jennifer S. this is the kind of stuff you allow on your website? ? well good luck with running a respectable news blog.
Emily Halbig April 25, 2012 at 10:21 PM
Seriously, a joke? It is hideously offensive.
David H. Perez April 25, 2012 at 11:03 PM
The politics in this town are the real joke, and more hideously offensive than anything stated in this blog.
Jennifer Squires April 25, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Flag any comment. Two user flags and the comment goes away--it's self-policing (like the garden will be). I can't sit at my computer all day to monitor you guys. I'd like to be out meeting more people in the community and covering some positive happenings. So let's try to be respectful and constructive.
Cynthia April 25, 2012 at 11:57 PM
I am so GLAD there are community gardens. My son's preschool goes to their plot (just across the school's parking lot) and he LOVES it!!! Thank you for having this type of activities. I can't wait to spend time with him and his school mates during my summer vacation.
randy April 26, 2012 at 02:21 AM
Okay David R. TAN CLAN is the BROWN BERETS. Now that isn't racist. I would NEVER be racist. As for Mr. Eduardo losing his house... making fun is not what is going on. Mr. E... should learn how to manage his affairs. I believe this is the second house,, but now positive. This is MY opinion and I stand by it. Also, I really would believe the group of citizens that appeared last night about being uninformed. Slipshod is what I call it.. by the city. I will repeat. The voices of Mr.. E's district was loud and clear. Eduardo DID NOT LISTEN.
randy April 26, 2012 at 02:25 AM
I really don't think the issue is the "garden" but that the use of this property is NOT as it was told to be. Also the damage this is doing to the wetlands. As for the comments regarding the Brown Beret, this group is anti police, anti government except theirs Please go to the website I have furnished before and see.
Emily Halbig April 26, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Randy, the term "Tan Klan" is so much more offensive than the Brown Berets - it should be to all citizens but more so to African Americans. And it needs to be taken into consideration who came up with the term. The Brown Berets named themselves and the term "Tan Klan" was imposed upon Mexican Americans by anti-immigration whites. The label not only insults and trivializes the horrific history of black Americans who suffered at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan, but also unjustly purports that contemporary brown people somehow have the same power of persecution without consequences.
randy April 26, 2012 at 03:10 PM
EM.. you are a teacher??? Please go to google and type Tan klan and see who named themself that. Now I am off to a "beautiful" day in our fair city. this post is the opinion of the poster
Emily Halbig April 26, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Randy, it doesn't matter what my job title is to know that this term is racist. I have googled and read various sites, and all seem to be using the term derogatorily. Please send a reputable link showing that Brown Berets (or Mexican Americans in general) wish to be called the "Tan Klan". PS Please don't refer to me as Em, that's reserved for my friends.
Tony Rubio April 30, 2012 at 03:12 AM
Nancy, if I ever see you campaigning in my neighborhood, I will be sure to follow and let people know what a mean, hateful, racisct person you are. Oh, and by the way, if you are so concerned with our wetlands, why haven't I seen you at any of our volunteer restoration days? Oh, did you not recieve enough notice?
Tony Rubio April 30, 2012 at 03:17 AM
You know, the most "telling" comment of all last Tues. was from the young boy who likes to ride his bike on that particular weed patch. He said "...and I don't want bad people from downtown coming over here and writing graffiti or joining in gangs". Out of the mouths of babes. He voiced all of your concerns in a nut shell.
Tony Rubio April 30, 2012 at 03:34 AM
Let me say one more thing...this pristine piece of wetlands is a 1/8 acre patch of weeds crrently inhabited by the very invasive Bristly Ox Tounge and equally invasive Harding Grass, which we have been trying to eliminate from the sloughs for years. Westerly of the proposed garden is a 6' asphalt walking trail. West of that is at least 10' of fairly level ground before you get to the top of the rather long slope that leads down to the slough. there will be no run-off from this garden that affects the slough. It's just another smokescreen. Parking? a non issue. Come out to our garden at All Saints, MI Jardin Verde, and see how many cars are in the lot at any one time. Another smoke screen. Proper notice? 3 weeks not enough? How come I was able to attend all these meetings...as well as the Dillons. Another smoke screen. Park site...not a garden site? Park & Rec commission already voted in favor of the garden. Another smoke screen. It all boils down to what that young boy said..."we don't want bad people from downtown coming here". And you know what Nancy? Why don't you come out as yourself instead of hiding behind that misleading moniker of "wetlandswatchdog". Everyone knows it's you. You aren't as clever as you think.
Cathy P. April 30, 2012 at 02:16 PM
"there will be no run-off from this garden that affects the slough." ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- How do you figure that? Will these gardens not be watered? Will this water not be absorbed into the ground or allowed to pool and then runoff into the slough? Will these gardens not be fertilized (in some way) or pesticides used to ward off pests? And who is going to monitor all of this? The garden at All Saints isn't a problem, so no comparision can be made between the two, apples & oranges. As for "out of the mouths of babes," I wouldn't want the increased traffic, pollution, graffiti, & loitering in my neighborhood either.
Tony Rubio April 30, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Water conservation is one of the city's requirements and hopefully most people will use drip irrigation. Unless somebody leaves a hose running or otherwise intentionally tries to send water into the slough, I really don't think there will be any run-off into the slough at all. And fertilzers, pesticides and herbicides are not allowed. Compost is what willl be used. And why would you think this garden will be any different than Mi Jardin Verde? And why do you think that gardeners will "loiter" or cause pollution or graffiti? It's just nonsense. As for the traffic...like I said, I don't think it's going to be the problem that you anticipate. I believe that most of the plots will go to SVR residents or other nearby residents.
Jennifer Squires June 19, 2012 at 10:02 PM
The garden broke ground Saturday. http://watsonville.patch.com/articles/photos-controversial-community-garden-opens

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