January , 2009
The undersigned organizations and supporters are requesting your support for community gardening in Austin.
Community and home gardens are an essential part of a vibrant, livable, and sustainable city. They offer space where residents can grow their own food, thereby reducing the use of fossil fuels and the amount of pollution emitted as a result of transporting food great distances. Community gardens also allow those that live in apartments or have a shady yard to grow fresh, healthy food. Community gardens help to unite neighborhoods, contribute to neighborhood beautification, and connect urban dwellers with nature. They facilitate communication, foster intergenerational and cross-cultural connections, encourage physical activity and provide therapeutic benefits. The impact of these spaces is immeasurable and invaluable.
The number of community gardens in Austin is small compared to other cities of similar size. The high cost of starting a community garden, limited financial assistance, and few to no incentives for sustaining a garden on private property combined with development pressures are putting community gardens in Austin in jeopardy. Therefore, we believe that the City of Austin should adopt several policy initiatives to promote the development of new community gardens and to preserve and enhance existing community gardens as follows:
· rewrite the City code to support the development of community gardens and allow a community garden anywhere in the City of Austin be designated a Qualified Community Garden (see attached for recommended changes to City code Chapter 8-4, 25, and others);
· streamline the process to establish community gardens on public property;
· designate a single-point of contact amongst city staff for community gardens (this could be the same person who supports the Sustainable Food Policy Board);
· ensure that area community gardens are represented on the newly formed City and County Sustainable Food Policy Board;
· provide assistance or incentives to neighborhood groups that establish community gardens with respect to liability insurance coverage, the installation of water infrastructure and fencing, and water rates;
· amend the City code to provide tax breaks and other incentives to private property owners whose property is used as a community garden;
· ensure community gardens are an allowable use in every zoning category and setbacks;
· include plans for composting centers at neighborhood and community gardens in the Austin Zero Waste Plan.
Thank you in advance for your continued support of community gardening in Austin. We will be contacting you in the next two months in order to further discuss these issues.
Coalition of Austin Community Gardens
Sustainable Food Center
Austin Parks Foundation
Sunshine Community Garden
Blackshear Community Garden
South Austin Community Garden
El Jardin Alegre Community Garden
Alamo Community Garden
Clarksville Community Garden
Good Soil Community Garden
Deep Eddy Community Garden
Windsor Park Community Garden
Homewood Heights Community Garden