An Illegal Curbside Garden Flourishes in L.A.

Growing food and community in the narrow strip between the sidewalk and the street.

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HealthHappensHere

That little strip of land between the sidewalk and the street can easily be overlooked. Maybe there's a tree there or flower beds or even some grass, but more often than not, this narrow piece of outdoor space is little more than barren dirt and a few weeds.

That's what it was like in front of Ron Finley's South Los Angeles neighborhood. After taking a gardening class, Finely decided this would be a perfect space to grow some food and flowers. So he and some of his classmates cleared the 10-by-150 foot space. What resulted was a flourishing streetside garden, providing a variety of fruits and vegetables in a part of town where fresh food is not easy to come by.

But then the city found out. The narrow strip of land is owned by the city, and any use of it beyond laying down grass or flowers requires a $400 permit. Finley had been cited before for growing banana trees on the site and was forced to cut them down. But this time he was ready to fight, as the Los Angeles Times chronicled last summer. And with the help of a city council member, he was able to convince the city to let his garden stay.

A year later, the garden is thriving, and as this video shows, it's continued to provide not only fresh food for the neighborhood, but also a very public point of pride for the community.

Image credit: HealthHappensHere/YouTube

About the Author

  • Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.