Diana Melody and Kari Kiehnau in the community garden.
As the search for more community gardening space in Pacific Beach continues, locals who are leading the “greening” of the community are speaking out: it’s easy, profitable and sustainable.
Three years ago, Pacific Beach Community Garden, which had existed for nearly 40 years on Roosevelt Avenue and Shasta Street, was sold by its owners and lost to local gardeners, leaving a void.
Enter Kristen Victor, CEO of Sustainability Matters, and community activist Paula Ferraco, two local environmental enthusiasts promoting the conversion of PB into an eco-district. Community gardening is part of this effort.
“That’s how Paula and I met, we were both gardening in the community garden,” said Victor, who worked a plot there for 20 years.
When the PB community garden was lost, the two women sprang into action to find suitable replacement sites, which was difficult.
“Land is at a premium in Pacific Beach,” Ferraco said. “For many residents of multi-family homes and apartments, garden space is limited or non-existent.”
Recently, a rare new community gardening spot was discovered. St. Andrew’s by the Sea, across from the Pacific Beach Library at 1018 Thomas Ave., has partnered with the nonprofit beautifulPB to replace the church lawn with gardening.
Ferraco and Victor are on a mission to educate the public that urban farming is something almost anyone can do. Victor has transformed his house into a model site for sustainable gardening by using a gray water system to collect waste water from his shower, sink, etc. to water all of its landscaping.
Ferraco has become an apostle of community gardening, advocating its merits and pushing for more space to be devoted to collective urban farming. She is currently lobbying for some community gardening space to be included in the De Anza Revitalization Plan, a three-year effort to reimagine, repurpose and revitalize the 120-acre area of Mission Bay Park.
“They should be able to find at least an acre there for community gardening,” Ferraco said.
Both women said it was a matter of public education.
“Community neighbors lend their time, education and hearts to help the community thrive in a healthy and sustainable way,” Ferraco said, noting that the gardens “are a community gathering place and a learning resource demonstrating what a garden and water harvesting site can be As we look to the future, gardening demonstrates a small part of the principles of the Pacific Beach Ecodistrict, which promote health and well-being , as well as the regeneration of the environment.
The City of San Diego’s climate action plan calls for eliminating half of all greenhouse gas emissions in the city, while aiming for all electricity used citywide to come from renewable sources by 2035.
“Public gardening is part of the eco-district and greening,” Victor said. “Urban agriculture encourages people to grow their own food. I have grown all my own food in the community garden for years.
Victor also not only created a gray water system to irrigate with reused water, but also installed barrels to harvest rainwater, compost his trash, and recycle organic waste as fertilizer.
“Urban farming is something almost anyone can do on a small scale,” Ferraco said.
“Use a rake instead of a gas-powered leaf blower,” she advised. “Choosing to collect and reuse rainwater. Separate your trash and your compost. These are all small, discreet changes that cost next to nothing. They can be done in your home and will have a huge impact on the sustainability of your neighborhood.