By Tiffany Kinh Lam
The community garden Proyecto Jardín is asking the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council (BHNC) to pass a resolution in favor of the renewal of its current lease with White Memorial Medical Center.
The BHNC will vote to pass or to reject the resolution at its next general board meeting on Wednesday, February 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the Boyle Heights City Hall community room (2130 E. First St.). The vote will be taken after general public comment and discussion.
If the non-binding resolution is passed by the BHNC, it will serve as a significant victory for Proyecto Jardín, whose lease with White Memorial ran out in December. The hospital has said it wants two unnamed nonprofits to run the Bridge Street garden and asked Proyecto Jardín to vacate the land by January 31. Since then, several community members have been camping out at the garden.
On Tuesday, February 9, Proyecto Jardín already won a small victory when the Planning and Land Use Committee of the BHNC voted in favor of the resolution.
“I am overjoyed,” shared Executive Director Irene Peña of Proyecto Jardín, after the unanimous vote. “We have the support of our elected representatives.”
Many community members attended and held signs in support of the garden, such as “Aquí estamos no nos vamos” and “No al desalojo de Proyecto Jardín.”
During public comment, many community members spoke about their close relationship with the garden. For example, Nancy Aragón shared, “I don’t have a house or land of my own and I have found a home at Proyecto Jardín.”
During the BHNC Planning and Land Use Committee meeting, committee member Baldomero Capiz suggested that Councilman José Huízar should get involved and act as a mediator between Proyecto Jardín and White Memorial Hospital.
No one from White Memorial attended the committee meeting.
According to Peña, the next step is to sit down with White Memorial Hospital to come to an agreement that is beneficial to both sides.
“We want in writing that they will not remove anything and to allow the current lease to run through June,” said Peña.
When asked about the two groups that may run the garden in the future, Peña shared: “We would love to partner with White Memorial. We are aligned in so many ways [regarding shared goals of community and health]. We would consider a partnership, whether it is a long or short term lease or purchase.”
Since 1999, Proyecto Jardín has maintained the land as a community garden with a rotating membership of local residents and volunteers to plant and grow their own fruits and vegetables. In recent years, under Peña’s leadership, the garden has emphasized a more holistic approach to food in order to understand the value of community organizing, food policy, agricultural welfare, and traditional medicine through workshops and events to remedy the lack of healthy foods and green spaces in Boyle Heights.
Photo above: The Planning and Land Use Committee of the BHNC during its Feb. 9 meeting. Photo by Tiffany Kinh Lam.