Dozens of area residents, members of community organizations, business owners and activists marched on Friday afternoon in a strong show of support for Proyecto Jardín, the non profit group battling to keep its lease on a Boyle Heights community garden owned by White Memorial Medical Center.
Participants gathered in front of the Boyle Heights City Hall for a rally, where organizers spelled out some of Proyecto Jardín’s latest demands. The group is asking that White Memorial stop its eviction process and either: sign a long-term lease with Proyecto Jardín; sell the plot of land on Bridge Street where the garden is tended to Proyecto Jardín as a public land trust; or negotiate a relocation of the garden to another plot at the expense of Adventist Health Corp., which owns White Memorial.
The group is also asking White Memorial to hold a town hall meeting to discuss its master plan for development around the medical center and engage input from community members and organizations. Organizers say the have collected nearly 2000 signatures from supporters since it began a five-month-old standoff with White Memorial.
On Friday, over 100 supporters marched from City Hall to Mariachi Plaza, where they held a second rally. Escorted by LAPD cars, they marched along the North sidewalk on 1st Street, carrying banners and chanting “Aquí estamos y no nos vamos” (We’re here and we’re not leaving).
Proyecto Jardín lost its lease in January after rejecting a six-month extension that required, among other things, that staff attend religious education sessions. Since late January, community members and supporters of Proyecto Jardín have camped out 24/7 at the Bridge Street garden, demanding to meet with White Memorial administrators. At a meeting in late March, the organization was informed that the hospital intended to turn the garden over to another non profit organization to run it.
On April 1, White Memorial announced that it had chosen the East Los Angeles based Roybal Foundation to run the garden, in what it said was an effort to increase its productivity. The hospital has maintained that community gardeners who have tended their crops in the past would be allowed to remain under the new organization, an offer rejected by Proyecto Jardín and its members.
Reached by Boyle Heights Beat on Friday, a spokesperson for White Memorial said she was unaware of Proyecto Jardín’s latest demands and that the hospital’s position remained unchanged since it announced it would turn over the garden to another administrator.