Eight years after neighbors first started lobbying the Recreation & Parks Department to build a community garden in an empty plot of land at the corner of Geneva and Delano Avenue, the department has announced that construction on the new garden will officially break ground this Thursday.
"Let's just say it's about time," community activist Lisa Dunseth said in response to the news in an email to Hoodline.
Neighbors have been backing the Geneva Community Garden project since at least 2009, but a series of delays stretched the process past several deadlines.
In a letter supporting the project in April 2009, then newly elected District 11 Supervisor John Avalos wrote, "The overgrown lot was once a vibrant garden, well used by the community. It is located on a busy thoroughfare, close to Balboa BART Station, along the route of several transit lines, and in close proximity to several schools."
The project originally received $387,534 from the 2008 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond and an additional $55,000 from Avalos' office, according to the project website.
Although construction was scheduled to begin in April 2014, the department did not properly account for the cost or scale of work required to remove lead discovered in the plot's top soil and had to apply for additional funding from the state.
In October 2015, the department announced that soil replacement had been completed with the help of $900,000 in state grants and the garden would likely open by late summer 2016.
However, the contractor leading a bid to construct the garden unexpectedly dropped out of the process in June 2016, causing several more months of delay as the department re-opened the bidding process with a "simplified" contract.
The Rec & Park Commission finally approved a contractor in December.
The department was able to lower costs in the second contract by "our ability to streamline engineering and simplify construction documents as well as cut some of the scope of the project," Rec & Park representative Joey Kahn said via email.
In its cost-saving efforts, the department chose to eliminate features that can be added in the future if more funding becomes available, Kahn said. Eliminated features include "a trellis at the west edge of the garden, a green house, potting tables, and a second tool shed. In addition, paving details were simplified and one central area will be a simple large planting area rather than a series of raised beds."
For Dunseth, who once called the drawn-out project "neighborhood abuse," the start of construction is welcome news.
"We are grateful it is happening. The original neighbors who started this project don't even live in town any more—it's been that long. But the rest of us are glad this blighted piece of property will be used in a way to benefit the community," Dunseth stated, before thanking the many neighborhood groups that helped to advocate for the project.
Rec & Park began accepting applications for the garden's 58 plots in late December. By the end of January, the department had received interest from 28 people, Kahn confirmed.
An overview of the ongoing application process can be found here.
The groundbreaking ceremony will run from 4–5pm this Thursday, Feb. 9th.