Cities across the United States that have noteworthy amounts of vacant land are debating whether to foster community gardens on that property, while cities with land shortages are discussing when to replace gardens for other uses. The city of Beverly Hills is looking to beautify its surroundings by creating an area reserved for a public garden.
The community garden program could start with a one-acre allocation of land, with expansion to follow. The city could convert undeveloped private hillside lots into terraced gardens by leasing the land from the owners; residents of Beverly Hills could participate in the garden by renting lots for a fee. Residents may be incentivized to engage with the garden by being offered reduced cost city services and the ability to harvest and keep whatever they grow on their lots. Each of the plots would be around ten by twenty feet, and the variety of plants varies upon the discretion of the renter; if a tenant wants a larger plot, there is always an option of renting more than one. The city could use the revenue collected from the renters of the garden plots to fund and support the community’s recreation and other parklands, as well as increasing the quality of social services.
Firstly, a community garden located in Beverly Hills will offer an escape for residents from the concrete jungle and bustle of the city living, which in turn, provides numerous health-related benefits. Gardening, in general, offers many advantages such as stress relief, helps with building esteem, helps fight depression as well as providing physical health benefits such as increased dexterity, cardiovascular development, and strength building. The benefits appear to arise from a combination of awareness of natural surroundings, physical activity, cognitive incentive, and the pleasure of the work. Residents could be eased of health-related issues possibly weighing them down, allowing better lives for them and those in the surrounding neighborhood. In addition to the residents, the image of Beverly Hills will be less hectic and overworked, causing more people to want to live in Beverly Hills, as well as the increase in the flow of tourism, boosting the profits and outcomes of local business. Overall, the inclusion of a public garden in Beverly Hills’ development will increase the well-being of the citizens and the ambiance of the growing neighborhood.
Additionally, community gardens foster and can help provide employment, education, and entrepreneurship. They provide opportunities for a wide variety of people, including students, recent immigrants, and homeless people. They can also have the benefit of improving neighborhoods, as vacant lots can be magnets for litter and criminal activity. All of this could often come at little to no price to the city. Developing and maintaining garden space is less expensive than parkland area because gardens require little land and 80% of their cost is for labor which can be substituted by volunteers’ work.
Finally, community gardening contributes to a relationship within the neighborhood, which in turn can lead to city cohesion and enhanced levels of acceptance and belonging. The latter is related to social capital, an important aspect of well-being not so widely reported as the more tangible health-related benefits of community gardening. Social capital relates to the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling it to function effectively. These networks facilitate collaboration among individuals and groups, which is essential for the city's industrious activity. For the Beverly Hills Garden to thrive, diverse community members need to input their participation and support. These members include residents, partner institutions such as schools and county health departments, and volunteers including local businesses and civic associations. The inclusiveness of gardens will allow individuals in the community to contribute their knowledge, skills, and experience. For example, residents and members could learn valuable lessons about land use optimization. The grouping of numerous different people and their ideas in the Beverly Hills community will house different perspectives of the community’s success and how to achieve this picture of a “beautified city.” Though some may believe their ideas should be dominant in the development of the garden, overall, people could work towards a common goal by creating more efficient and effective methods to achieve it. With the community’s understanding of how to attain a prosperous city, a community garden will contribute a focal point for neighborhood systemization and can lead to community-oriented applications to deal with other social matters.
Some believe that the positive aspects of gardening are outweighed by the negatives, especially considering natural resources that are at stake. This project, however, would be self-sustaining and offer a net positive effect on the community. Although policymakers and board members believe starting a garden as part of land development reform will waste water, methods such as drip irrigation could be used to mitigate this, including a limit of how often the plants could be watered and at what time, decreasing the amount of water usage. Also, instead of gearing city funds towards cementing a concrete parking lot that opens up to the community garden, street parking could be available and accessible and could include accessible parking spaces to fill the needs of a variety of residents living here. Lastly, instead of hiring part-time gardeners, community members can oversee the garden to water and care for the plants, while still enjoying park-like strolls through the blooming patches of green space.
In conclusion, community improvements resulting from gardening efforts can range from knowledge and skill transfer to behavior change. Although the advantages of developing a city garden are many, informing decision-makers can be time-intensive as changes in leadership can slow momentum. Communicating the benefits beyond the traditional leadership in the community as a whole could lessen those challenges, help build a broad-based constituency, and implement long-term, constant support of community gardening as a norm.