LA residents may soon plant gardens in green space between sidewalk and curb (updated)

Sidewalk Farming - 8

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

John Parker said his garden inspired his neighbors across the street to plant in their parkway, too.

The L.A. City Council voted Wednesday to approve new parkway guidelines that will outline what residents are allowed to plant in that small space between the curb and street.

The city attorney can now prepare draft revisions on existing guidelines, and the Bureau of Street Services will have to provide an expanded list of acceptable fruit or nut-bearing trees for the space within 90 days.

Although these new requirements appear to be more lax, the city is shifting liability to the property owner. Basically, Angelenos can plant at their own risk. For more, read the report to the city council below.

Under the new guidelines, property owners and residents can plant whatever "shrub and groundcover plant materials" they want without having to obtain the necessary permits (which could cost hundreds of dollars). And residents will be able to plant select fruit and nut trees as well – a list of the acceptable trees has not been drafted.

The public will still have to follow city codes and right-of-way rules, but if someone does trip and fall, the city won't be liable. Plantings are not allowed to restrict sidewalk access, or the ability of people to open their car doors. There are also maximum height restrictions so drivers and pedestrians can see what's ahead of them. And non-edible plants must be drought-tolerant or drought-resistant. 

But these new parkway guidelines sprouted not because of aesthetics, but because of food. 

Florence Nishida of L.A. Green Grounds – a group that helps residents plant their own gardens – helped lead the push for more acceptable parkway plants. She said these green spaces can fill the healthy food void in many L.A. neighborhoods.

"There are very few supermarkets here (in South L.A.) compared to affluent neighborhoods," Nishida previously said. "The food choice is usually between one fast food outlet and another fast food outlet."

Nishida said that expanding the list of acceptable parkway plants is a new way to make use of under-utilized green space in a dense, urban environment. She said many people turn to fast food because it's a quick and easy way to eat; but what's more convenient than food in your front yard?

Some residents didn't even wait for the new guidelines to start planting edibles in the front of their homes. South L.A. resident John Parker has a front yard full of produce, and his parkways are growing herbs and vegetables. Nishida said L.A. Green Grounds helped him transform his front yard into a functioning garden. 

If the City Council approves the new guidelines, the Department of Public Work's Street Services will have 90 days to come up with a new and expanded list of acceptable fruit and nut trees. Then the city attorney's office will draft an ordinance, which will return to the council for approval. This process could take several months.

Parkway Poll

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Edible Landscapes Parkway Guidelines

This story has been updated.

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