During a recent trip to Portland, I stayed with friends who maintained a plot in a Community Garden. One evening, we biked over to the garden to attend a community meal. The dishes all featured produce grown in the community garden. One of the members was a musician and provided a concert for us after dinner.

Although I was from out of town, I felt welcome.  I enjoyed hearing the stories of how various members decided to become part of the community garden.

I returned to Phoenix inspired.

But how was I going to find a place for a community garden?  Even when I found it, how would I go about getting the space zoned and approved? Unlike the City of Portland, Phoenix does not have a website encouraging community gardens.

In New York, 596 Acres has plenty of experience in working with municipalities to convert vacant lots into community gardens. Even more helpful, 596 Acres has produced an open source tool to map any city’s potential community garden spaces. Other cities have already customized the 596 Acres tool to reclaim vacant land for public use.

extracted from http://596acres.org/en/about/about-596-acres/

Hundreds of acres of vacant public land are hidden in plain sight behind chain-link fences in New York City, concentrated in neighborhoods disproportionately deprived of beneficial land uses. We are building the tools for communities to open all these rusty fences and the opportunities within them to improve the areas they live in. In response to a steady stream of inquiries, in 2013 we expanded our work to support communities organizing for control of warehoused private land.

596 Acres creates tools to help neighbors find the lot in their lives by:

(1) making municipal information available online and on the ground (e.g. by placing signs on vacant public land that explain a lot’s status and steps that the community can take to be able to use this land);

(2) providing education about city government and ways to participate in decisions that shape neighborhoods;

(3) assisting communities with legal support and campaign-development on land use issues;

(4) maintaining networks that allow communities to share knowledge and relationships with decision-makers;

(5) working with groups after they get access to land to build sustainable community governance as they become stewards of a public and inclusive resource; and

(6) advocating for municipal agencies to increase participatory decision-making surrounding public resources.

extracted from http://596acres.org/en/about/other-cities-copy/

Maps For Other Cities!

What if I’m in another city? Where do I start looking for land that my neighbors and I can use? 

The place to start is the City or County Property Register, which will tell you definitively who owns what.  Usually, the register is set up for use by those who have a particular property in mind. You’ll want to find out how to contact the office that maintains the Register in your city or county and call them: ask how to get a list or map of public land. Your City Planning Department might also be a help. We started our project with data, but if you have a particular property in mind, you’ll be able to follow the steps we outline on the advacacy resources page.

What if I want to see all the opportunities in my city? 

We’re creating a practice of building online tools neighbors can use to clear hurdles to community land access and of connecting land access advocates in ciites around the world with a set of tools and best practices, and one another. The tools turn city data into information about particular pieces of land and connect people to one another through simple social networking functions. The 596 Acres Team is available to consult with you on your project in another city. Contact us to discuss a fee-structure for customizing tools and tactics for your group or organization. We’re really proud of these partnerships:

  • Grounded In Philly, with the Garden Justice Legal Initiative at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, funded by the Merck Family Fund and the Claneil Foundation.
  • LA Open Acres with Community Health Councils (Los Angeles, California) and C-Lab (NYC), winner of the Goldhirsh Foundation LA2050 Competition.

You can also build your own version of 596 Acres’ tools. Groups around the world are doing just that:

  • Heritage Montreal, an organization that works to promote and to protect the architectural, historic, natural and cultural heritage of Greater Montreal, adapted the Living Lots approach to vacant and vulnerable built sites here: the H-MTL Platform. The project allows people who live in Montreal to identify buildings that they believe should be preserved and then work together to preserve them.
  • Lande, also built for Montreal, is a tool created based on 596 Acres’ best practices for resident-led transformation of vacant lots.
  • GTECH Strategies, a leading land access and activation organization in Pittsburgh, liked our approach so much they captured it in an Request for Proposals with The City of Pittsburgh’s Planning Department to build a customized tool using municipal data calledLots to Love.
  • After learning about 596 Acres’ map, Love Old Trafford Lots created a their own using available technology modeled on ours. They started by making their own data through a series of organized walks. The map is helping neighbors see possibilities and sieze them.
  • 3000acres in Melbourne Australia borrowed our strategy and created their own tool. Instead of starting with municipal data, they started with a few sites that users submitted and explored the opportunities they presented by researching each one-by-one, then posting and acting on their findings. These opportunities are turning into growing spaces with the support of 3000acres staff.
  • 2000acres in Sydney built on our strategies and the success of 3000acres in Melbourne.

Our code base, Living LotsTM is open source and free to use; just be sure to attribute and make your improvements available for us and others to use. Code and detailed instructions available on GitHub.

Image Credits

File%3AEverett_Community_Garden.jpg By Finetooth (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

Raiz from 596 Acres photo gallery

Photo by rickbradley

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.