Since the mid 1990s, gardeners in the River Garden Estates neighborhood of north Sacramento have been growing their own food in an underutilized and undevelopable swath of a greenbelt under two sets of power lines. Struggles with the City of Sacramento have galvanized this group of residents who bring their food traditions from the Ukraine, Russia, Laos, the U.S. and Latin America to this informal space. Working with advanced landscape architecture students, Community Development graduate students, and local community organizers, we have been developing an assets-based approach to preserve the garden and plan for its future success. Gardeners are seeking approval to continue to grow their own food and to steward the land that has provided such benefit to their families and the adjacent community.
Initial student observations
Students helped guide a participatory process that led
to a Visioning Document:
…and final student proposals:
The International Garden continues to operate. In 2016 the City of Sacramento evicted approximately 1/3 of the gardeners from the southernmost portion of the site to clear the base of two electrical towers. The City’s Parks and Recreation Department also constructed a new city-operated community garden adjacent to this garden, but has had mixed results in convincing resident gardeners to relocate. In 2017 I prepared an evaluation report called Garden Voice with Yiwei Huang detailing garden infrastructure needs, and shortly thereafter the city issued eviction notices to all of the gardeners.
In the 6 months following the eviction reports, I worked closely with the gardeners and an ad hoc team of community activists to fight for the garden’s preservation. After many meetings and negotiations we prepared a formal improvement plan that was submitted to the city and to the utility district, and was approved. The city formally recognized the garden in 2018 and City Council dedicated $175,000 in Capital Improvement funds to implement the infrastructure improvements in our plan. Currently the city is negotiating on a lease of the site to a nonprofit entity, which will manage the garden with more gardener autonomy than is common for a city-run community garden.