‘GIMBY’ – Garden In My Back Yard

by on May 12, 2021 · 1 comment

in Environment, Ocean Beach

By Kathy Blavatt

“G” is a “Great” letter. So many “Good” words start with “G”. One of my favorites is “Green”.

The world is on the path to understanding that without GREENING, we will not be walking down a garden path to any livable future, which leads to my starring “G” word “Garden.”

Ocean Beach once again is getting its green on! The San Diego Floral Association is featuring the “Vistas and Verandahs: The Gardens of Ocean Beach Garden Tour,” The tour is Saturday, June 26, 2021, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Balboa Park sculpture honors Kate Sessions planting of trees in City Park (now Balboa Park) and San Diego Communities.

Kate Sessions, one of my inspirations, was inspirational in the formation of the San Diego Floral Association and the California Garden magazine first issue printed in July of 1909.

Sdfloral.org Excerpt:

“Foundation of the San Diego Floral Association in 1907 helped the Chamber of Commerce prepare for beautification of San Diego for the 1915 Exposition, which drew over two million visitors. The Association’s first project in this regard was to put on a civic flower show to introduce the citizens of San Diego to the large variety of plants that could be grown here. Free plants and cuttings were distributed, and 5,000 brochures were given away as an encouragement to homeowners to beautify their own gardens. The organization continued to give free seeds, cuttings, and plants to citizens every weekend at the Chamber of Commerce.”

Sadly, development-driven politics are skewing “greening” in a way that promotes intense development that is eliminating many of our “GARDENS” in both our yards, our publicly land, farms, and open space. O.B. Rag articles and comments have been covering many of the concerning issues.

The threat to home gardens came around 2000 when pro-density-developers/politicos came up with the term “Nimby”… “Not In My  Back Yard.” The derogatory label “Nimby” was placed on anyone was who had concerns about the bulk and scale structures, density with multiple structures and people on properties, or large new structures that don’t fit in with the surrounding homes, and the taking out green space. The city and state have pushed through legislation to fast-track projects and eliminate most community oversite.

Many of our communities’ older homes and cottages, including their historic gardens and large trees, are being destroyed.

Established trees were taken out and replaced by large box homes that overshadow this cottage and its yard.

We are losing our local agricultural history and many established and exotic plants, big trees, and gardens.

In the last decade, a new pro-development term has come along “YIMBY,” “Yes In My Back Yard.” The P.R. and paid YIMBY lobbyists started with the idea that we should put density in urban areas and not the outer rural backcountry. This concept makes sense, but the problem is the large buildings, mostly boxy designs, are gentrifying our unique communities and working against greening when they destroy established yards and green space.

Unfortunately, more trees in our urban communities are being taken out at an accelerated rate with the advent of the pro-YIMBY movement.

Sadly, I had to sarcastically laugh at one example when I read the California state yard requirements for ancillary units (granny flats) in backyards. The new “California Guidelines for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)” stipulate with the addition of an ADU, it should have one 15 foot tall tree! In most cases on the Peninsula, that can mean taking out all your trees and only leaving one TREE! How is that helping create a “Green Canopy,” in which the city says it wants to create.

Local home makes good use of a rooftop gardens and a vertical succulent garden.

Maybe the local and state government that claims that they are moving towards more greening, can give incentives for adding rooftop or vertical gardens. To help save water, make new units build in gray water and/or rain collection systems so they can support more trees and garden space.

O.B. cottage with an established garden and rain collection watering system.

Point Loma’s Roseville is an example of how quickly a village style community with character can turn into a gentrified community with large, tall, square boxes with little or no yards.

A still existing traditional Roseville cottage garden is full of fruit trees and produce.

Decades back, Roseville was many quaint cottages surrounded by gardens. I loved that these homes had at least one fig, orange, and lemon tree. These garden plots were filled with greens, beans, and root vegetables. Portuguese cabbage (much like kale) was a staple for “Grandma’s Soup” and other soups. The hearty soups were made from a combination of root vegetables that include turnips, carrots, potatoes, and others. Greens from cabbage to spinach and cooked beans are also very common. Usually served with the soup broa bread, a very dense, made of corn and wheat flours. I can still remember the wonderful aroma coming from the kitchens, or watching the women gather their fresh grown produce from their gardens.

As lush as this May 2021 photo looks, many tall old-growth Canary Palms, Monterey Cypress, Torrey Pines, Eucalyptus, and others had recently died and been removed, or just cut down, causing loss of some of green canopy and habitat for birds.

In the first half 1900s, Lomaland Theosophists and many top horticulturists planted 50,000 trees on the Point Loma peninsula, propagated plants, and brought many varieties of plants from around the world to San Diego. These included large trees, fruit trees, exotics, edibles, and a variety of flowering plants.

Many of the trees were planted during the first half of the 1900s, when water was limited, so residents planted many varieties of low water trees from Australia and Africa. Horticulturists picked trees that would work well with the Peninsula’s combination of fog and sun. Sadly, recently we have lost or are losing many of these beautiful trees.

The “YIMBY,” “Yes In My Back Yard,” who are promoting a lot of building, seem to be at odds with the environment when it comes to eliminating or downsizing yards. They have chosen density, not thinking about the many benefits of having yards.

Can’t San Diego promote architectural building designs that built the structures around established trees? The New York Times recently reported about an architect that does just that.

San Diego’s renowned architect and artists James Hubbell built around many of trees on his property when he and his wife Anne, built “Itlan-Lael,” the acclaimed home and art studio in Julian, CA. By keeping the trees, the architecture holistically fits into the beautiful countryside and preserves a larger part of the native environment. In the last few decades, minimal serious effort from our local government has been put into thoughtful vegetation greening of San Diego’s new homes.

Yet, many of large new buildings and developments get credit for having a very small succulent box, with no or one tree, after they have taken out the previous established trees, that were part of our tree canopies, gardens or natural habitat. To reiterate, if you take out a lush yard with established trees and replace it with larger or multiple buildings and one tree, you are not going to solve global warming!

The home-time due to COVID has shown how important gardens are. Residents are enjoying working and being in their gardens.

Annie relaxes on a garden bench in a friend’s garden surrounded by flowers and enjoys her coffee.

There are many benefits to having a garden, these include relaxing in a tranquil setting, growing fresh produce, getting good workouts, gardening, socializing outside (a big plus during COVID), supporting bees, butterflies, birds and animal populations, and a vast array of other good uses. After all, isn’t outdoor living in San Diego’s climate what we love?

Mark, who collects rainwater and mulches, loves his large trees in his backyard.

Many OBceans are proud of their gardens. The established O.B. homes have around four to twenty trees in their yards. Join the “GIMBY” movement “Garden In My Back Yard,” or just do “Good, Great, Green things in your yard!”

You know Ocean Beach is magical when you spot a “Fairy Garden”.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mark Dodge May 15, 2021 at 7:46 am

Great article Kathy. You captured our yard at its most lush immediate post rain peak.


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