Mission district garden ownership issue weeded out 

Nearly 10 years ago, community members in the Mission district raised $14,000 to pay the property tax and annual fees to save a two-block plot of land that housed the Dearborn Community Garden behind the Mission Police Station.

But because it was a neighborhood effort, ownership of the garden has remained in question since, prompting Supervisor Bevan Dufty to submit paperwork that would again give the Dearborn Community Garden an owner: the Department of Public Works.

The garden was once owned by PepsiCo and then donated to a nonprofit that was responsible for about 100 other gardens in The City. But in 2001, the nonprofit San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners went bankrupt and could not assume the bills that were piling up.

“We didn’t even know that was really an issue and so we scrambled around and raised the money within the garden and with the neighborhood, and some people were very generous,” local gardener Matt Wilson said.

But the transaction between PepsiCo and the League of Urban Gardeners was not documented properly, creating confusion about who was still technically responsible.

Despite paying the property taxes, the loyal farmers who kept up the seasonal plants — such as garlic, cucumber and fava beans — were left wondering if The City would eventually auction their plots again because the space had no official owner.

Recently, Dufty introduced a resolution to the Board of Supervisors that will secure the garden’s place in San Francisco, ridding it of ties to PepsiCo subsidiary New Century Beverage Co. and the League of Urban Gardeners that still has outstanding debt with The City.

“Ultimately, it was decided that DPW was the best place,” Dufty said. “This will really provide confidence for the neighbors.”

Wilson said he’s been using the garden for 15 or more years and it has always had a waitlist of “forever,” usually allowing for one or two openings a year.

“It really is a breath of fresh air when you walk by it,” Wilson said. “We’ve been treading water for a long time hoping nothing bad will happen.’’

kkelkar@sfexamimer.com

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Kamala Kelkar

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