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Since we published this story last week, there’s been some movement afoot to reclaim a parcel of city-owned land for a group of Cambodian refugees who farmed it for 26 years. The farmers were evicted from the southeastern San Diego property this summer when the nonprofit that had leased the land since the 1970s returned the farm to the city.
City Councilman Tony Young, who represents the area, said he’s known about the farm since before taking office in 2004, but said he never knew who owned the property or who farmed there.
He said he’s directed his staff to speak with the city’s real estate division to find out how the property can be maintained as a community farm.
“It’s my intention to see if we can find a way for the people to work that land in a way that’s within the city’s guidelines,” Young said. “I’m excited to find a way.”
The farmers, all refugees, many who have limited English, were evicted because they had no legal right to occupy the roughly two-acre property and had never sought required permits.
A group of nonprofits have started discussing which organization might take the lead in applying for permits needed to turn the farm into a formal community garden. Those include the International Rescue Committee and the People’s Produce Project, which is launching southeastern San Diego’s first farmers market next month and plans to open a new community garden early next year.
Diane Moss, who directs the People’s Produce Project, said the hold-up is in the expensive permitting application and in deciding who will initiate it. The IRC paid $40,000 to gain permits for a City Heights community garden that opened last year. City officials say this one should cost much less.
Young said he wants to see it happen.
“My community is good-food-poor,” he said. “We might as well let residents take it into their own hands.”
I was on KPBS this morning with an IRC representative and one of the land’s original farmers. In case you missed it, you can listen here.
I’ll be on the 4 p.m. broadcast of our media partners, NBC 7/39, talking about the farm, so tune in then, too.