Tag Archives: Spiral Gardens

Berkeley groups want old railroad bed to be a public park

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A group of local residents is asking the city to raise funds to turn an old, fenced-off railroad bed in South Berkeley, called the Santa Fe Right of Way, into open space with community gardens and a trail that connects to the Ohlone Greenway.

The challenge is that the parks department is already seriously underfunded. Officials are considering a measure for next November’s ballot for a tax increase of at least $20 on average, just to keep from having to lay off park maintenance workers.

Last Wednesday night, the Park Commissioners discussed the ballot measure. About 14 supporters of the Santa Fe project and several Willard Pool advocates urged the commissioners to fund these large projects, as well.

“We want to make sure that the Santa Fe Right of Way should be among the key — if not flagship — projects on ballot measure,” said John Steere, president of Berkeley Partners for Parks. … Continue reading »

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‘Innovative’ housing with rooftop farms set for southside

Garden Village, 2201 Dwight, Berkeley. Image: Nautilus Group
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City zoning board members approved a 77-unit mixed-use housing development near downtown Berkeley late last week, expressing excitement about a “unique” design set to include more than a dozen working rooftop farm plots and a novel approach to parking.

“Garden Village,” at 2201 Dwight Way at Fulton Street, brings with it a number of innovative features, from its composition — it’s made up of 18 distinct but connected “volumes,” or towers, that range in height from 3 to 5 stories and are connected by open-air walkways; its more than 12,000 square feet of rooftop farming plots; and its small garage, which offers just enough space for a fleet of shared vehicles that will be rentable by tenants.

Without the car-sharing idea, the project would have required room for 71 vehicles. Instead, Berkeley-based developer Nautilus Group decided it would purchase a fleet of four to 10 automobiles and contract with a car-sharing operator called Getaround to run the “car-share pod” operation. (The city required Nautilus to pay for a parking demand study to bolster the justification for that approach.)

Zoning board Commissioner Shoshana O’Keefe described the concept as potentially “genius,” adding that the notion of projects that fold effective car-sharing programs into their plans “might be the magic solution” to the hairy issue of meeting parking demand efficiently in a densely-populated community. … Continue reading »

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High lead levels an issue for backyard chickens, soil

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Last month a local veterinarian had a Berkeley client bring in a very sick chicken.

“It was almost dead,” said Dr. Lee Prutton, of the Abbey Pet Hospital in El Cerrito. Prutton said he put the chicken to sleep and, wondering if it had a contagious disease, sent the body to the state lab for testing. The results: heavy metal poisoning, mainly lead.

The vet is now concerned that people are raising chickens in lead-contaminated urban soils, unaware that the lead can enter the chickens’ eggs that we eat.

Lead poisoning can cause brain damage, miscarriage, high blood pressure and learning and behavior problems, and is especially problematic for growing children, according to the Alameda County Healthy Homes Department.

Last October, the New York Times reported that “…a New York State Health Department study show(ed) that more than half the eggs tested from chickens kept in community gardens in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens had detectable levels of lead, unlike store-bought counterparts.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeleyans closer to being able to sell backyard produce

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In August 2010, Sophie Hahn told a reporter it was easier to have a pot collective in Berkeley than to have a vegetable collective. Last night Hahn’s desire to see the city allow residents to sell the food they grow in their backyards came one step closer to reality when the Planning Commission unanimously passed the Edible Garden Initiative.

Until now, Berkeley’s zoning codes have prohibited selling or otherwise conducting commerce outside a house in a residential neighborhood.

The legislation covers fruit, vegetables, nuts, honey, and shell eggs from fowl or poultry, provided they are all whole, intact, and organically grown. (Read the Sale of Non-Processed Edibles from Residential Lot memorandum.) … Continue reading »

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Field trip highlights programs in food-forward Berkeley

Foraging at the farmers' market.
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Tomorrow, Bay Area Green Tours co-hosts a food field trip spotlighting some of the best of Berkeley’s alternative food systems. It’s part of the 15th Annual Community Food Security Coalition Conference, which runs today through Tuesday in Oakland. The Community Food Security Coalition is a national nonprofit dedicated to creating a food movement that is healthy, sustainable, and just.

The national conference draws sustainable food advocates, anti-hunger experts, and food policy wonks from around the country. The Food Sovereignty tour, which is open to the public (though now sold out), introduces participants to community food gardens, farmers’ markets, school food, and alternative food businesses in this town, which, of course, is well known for its food-forward agenda. … Continue reading »

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Urban farmer Willow Rosenthal plants seeds in Berkeley

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The aptly named Willow Rosenthal grew up around trees in Sonoma County in a community that farmed its own food. Raised by hippies who didn’t have a lot of money, she nonetheless ate well. She also learned how to grow her own food by working on an organic farm and for a local nursery.

She came to the Bay Area in 1997 knowing she wanted to do social-justice work; an internship with Food First and volunteering with the Organic Consumers Association followed.

When she moved to West Oakland, Rosenthal was immediately struck by the absence of greenery, how much vacant, unused land there was, and the lack of grocery stores. She had landed in a community bounded by three major freeways that is also home to a busy port and extensive industrial pollution. People in this predominantly low-income, African American and Latino neighborhood had nowhere close by to buy healthy, affordable food. The area had plenty of corner liquor stores and fast-food joints, but not a single full-service supermarket. … Continue reading »

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Garden teacher Kim Allen offers youth space to grow

Kim Allen at the Bancroft Community Garden/Photo: Sarah Henry
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For four years Kim Allen has served as garden program manager for Berkeley Youth Alternatives (BYA), which provides a minimum-wage, internship program for socio-economically challenged adolescents ages 14 to 18. Some come to the garden through word-of-mouth from family or friends, others as part of mandated community service.

During the school year Allen’s youth garden crew, typically a group of six to eight, work and learn alongside her in two community garden plots in West Berkeley. There’s the half-acre Bancroft Community Garden, which the BYA shares with two dozen community gardeners on Bancroft Way, and the smaller Community Orchard garden on land the nonprofit owns on Bonar Street. The fruit tree garden includes many heirloom varieties, donated by Trees of Antiquity – among them citrus, apples, and pluots. The Bancroft Garden boasts typical farmers’ market fare.

In the summer, BYA offers an eight-week program for a dozen youth, who put in about 20 hours a week. The organization runs a small Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) during peak harvest season. It sells flowers and whatever is in abundance in the garden to Bill Briscoe, who owns The Bread Workshop. Briscoe puts surplus fava beans, sunchokes, garlic, and other vegetables to good use in his in-house soups. BYA youth harvest about two to four boxes of produce a week for The Ecology Center’s Farm Fresh Choice program, which serves low-income residents. Every other week the garden provides perishables for a local food bank pick-up point. … Continue reading »

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Spiral Gardens produce stand in jeopardy

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But this spring and summer plant sales dropped off dramatically, says co-director Lisa Stephens, and now the nonprofit may be forced to close its weekly produce stand if an infusion of funds is not secured quickly.

The all-volunteer organization is making a direct appeal … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Bites: Daniel Miller, Spiral Gardens

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Just around the corner and down the street from where I live on a stretch of Sacramento Street that includes liquor stores and the dodgy characters who frequent such places, you’ll find Spiral Gardens, a slightly disheveled verdant oasis on a fenced in corner of a formerly empty city lot.

It’s a welcome addition to the neighborhood. For the past six years in this location, the community food security project has developed a four-pronged approach to reaching … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Bites: Ben Feldman, Farmers’ Market man

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This weekend, Berkeley’s Saturday farmers’ market reaches its 20th anniversary milestone. Ben Feldman is program manager for the Berkeley Farmers’ Market, a project of the Ecology Center. Previously, Feldman worked as a market manager for the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association.

The 30-year-old lives in Albany with his wife and two young children.

The Tuesday farmers’ market began in 1987 in South Berkeley. Three years later, Saturday’s downtown market started, followed in 2004 by the Thursday market in … Continue reading »

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