Burb's Eye View: Sowing the seeds of a public garden for Burbank

Anything would be better than the chemical-laden dust bowl next door.

That’s what Guy Vardaman thought last week while his neighbors debated where a community garden might go in Burbank.

The Vardamans live next to the empty lot at Chandler and North Pass, one of two sites the city is considering converting into a community garden. It’s owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which occasionally sprays weed killer on the lot, turning the prime bikeway property into a wasteland.

“I’ve thrown poppy seeds over my fence, but nothing grows (on the lot),” Vardaman said.

The city sees this dirt patch as an empty canvas — it may soon be transformed into a verdant haven for green-thumbs looking to grow vegetables and fruit for their families or local food banks.

Parks employees held two meetings with neighbors last week to gather ideas for this property and a larger, city-owned swath under the power lines opposite Whitnall Highway Park on Olive Avenue.

To make either site fit for gardening, Jonathan Frank, an analyst with Burbank's Park, Recreation and Community Services Department, said the city would pursue grants at the outset and then turn over management of the garden to the community. 

With the help of a master gardener, this could be a place for renters and condo dwellers to have a small bit of earth to call their own, albeit with a rental fee.

Details such as fee structure, plot size and garden rules are still being worked out, as is location. Neighbors at last Tuesday’s meeting largely favored the smaller Chandler site, which might fit 20 to 30 plots and would be leased from the L.A. utility for $1,050 a year. 

Saturday’s crowd supported the larger city-owned Whitnall Highway site, which has more options for lot sizes and parking.

“I’d rather see Whitnall Highway get pretty,” said Susan Law, a member of the Burbank-Valley Garden Club and a Burbank resident.

At both meetings, Frank suggested the smaller Chandler lot as a better alternative — for its location and as a possible test site before expanding the program to the city-owned lot.

He also surprised the room with this: There are 15 public gardens in Burbank right now. One is near the Burbank Recycle Center on South Flower Street; the rest are at schools.

Jamie Wisehaupt, gardening teacher at Luther Burbank Middle School, said the school has partnered with California Pizza Kitchen to make salads and pizzas using the ingredients grown by students.

With programs like that already flourishing, neighbors favored opening the gardens mainly to adults who don’t have gardens of their own.

“Burbank youth are already well served by the school gardens,” one resident wrote on a comment card.

The parks department will use last week’s meetings to form recommendations for the City Council. Frank estimates the cleanup of the Chandler site would cost $25,000 to $75,000.

And though they already have a garden, the Vardamans and their neighbors will be among the first to grow something new from Burbank’s few undeveloped properties.


BRYAN MAHONEY is a recent transplant from the East Coast. When he’s not pruning his pepper plants, he can be reached at 818NewGuy@gmail.com and on Twitter: @818NewGuy.ALSO:

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