Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Spring 08 - Layout and agreements

The summer of 2007 I finished graduate school and that fall I started working at a Landscape Architecture and Urban Design firm MIG in Berkeley. Quickly I realized that Landscape Architecture has nothing to do with being outside with plants, which is my true passion, and is more about being in an office doing design in a computer all day. I was starting to go crazy and urgently needed a garden.

I located this site, two blocks from my work, on the winter of 2007. Their fence got blown away with a storm so I was able to see the site everyday on my way to work. I wanted a garden and this was the perfect site.

One day I saw the neighbor outside (Giancarlo) with a truck full of plants, I could see he was a plant person so we could communicate. I asked him about the site, he told me it belong to his neighbors, they had owned the property for 25 years but had never done anything with it. Giancarlo is a permaculture  expert who lives on the house next to the site, his house is extremely lush and his garden is covered with edible trees, shrubs, vines, ground covers, there is not one empty spot on his land. He also grows bamboo for carbon sequestration and to harvest for use in the garden. There are chickens too. He said he had been wanting to grow food and set up a productive garden on that site but didn't had the energy to do it by himself. I could not believe my fortune the universe provided me not only with a beautiful opportunity site but also with a great mentor to learn permaculture and organic gardening.

We contacted the owners with our proposal. I got a Google aerial image of the site and drafted a simple layout plan and a phasing plan for three years. Water would come from Giancarlo's house and all the labor and cost would be provided by Giancarlo and I so there would be no cost for the owners.

The meeting went well, they were excited but had a few issues with liability and access.  So we drafted and agreement so that we were all in the same page and everything was clear.

This is the agreement that we wrote with the owners of the site:
Arrangement for Use of property. for Garden and Plant nursery
 (Owners) agree to allow temporary use of their property  for cultivation of food crops and plant propagation by Giancarlo Muscardini and Patricia Algara and a limited number of their associates (users). This use is for self-sufficiency and sustainability and not for operation of a business.

Users may construct raised beds or mounds for annual and perennial crops, build a modest greenhouse and seed-house in the southwest corner of the lot for seed—starting and plant propagation, and store maturing plants, in accordance with the plot plans titled 
Dimension Plan, Food Production/ Food Propagation and Phasing by Year (year I), attached.

Users will operate in a tidy, environmentally—friendly manner, rid of clutter and debris, and properly dispose of any waste off the property. Chemicals are not expected to be used.

Users shall contribute to maintenance of existing elements of the yard, and to desired future landscaping of the property as negotiated between owners and renters.
There will be no exchange of money. Users will provide materials, plants, plumbing, electricity, water supply and labor. An access gate from street may be constructed.

Owners authorize access during daytime and for plant care. Owners reserve the right to temporarily restrict access, with advance notice, in the event of hosting an event at adjacent house or yard.

Owners may contribute to cultivation and may partake in the fruits of the endeavor for normal household use.
Owners agree to this arrangement with the understanding that no permits or licenses are required by the City. If such requirements materialize, users will be responsible for compliance.

This agreement will be effective for one year and may be discontinued, renewed or modified thereafter. Multi year use is contemplated. If owners decide to use the space for a different purpose, users will have at least three months to vacate the space.

At the cessation of use, users will remove all structures and materials, unless owners and users agree otherwise at that time.
We acknowledge and agree to this arrangement on behalf of ourselves and our associates.
Giancarlo Muscardini Date

Patricia Algara Date

I hope this story is inspirational and helpful for other who wish to start an urban farm in a vacant lot.

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