The much simpler approach would have been to talk to the owner and say I will quit making bylaw complaints against you for a derelict lot if you let me plant potatoes there and I will clean up my potato garden when you want to develop.
It would be win win for everyone. Instead it sounds like she has been very adversarial with the lot owner and didnt work with them.
You'd think that Mar also should have looked for such a win-win solution before bringing in the cavalry. Random hippie probably doesn't know better, but an Alderman should be solution-oriented.
Mar's an idiot because all he's doing is alienating part of his riding. These people are going to vote vehemently against him next election. But having seen Mar in action in city hall debates, I doubt the guy actually had the brain capacity to think it through rationally before going to the cops.
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as a guerilla gardener myself, i avoid areas where this type of conflict seems inevitable. i don't do vacant inner city lots or anything like that. i go out of my way to find a place where virtually nobody will see or notice it.
i give full marks for trying to make a difference, but she was way too 'out there' about it. if i were to use that same lot, there would be no tires or anything. i would have just planted my stuff and left it alone until time to harvest.
as for john mar, his little man syndrome seems to be impairing his judgement on what is the best way to use our city resources. his comments towards the use of community gardens is out to lunch. if he had any knowledge of the demand for, and lack of, community garden space, he might have a better handle on the issue that lead to this type of guerilla gardener.
That's the other thing that gets me about this stunt, they claim they wanted to be "low key and fly under the radar" while their actions indicate the exact opposite. Bright paint, a big banner, random claims about the food bank. Heck she probably could have left the tires unpainted, banked em up next to the fence and gone unnoticed for weeks.
I'm not sure if you've been following along or read the article, but the individual lot owner has barely entered the conversation. All that's really been said is they should have been asked permission first.
Unless I missed something nobody has come out and said an owner should be allowed to keep a vacant lot in poor condition indefinitely. I think most people would agree there should be limits on what condition a lot should be kept in (nobody wants a scrap yard of rusted appliances/cars next door) and I think many would agree that a garden is a better use of the space than leaving it vacant. But we also wouldn't much care if one off our neighbors decided that our parking pad was arbitrarily converted to a garden without our permission.
I did, but this was turned into an issue of private property rights, which necessarily engages the property owner themselves.
I don't side with the potato farmers but I wish cities would do more to get rid of the vacant lots in residential areas.
Different city, but in my community we have a guy who just doesn't want neighbors so he bought the lots beside him with no intention of ever developing them. You can't buy bigger lots in the city because of zoning and density rules, but this is accomplishing the same thing.
Does anyone know if cities are allowed to levy higher property taxes on vacant lots to encourage development?
That's the thing. It's private property. Unless Mar saw a bylaw infraction, why is he acting on the owner's behalf? For all he knew, the property owner may have been okay with either having a potato field or the 99%ers squatting on his vacant lot.
While I can understand some people don't like the vacant lot it's pretty hard to get a mortgage company to develop a lot.
They allowed someone to place a mortgage on the property for development. Said person went under and the mortgage company did all they could do and take the land. They'll likely sell or partner with a developer in time when they feel they won't take any or as big of a loss as they are now or were in the past. To force them to lose money on the land by having to develop it or sell it at distressed prices would have negative consequences in the industry.
As long as it's not unsafe or deteriorating I don't see what the issue is. Likely local residents have benefited from the houses that have been successfully demolished and then redeveloped. It's part of living in that type of community.
Potato brigade sounds like a bunch of knobs. Also what they did was hideous. That's an atrocious display. I'd rather have a vacant lot with a pile or two of dirt than some hippie, colourful, signed, painted tire mess.
Also who's going to be liable for a stupid gardening accident on the property. Whole thing is a terrible idea. Also to pose for those pictures... Brutal.
Property owner wants Potatoes for People gardeners gone
BY JASON MARKUSOFF, CALGARY HERALD MAY 22, 2012 6:47 PM
For many reasons, Donna Clarke picked the wrong place for her bid to beautify and reclaim land with soil, tires and taters.
The vacant Scarboro lot, next door to her own rental house, is around the corner from the home of Ald. John Mar. He called in the authorities this week against what he first thought were Occupy Calgary squatters, but were well-meaning food growers who never asked permission.
The fatal blow to the Potatoes for the People project came Tuesday, when the Vancouver-based owner told the city’s bylaw director he wanted the guerrilla garden off his company’s property immediately.
“It’s trespassing. We weren’t consulted and we weren’t asked,” said Randolph Pratt, director of the mortgage firm that took over a cluster of properties along 17th Avenue S.W. through foreclosure in 2009.
“It’s inappropriate use of our site.”
And if Clarke and friends did ask first? “No.”
After being warned by bylaw officials that the tires posed a fire hazard, Clarke took away all the empty tires laid out in rows.
“I thought most of the work would be done this weekend, and we were just waiting for the potatoes to grow,” she said.
Even the fence her fellow community and food activists painted in bright colours could get her in trouble, because it belonged to Scarboro Projects Ltd. Pratt, however, won’t pursue any action as long as everything is cleaned up, he said.
Clarke had planned to donate the potatoes to the food bank, although that agency only learned about the gesture in the newspaper, a spokeswoman said.
But while the project was quashed after only about 36 hours, Clarke doesn’t think it’s a total loss.
“I would have to claim victory in the fact that this issue has been brought to light and given attention, and perhaps city council will start to deal with derelict spaces that make it an unsafe place.”
But the city certainly already dealt with this vacant lot, which had a notorious history in Scarboro. Clarke only moved next door in January, and didn’t know about its background.
Only last August, the city ordered the owner to demolish that house and two next to it, as part of a multi-agency crackdown on derelict properties.
“But it still didn’t create community. It’s still neglected,” Clarke replied when told of the city’s past action.
Asked if there was anything more the city could do, Mar replied: “Yeah. (The neighbours) could buy the land, but under the law you just can’t occupy the land.”
Clarke has links to the food activist group that champions backyard chickens, which remain illegal in Calgary.
Mar said he was also concerned when he saw the term Occupy Calgary on one of the tires, and a figure from last year’s weeks-long Olympic Plaza protest occupation with Clarke on that lot.
The lots, next to a former religious hall owned by the same firm, will eventually be redeveloped, Pratt said.
“I can understand the neighbour wanting an adjacent property or a property in their community to reflect the nature of the community,” he said. “But the correct way to do that is through the public process, and not to just trespass and act unilaterally.”
While most of the several dozen community gardens in Calgary are in city parks, there have been some on private lots in agreement with owners — like a short-lived but popular Victoria Park garden.
Clarke’s activism also has deep roots in Calgary, going back to 1914. For decades, the Calgary Vacant Lots Garden Club offered plots for $1 each to produce food and find better use to empty spaces.
Mar said he appreciated the idea, but “it’s a little courteous to ask permission.”
He spoke to Clarke late Monday and suggested he get her charity potato project into an existing community garden.
She declined, saying the point of her project was to reclaim an empty lot, and not just grow food in an existing plot.
So basically she didn't seek permission, and is more interested in the view of the lot than the "feed the homeless" angle she originally touted. She's either being selfish in trying to make the lot her pet project, or she simply didn't think this through and has a fundamental misunderstanding of the difference between "vacant" and "abandoned".
This is starting to get much more belaboured than I originally wanted it to be, but maybe I'll try again to get it across.
Originally Posted by jaydorn
Ultimately I guess we just don't agree on one point here, intent/motivation. Or at least the justification of the actions.
The actions, very much not the same. (destructive VS constructive)
The results, very much not the same. (lost trees VS garden)
The tactics, very much not the same. (sneaking in at night VS broad day light)
You seem to feel the actions of one are more justified than the other, I simply do not.
No. I have said multiple times now that neither are justified.
This isn't about justification or rationalization of either, as this case was pretty clearly cut as unjustifiable on its own. No one should need reminding of the public trees incident or any otherwise arbitrary case with a few similarities to see that. The potato farming people did something they shouldn't have and have no legal leg to stand on in defense of the act. Period. Britannia trees or no Britannia trees.
I really just don't see what benefit comes from equating it to the Britannia incident the way you have. Aside from it being a superfluous thing to bring up in a pretty clear-cut case, I think each brings to light different issues that are interesting to discuss and debate in and of themselves.
This story is different enough from the Britannia story to bring certain things to light that weren't brought up by the Britannia case. In turn, the Britannia story involved things that weren't in play here. Equalizing it with the Britannia story serves to dismiss the topics and issues that are brought up by the different circumstances in each case. That's really what I took issue with in the first place, that the hindrance of the comparison is that the different factors, circumstances and issues are dismissed and perceived as not worth discussing.
Again, it may seem like I'm being really OCD about this or something, but I just take an interest in some of the issues brought up by this case (the Britannia case too, but moreso this one) more than most other people might be.
EDIT: As it turns out, it doesn't seem to matter much anyway since some people seem to be discussing some of the factors that have gone into the story.
She's tied to Paul Hughes. Enough said. I believe the sad looking boy in the picture is Hughes' son. I suspect it was purposely provacative - Hughes is antagonistic toward City staff in particular on urban food issues.
Aaah, so the Calgary Interfaith Food Bank isn't worthy of food grown in a community plot, it has to come from squatter's land? Right. What a loony.
I agree with her on that point, community garden projects already serve an important role in providing food-growing opportunities for apartment-dwellers who otherwise don't have access to such plots. Taking such plots, which are typically in high demand in the inner-city, and using them for food bank donations, defeats the purpose of community gardens. It's better use to allow locals to use such plots for their own vegetables.
However, if she was primarily concerned about the food bank (which sounds more like a after-the-fact sympathy grab), then one question should be whether she's exhausted all of the capacity of her own property to grow potatoes.
I'm all for urban gardening initiatives, as well as for finding ways to make vacant lots useable by their communities, but there needs to be a better way to do it... perhaps a city-run program that encourages participation by allowing a slight tax-break to the property owners, and is actually operated as a temporary community garden, not as one person's activism crusade.
Everyone involved in this story are re-treds. The only ones I don't have a problem with are the by-law officers. They are just doing their jobs. Mar, the owner, the potato poachers, they are totally wacked...