WATSONVILLE – The City Council passed the Community Garden Program Guide Tuesday night but only after a rowdy crowd from the Seaview Ranch neighborhood lined up at the podium to vehemently express their opposition to the Loma Vista Avenue garden site.
The council voted 4-2, with council members Nancy Bilicich and Emilio Martinez voting no.
The garden plan includes many possible sites, but the proposed garden between Loma Vista Avenue and the Struve Slough Trail drew the most ire. The complaints centered on how a community garden would impact parking on Loma Vista, traffic concerns, impacts on the slough and the proximity to protected wetlands. Residents also complained that they were not properly informed about the community garden plan.
The loudest opposition came from Daren Dillon, vice president of the Seaview Ranch Homeowner's Association.
”This is a disgrace!” Dillon stood up and shouted as the vote was completed. “You did not listen!”
As Dillon continued to shout and others in the crowd around him stood up, Councilman Martinez went over to Dillon and asked him to calm down, which he eventually did.
Earlier, during the public comment period, 15 residents of the 334-home neighborhood expressed their concerns with the proposed garden.
Dillon said the homeowners association was not contacted about the proposed Loma Vista Avenue garden.
“This has been an incredibly frustrating process,” he said. “We are in favor of community gardens. This is not an appropriate site for a community garden.”
After the contentious public comment period, council members weighed in on the matter.
Martinez questioned who would manage the gardens and if the city would be liable if a gardener used a pesticide that leaked into the slough.
“So the city is going to assume the liability for such a small plot of land? I don’t see it,” Martinez said.
Councilman Lowell Hurst seemed to question if many in the fired-up crowd were really as uninformed as they claimed.
“They seem to be actively engaged for not being contacted,” Hurst said. He then said, “I think a lot of the concerns are overblown,” which elicited yelling and shouts of “no!” from the crowd of 60.
Mayor Eduardo Montesino threatened to clear the room if the crowd didn't stop the outbursts.
After the vote, most of the crowd left the council chambers. With the air cleared, another agenda item -- the ban on single-use plastic bags -- passed 5-1, with only Bilicich voting no. She said she did not like the 10 cents that will be charged for paper bags, and she’d heard from seniors who also didn’t like it.
The mayor recommended that the bag ban start in three months instead of six, which also passed.
For the first year of the ban, stores will be required to charge 10 cents for paper bags. After a year, the charge will go up to 25 cents.
Restaurants will still be allowed to use plastic bags for takeout, and plastic also may be used to bag produce, greeting cards, meat, ice cream, and other wet items.
Share on Facebook