San Anselmo adopted new rules after the garden was broken

San Anselmo has implemented new rules for community gardens based on how the city’s amenities are managed.

The City Council unanimously approved a new ordinance Tuesday to guide activities at the Robson-Harrington Park Gardens.

“Going forward the parks will be overseen by the recreation department of the Parks and Recreation Commission,” said Daniel Mack, the city’s director of community services.

The 33-acre garden on the Robeson-Harrington House property was created in the 1970s as a way for residents to grow fruits, vegetables and other plants and build community. The garden survives under self-management, but recent plot allocation and management issues have brought city staff in, Mauk said.

Among the issues are 10 non-resident landowners gardening on the site, while several San Anselmo residents remain on a waiting list to get in, Mack said.

City staff have struggled with how to increase garden space for San Anselmo residents while allowing non-resident gardeners to occupy their spaces. The gardeners advocated for non-residents, saying they were an integral part of the garden.

The new rules require new garden members to be residents of San Anselmo to maintain membership. Ten additional positions will be created on empty positions, or by dividing the existing positions, sharing positions or restructuring.

A section of residents from the neighborhood group Friends of Robeson Park told the council they are opposed to the park’s expansion. Some say it’s time for the garden to be finished so that the space can be used by the wider community.

The group has submitted a letter to the city asking the ordinances to include provisions prohibiting the garden from enlarging its footprint and design standards limiting the height of plants.

“Problem: The garden is haphazardly designed and an eyesore,” the letter says.

“This is uncharacteristic of a community garden,” said Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Rod Kerr, who worked with city staff to develop the proposal.

The amended law requires a garden steering committee member to act as a liaison with the Friends of Robson Park.

Mack said there are 30 people on the waiting list and the city is in the process of filling four open positions. After the new places are added, the waiting list is expected to decrease significantly.

Lisa Hamilton, who owns a garden there, called the new rules “draconian.”

“For the most part, all gardeners feel very good about this process going forward,” she said. “I think the city can provide good accountability and structure and things like that.”

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