Real Estate & Property Law

Guerrilla Gardeners Tiptoe Around Law to Beautify—and Eat

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In addition to commonplace concerns like weeds, weevils and adverse weather conditions, urban gardeners in far-flung locations including Miami, Southern California, London and Berlin face a significant additional challenge. At any time, police or angry property owners might appear to put a stop to their efforts.

That’s because these guerrilla gardeners don’t actually own the ground they’re tilling and planting with decorative flora and even garden vegetables, explains the the Los Angeles Times. As a result, after weeks, months or even years of effort to beautify and benefit from vacant public and private land, the eco-activisits can wind up with barren plots.

In one instance, the newspaper says, Taylor Arneson, the editor of a Los Angeles Permaculture Guild newsletter, and a friend “planted garlic, potatoes, radishes, carrots, lettuce, onions and more” at a site in West Los Angeles, planning, after more than a year of work, to eat the produce throughout last winter. “But in January, the owner of the property, after first leaving a cease-and-desist letter, rototilled the whole plot.”

While private property owners clearly have the law on their side, enforcement is hit-or-miss concerning planting on vacant public land and often depends on the attitude taken by local homeowners and government officials, according to the newspaper. In Long Beach, grounds maintenance superintendent Ramon Arevalo was “ecstatic” to learn that a reporter knew the identity of a guerrilla gardener responsible for much-admired roadside plantings and promised there would be no repercussions if he came forward.

“I can’t wait to know him! He’s been the talk of this place for 10 years. He’s like the 007 of gardening,” Arevalo says of “Scott,” whose last name isn’t given. A local homeowners association, he notes, has complained to the city asking that their medians be improved to look more like the plantings assembled by the guerrilla gardener.

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