Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Garden Grants Pass!

Since I started gardening professionally in Grants Pass, I have wanted to garden Grants Pass, the whole city, though I know I can’t.  It’s just that it needs it so badly.  So I’m starting a club called Garden Grants Pass, to do just that.

I didn’t feel that way when I lived here for two years in the 80’s.  The town was a lot smaller and much cleaner and neater in those days.  But 30 years has doubled the population of this city and probably tripled its area, looking at all the vacant lots.   40 years of not enforcing nuisance codes regarding weeds and litter combined with 30 years of expansion has turned this city into a weedy, seedy, littered mess.

Ironically, our city code mandates that every square foot of Grants Pass be gardened.  It forbids allowing weeds to mature and go to seed.  This is gardening, which is keeping order in outdoor spaces, and invariably involves weeding at some point.  Weeding is the essence of gardening; everything else is optional.  A Zen garden has no plants at all.

Not only does our code mandate gardening, but our City Charter mandates that the City Manager enforce all city codes.  This has obviously not been done, partly because the city makes no money enforcing nuisance codes.  People readily comply when told by an officer to clean up a few weeds and a bit of litter, so no citations are issued.  They are much less likely to clean up a property so weedy and trashed that it is a safety hazard, which the city can abate for 10% over cost, plus a heavy fine.

Property nuisance codes also haven’t been enforced because developers, bankers, and speculators controlled our city until the property bubble burst.  They don’t want to have to spend what it takes to maintain their vacant properties to city standards. 

The property/housing bubble was partly fueled by that lack of enforcement, because one could hold on to a property until one gets the price one thinks it’s worth, without paying much more than property taxes.  If people had to maintain property to code, the price would have to take that maintenance into account, and they would sell for the market price to get out from under it.  Lack of enforcement has defeated the intent of the Urban Growth Boundary, which was to force infill of vacant lots inside the city before expanding the city’s limits.

Garden Grants Pass will be holding free gardening classes (see other side) to train people to garden their own yards and others.  And we will be petitioning to end the 10% admin fee on abatements and have all officers enforce nuisance codes on sight, so our entire city may be gardened as our code demands.