Help Save Daly City's Only Community Garden

Help Save Daly City's Only Community Garden

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Debbie Santiago started this petition to Mayor, City of Daly City Juslyn Manalo and

When my family moved to Daly City in 2004 my son discovered a beautiful community garden within walking distance of our home. Gardening with friends and neighbors helped teach my son to respect and share earth's bounty. 

My mother is from the Washoe Tribe near Lake Tahoe; together we hold small ceremonies in the garden and sing traditional Wašiw songs to honor Mother Earth and all her beauty. The garden has given my family a sense of peace and harmony.

Over the past two decades gardeners have nurtured the land and Mother Earth has responded by providing a second chance for hummingbirds, hawks, bees, frogs, butterflies and deer that drink from seasonal wetlands. Everything you see and touch in the garden is living and sacred. Please help me save it.

Here's the Problem: High School District Trustees plan to bulldoze Daly City’s only community garden

Jefferson Union High School District (JUHSD) plans to bulldoze a 20+ year old community garden located at 699 Serramonte Blvd in Daly City and replace it with three 14-story market-rate apartment buildings. JUHSD’s proposed Serramonte Del Rey development includes numerous buildings and retail stores. The project would fund construction of a new board of trustees administrative building slated for Westmoor Park. As planned, three 14-story towers will obstruct coastal ridgeline views in addition to destroying Daly City’s only community garden. The current site for the garden is ideal because the ridgeline above the garden protects a fruit orchard, vegetable plots and native plants from coastal fog and wind.

JUHSD and their business partners have not agreed to modify the development to spare the garden and they have not offered an alternative site for a community garden. The land where the project is located once belonged to the Ramaytush Ohlone, the original peoples of the San Francisco Peninsula; they lived by hunting, fishing, and gathering. Both the garden and the parkland serve as valuable community resources and greenspace. 

School District's Heavy-Handed Tactics Targeting Gardeners

District trustees who support demolishing the garden directed staff to implement an authoritarian culture of intimidation and fear. In 2020, as the Covid pandemic spiked JUHSD began ramping up harassment. School district tactics included verbally berating gardeners by telling them to stay away, erecting an 8’ cyclone fence with a padlocked gate, installing a video surveillance system near the gate, installing a loudspeaker, cutting off water from all garden spigots and removing redwood trees. Additionally, gardeners were required to pay for fingerprints and an FBI background check to access the garden by appointment. Staff said they were concerned about crime however when asked if the District had reported any incidents to police administrators said no crime was reported. Toni Presta, Superintendent of JUHSD has not refunded the public's money for fingerprints and background checks.

History of Ancestral and Cultural Genocide

In 1769, Spanish colonizers arrived in Northern California and constructed missions to Christianize my ancestors and take our land. Between the years 1769 and 1834, the number of Native Californians dropped from 300,000 to 250,000. After California entered into the Union in 1850, the state government perpetrated massacres against the Ohlone people. Many of the leaders of these massacres were rewarded with positions in state and federal government. These massacres have been described as genocide. During the 1940’s through the 1960’s the state disenrolled eight-hundred tribes including the Ohlone to gain control of their land. Native Californians who were relocated during this era faced culture shock and discrimination. Today, many of us are leading the effort for cultural and historical recognition of our tribe. 

Privatization of Public Resources 

Bulldozing Daly City's only community garden and killing trees to develop market-rate housing on public land that once belonged to the Ramaytush Ohlone is unacceptable. The community garden is Daly City’s only public food producing garden and it includes over 100 fruit trees protected by a coastal bluff, 27 redwood trees and an impressive collection of native plants, hundreds of trees and a seasonal wetland. 

The garden has a history of providing community space for Indigenous families, Latinx families and families of Color to grow food and raise chickens. Gardeners forage for plants of significance to the medicine and diet of the Ramaytush Ohlone and Indigenous elders hold multi-generational seasonal ceremonies within the garden on approximately 2-acres of public land.

This garden is especially important because it's the only community garden in Daly City; greenspace and parkland is extremely limited and underfunded. In the last few years the Daly City Council defunded Westmoor Park which they leased from JUHSD. The park lease was terminated and now JUHSD plans to build new office buildings on parkland for the elected board of trustees and administrators. Sadly, there is a lack of accountability on the part of locally elected politicians who apparently don’t understand that sacrificing a public garden and park for market rate housing is a bad deal for the community. Shortsighted thinking by the JUHSD Board of Trustees has resulted in harmful policy decisions and an unhealthy preoccupation with empire building that falls outside the District's stated mission, “Excellence Through Equity.”

From the City of Daly City website:

  • Daly City is the 9th most densely populated city in the entire country. And, the City experiences one of the highest pollution burdens within the County of San Mateo.
  • Overall, Daly City does not have a diverse urban forest and this has much larger implications for long-term resilience. Forests that are not diverse succumb to external shocks quickly, like disease, drought, and storms.

Chronic Illness in San Mateo County

The 2013 San Mateo County Community Health Needs Assessment reported that the prevalence of asthma and diabetes increased significantly between 1998 and 2013. In only 15 years the asthma rate in San Mateo County jumped from 8% to 17.9% and chronic lung disease increased from 4.7% to 7.1%. Poor air quality in Daly City disproportionately impacts children and people of color and county asthma deaths rank above the state average. Diabetes is also on the rise. Between 1998 and 2013 the county diabetes rate more than doubled from 3.9% to 10%. Diabetes disproportionately impacts people of color and low income families.

The Sierra Club sent Daly City officials a letter that included the following concerns:

Land owned by the Jefferson Union High School District currently represents a public use. It includes a well used almost two acre community garden and orchard that improves air quality, increases access to fresh food, improves food security, improves dietary habits through education, increases fruit and vegetable intake, increases physical activity through garden maintenance activities, reduces the risk of obesity and obesity-related diseases, improves mental health, promotes relaxation, provides needed biodiversity, includes hundreds of plant species including native plants, provides wildlife habitat, includes trees and shrubs of different densities and heights giving birds a places of retreat and safety, includes a number of redwood trees and fruit trees, the garden includes a seasonal wetland, reduces erosion from runoff, provides natural flood control, improves water quality and serves as a vital component of effective adaptation and resilience to climate change. Children's toys within the garden point to widespread community use and the functioning of the garden like a park. For photos of the garden please see the garden’s Instagram account @themysticalgarden and additional photos are published online.

There is a shortage of community gardens in Daly City unlike surrounding cities including Pacifica and San Francisco. Community gardens function as ecological green space, a gathering place for neighbors, as well as a place for solitude, reflection and study. They also make a positive contribution to the community by reducing food insecurity, providing access to culturally relevant foods, promoting healthier eating through education programs, and providing access to gardening for those who otherwise could not have a garden, such as families with young children, the elderly, recent immigrants, multifamily dwellers, and or the homeless.

The garden was started decades ago as part of a therapeutic school garden project and it continues today as a source of great public benefit and community pride. The garden provides opportunities for active and passive recreation as well as healthy nutrition. This is critically important given concerns about malnutrition and obesity and a disproportionate lack of community gardens in Daly City. Further, given the low proportion of counselors to students in JUHSD, the garden's benefit to student mental health is significant. A shortage of community gardens in Daly City negatively impacts citizens; this hardship became particularly difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic when team sports, gyms and group exercise classes were prohibited by state and local health orders. The need for increased community garden access is particularly relevant in Daly City, given its high percentage of minority families with backgrounds in active tending of gardens, orchards and farms for reasons related to food security and cultural practice.

Community gardens are examples of green infrastructure that are resilient adaptations to climate change. As global warming intensifies food costs will continue to increase and food scarcity will need to be addressed through community gardening. Community gardens can reduce urban heat islands, provide various ecosystem services, and increase storm water retention. From a socioeconomic perspective, these gardens also build trust, facilitate participation, improve responses to natural disasters and food security — all vital components of effective adaptation and resilience to climate change. Unlike rain gardens, bioswales, and green roofs, community gardens respond to stressors like economic, social, and political instability. 

Decades of tree removal, often to make way for both front yard and backyard paving, has increased impervious surfaces citywide. Now the highly urbanized population faces a new climate reality dominated by drought, rising temperatures, and limited but more intense storm events.

Stop Reducing Greenspace in Daly City

Our elected representatives have an obligation to address nature-deficit disorder resulting from a chronic lack of community gardens, green space and parks in Daly City. Nature-deficit disorder contributes to higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses, attention difficulties, depression, substance abuse, a diminished use of the senses and health conditions related to poor diet, lack of physical exercise and acute asthma episodes caused by unhealthy air quality. Research suggests that the nature-deficit weakens ecological literacy and stewardship of the natural world, resulting in apathy in the face of climate change disasters such as wildfires, sea level rise, and extreme heat which Daly City needs to counter. 

Your Support Matters

Please join me in supporting community gardening opportunities in Daly City. By signing this petition you will help save Daly City’s only community garden for future generations. The petition will be delivered to Senator Scott Wiener, Assemblymember Phil Ting, City of Daly City Councilmembers, Jefferson Union High School District Trustees and the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.

Thank you, Debbie

Community Garden Trees (hundreds of trees)

27 Redwoods
3 Madrone 
2 Buckeye 
4 California Coffee Bean 
1 Bay Laurel 
2 California elderberry 
1 Laurel 
2 Douglas Fir 
2 Hinoki Cypress 
5 Monterey Cypress 
(100) Monterey Pine 
1 Catalina ironwood (donated by city)
5 Willow 
2 Blue Spruce 
1 Potted Spruce 
1 Alpine Source 
1 Austrian Pine 
1 Live Oak 
1 Noble Fir 
3 Maple (big)
2 Japanese Maple 
1 Walking Stick Tree 
(100+) acacia 

Community Garden Fruit Orchard (over 100 fruit trees)

3 Cherry 
2 Plum 
8 Nectarines 
22 Apple 
12 Currants, many varieties 
5 Avocado 
4 Pears 
3 Olive 
2 Loquat 
2 Kumquat 
2 Lemon
2 Buddha Hand Citrus Tree
1 Mexican Lime
1 Meyer Lemon
3 Banana Passion Fruit 
6 Blackberries without thorns 
1 Lemon Guava 
1 Pomegranate 
6 Blueberries Shrubs
4 Pineapple 
1 Fig
1 Mandarin Orange
2 Mandarin Clementine
3 Grape Vines
1 Prickly Pear Cactus
2 Dragon Fruit Cactus
2 Peach

0 have signed. Let’s get to 5,000!
At 5,000 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!