Joe Corso

Long Beach Organics director Joe Corso talks to potential gardeners Saturday at a meeting about a Third District community garden.

In the next month, residents in and near the city’s Third District will have a new community garden in their neighborhood.

Tucked between a stretch of bungalows and houses, the new garden at 914 Redondo Ave. will be nonprofit Long Beach Organic's eighth community garden in the city.

“Our mission for the last 25 or so years has been to convert empty lots to organic gardens and to educate about sustainable agriculture,” Joe Corso, director of Long Beach Organics, said at a meeting Saturday.

The nonprofit was started in 1994 by marine researcher and environmentalist Charles Moore. It has since become known for its community garden program. As an entity independent from the city, it is run by Corso, the lone staff member, and an army of volunteers.

“To explain the relationship with the city, this is private property, but the city has incentivized projects in two ways,” Corso said. “One is that they adopted the urban agriculture incentive. This gives owners of empty lots a significant break in their property tax if they allow for it to be used for agricultural purposes for five years. The city also imposes an empty lot tax which also won’t apply.”

This new plot on Redondo Avenue, across from MVP’s Burgers at 10th Street and two doors from Royal Cup Cafe, is the third private property used by Long Beach Organics.

“Several of our gardens are on (city) Parks property, so we have leases with the Parks Department." Corso said. 

On the premises will be 24 gardening plots, each 10x10 square feet. Initial registrations took place Saturday, but the nonprofit’s website has information for would-be gardeners interested in applying.

“There’s three fees throughout the year, we charge 40 cents a square foot, so a 10x10 lot is 100 square feet, that’s $40. That’s twice a year, and then there’s an additional membership fee for Long Beach Organic for $25. So altogether it’s $105,” Corso said.

About a month away, the land is still rough around the edges, with the trenching for plumbing nearly finished. Last Saturday, the future garden was the site of a meeting that garnered local residents via fliers posted in the neighborhood.

“When you’re gardening, everyone will talk to each other. You ask if you can borrow this or that. And just like that it’s community oriented,” Vern Howard, a hobby gardener who lives near the new garden, said.

While the local response to the garden opening was positive, concerns about parking issues prompted Long Beach Organics to prioritize residents within walking distance of the garden on the corner of Ninth Street and Redondo Avenue, Corso said.

Valerie Condon, Long Beach Organics president, said occasional cooking classes are a perk of the program, and said the organization plans to expand an excess produce program that provided fresh fruits and vegetables to local food banks.

She said this particular garden cost about $18,000 to open; $2,500 provided by Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price.

“I want to acknowledge the Third District council office,” Corso said at the meeting. “They were very supportive of this project and made a donation … which covered the cost of the permitting process, which was new. We’re the first community garden that had to get a permit under some new legislation.”

Plumbing will feature spigots and hoses for individual gardeners to use. Once that’s finished, the landscaping will begin. The garden beds will be installed by Feb. 28, with gardeners encouraged to begin March 1. In addition to the membership and plot fees, gardeners must volunteer 10 hours of work at one of Long Beach Organic’s eight gardens every six months.

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