The April 6 announcement that the gave residents concerned with preserving Encinitas’ quality of life a reason to exhale.
“Our purchase ensures that it will not be used for development or residential subdivisions, commercial office parks, or shopping centers,” said James S. Farley, Esq., president and CEO of the foundation.
Farley explained that the process of developing a plan would be a long, deliberate one. The initial steps, however, could happen sooner rather than later.
“As agreed, we have an option to purchase the land within a year,” he said. “We are urgently trying to determine the environmental condition. I doubt we will be surprised. We are prepared to take on the problems, and are ready to meet them. I hope to close escrow sooner than a year.”
To get a glimpse into the dialogue that has taken place so far, Farley encourages residents to visit a report developed in June 2010: A Vision for a New Commons in Encinitas which was funded by the Thomas C. Ackerman Foundation and the Leichtag Family Foundation. You can view that online here or review the digital copy attached to this article.
“We did not present a plan. It’s more of a collection of ideas and a vision for discussion. Even now we are very much in the front end of what I would describe as a long-term ideation process. We seek to inform ourselves about some ideas we’ve shared already, and hopefully expose new ones.”
Farley says there’s an opportunity to grow the San Diego Botanic Garden into a public garden that promotes community engagement, human interaction and learning.
“I can say with confidence that we are going to have a community garden like Europe for years and years. It’s more important today as we connect to our food sources, health and wellness. In fact, the first public gardens were apothecaries where people looked for remedies to find health.”
One community engagement model that has caught his attention is the Jewish Urban Adamah in West Berkeley where produce is grown on one acre, in raised beds, and 90 percent of the harvest is distributed to food banks. Farley’s vision is to bring post-graduate students from around the world to Encinitas to create a fellowship of 10 to 12 people who would work in the community around food justice themes.
“Through that effort it will evolve into what I hope will be a robust farming model,” he said.
“We believe we can run this program and create some sustainability for virtually the same dollars as the acquisition of free produce.”
He adds, “Forty to fifty percent of the participants are not Jewish. There are very compelling social returns and it is something we are excited about doing. This is something Encinitas and our coastal community will love.”
Farley hopes to engage the County of San Diego in a partnership that will allow San Diego Botanic Garden to expand and accommodate more than the current 200,000 visitors a year.
“The current configuration doesn’t permit for efficient operation,” he said. “There are 10 acres and we are hoping the county will look at making it larger than that. By adding to the footprint, we will be bringing the garden into significant international prominence. I also believe with the contiguous uses that we can foresee, there is an obligation to share resources for an outdoor gathering and performance space that we’d be able to share with the garden community in an efficient, garden-without-walls idea.”
Other concepts being considered are a Jewish Cultural Center that serves the entire community. Farley says studies show that the demographics of the North County Jewish community are shifting to include a higher rate of interfaith marriages.
“The things we do now are on cross-cultural lines such as the book fair, film festival, music festival and the list goes on,” he said. “There are opportunities we have to bring new programming if we have an appropriate infrastructure in place with shared resources.”
Farley says local residents can influence decisions by first getting involved with the development of the city’s general plan.
“Ask about the possibilities of what the space might be used for,” he said. “We will be informed by this process. In a much shorter time, we will grow in population. We need to ask how that will impact us. We need to have an understanding of what the community wants and the desires and needs will influence how we think about this space.”