Movable gardens could boost plot space in San Francisco

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerNomad Garden Project founders Stephanie Houston

Most gardens are firmly rooted in the ground. But a new idea in San Francisco would make planting spaces movable so they can use land for a short time before being relocated.

The project, called Nomad Gardens, looks to combine the availability of land that is waiting to be developed with the desire of San Franciscans to participate in urban gardening and food production.

The idea grew when Nomad founder Stephanie Houston moved to the Mission Bay neighborhood in 2009 and tried to garden in her apartment.

“I started thinking, hey, there are all of these great areas that are in our apartment complex as well as around Mission Bay that were not being utilized,” Houston said.

In 2010, Houston and Katie Crepeau, who had worked together on other volunteer projects and now own an architecture design firm, launched the Nomad Gardens project.

The project, which is in the early stages, aims to put several dozen portable garden beds onto a site in Mission Bay that is slated for future development.

Plans call for two 2-by-4 troughs to be placed onto a pallet, piped for water and then leased out for use as gardens.
And when the developer is ready to build, the entire operation can be moved.

In San Francisco, and especially the emerging Mission Bay neighborhood, new gardening space would likely be welcomed.

An April report from the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association about urban gardening said there are 76 publicly owned sites around The City for gardens and several dozen other private sites. The wait-list for a space in a community garden, such as those run by the Recreation and Park Department, can be more than two years, the report said.

But putting down garden beds on a vacant lot is not without hurdles. Nomad Gardens secured permission from one developer for a site. It also sought approval from several city agencies and community groups, and Houston and Crepeau are continuing their outreach for final approval.

“It is kind of like a mini development project,” Crepeau said of the challenges of gaining support.

The group expects to launch a fundraising campaign todaySunday to raise money for startup costs for the project, which is scheduled to launch in early 2013.

mbillings@sfexaminer.com

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