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The temperature dropped below 40* overnight on the 2nd night of the occupation at Proyecto Jardin when White Memorial Medical Center decided that they would not renew the lease after 17 years in the community of Boyle Heights. As of January 31, 2016, White Memorial refused to negotiate or grant Proyecto Jardin an extension on their lease and since the end of 2015 the hospital and the representatives of the Seventh Day Adventist facility have not met with the representatives, gardeners, or members of the Proyecto Jardin community to find a peaceful resolution.

Proyecto Jardin

Proyecto Jardin has served the community and residents of Boyle Heights by providing a green space in one of the areas in Los Angeles with the most air and ground pollution. The neighborhood is surrounded by every major freeway in the city, including the 101, the Golden State Freeway, the 10, and the 60, as well as the various railways that criss-cross the area. Proyecto Jardin serves as an Urban Oasis in this environmental wasteland.

Proyecto Jardin has served the community and residents of Boyle Heights by providing a green space in one of the areas in Los Angeles with the most air and ground pollution.

Lizzette Perez and I joined Cecilia Caballero, Genaro Ulloa, Karen Anzoategui, Nancy Aragon, and other community members who stayed at the garden the night before. Karen and Nancy were present to defend the garden on the morning of February 1st when representatives of White Memorial Hospital attempted to illegally evict Proyecto Jardin from the premises.

At the root of the issues is the inability of the decisionmakers to negotiate or discuss the renewal of the lease between the representatives of Proyecto Jardin and White Memorial Hospital. There have been unsubstantiated rumors that the hospital wanted the land for additional parking. This was later replaced by the explicit insinuation that Proyecto Jardin was no longer welcomed on the grounds and would be replaced by two nonprofit organizations that would theoretically do a better job of managing the garden.

The main problem with the argument of "mismanagement" is that there are no agreements, violations, or wasted resources that have been disregarded, so White Memorial would appear to be drawing straws in an attempt to see what sticks in the minds of the public.

Proyecto Jardin

Proyecto Jardin helps cultivate health and wellness, social harmony, culturally relevant examples of self determination, and grassroots people power thanks to their style of urban agriculture, traditional healing, artistic expressions, and community organizing. Once the gardeners and organizers of Proyecto Jardin understood that the negotiations with the hospital were broken and would not continue in good faith, they decided to reach out to allies, partners, and members of the community that could lend a helping hand. The volunteers have helped to clean up paths, remove trash, provide a round-the-clock presence, and get the word out to others about the very real possibility that this garden will shortly be taken away from the community.

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White Memorial Hospital insists that they want to keep the garden open and welcome the gardeners to stay. But to date, nothing has been put in writing and the lines of communication have been broken, with no prospects for repairs. Projecto Jardin's representatives are hoping to earn enough support from community allies, elected officials, and progressive partners to force White Memorial Hospital back to the negotiation table to discuss a fair deal that would benefit both Proyecto Jardin and the medical facility.

So far, White Memorial Hospital has offered a new lease but it comes with a huge asterisk that Proyecto Jardin could not agree to sign. The Hospital representatives offered to alllow Proyecto Jardin to retain one-third of the garden for only 6 months, but with the caveat that two additional partners would be brought in, the garden would be rebranded and renamed, and the garden would offer religion classes in line with the teaching of the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

When Proyecto Jardin refused to sign a lease with those terms, the proposal was rescinded and a 30-day notice to vacate was issued instead. Clearly, White Memorial Hospital and their administrators have little understanding of how the garden contributes to the wellness, health, and overall well-being of the community of Boyle Heights. Longtime residents cannot help but sense that this move is a product of the ongoing efforts to force the community to accept gentrifications and all its shortcoming that adversely affect working class people of color.

Proyeto Jardin is asking the representatives of White Memorial Hospital to sit at the table and negotiate a new lease with the community that is reflective of their long history and respectful of their efforts to improve the health and wellness of the local residents. Proyecto Jardin is also calling on the allies and partners in Greater Los Angeles that support community green spaces to visit the garden at 1718 Bridge Street in Los Angeles and spend a few hours, a day, or the night and become a Guardian of the Garden or a legal observer.

The Light Shines in Boyle Heights as the Night Falls on Proyecto Jardin—Miguel Paredes

The Light Shines in Boyle Heights as the Night Falls on Proyecto Jardin—Miguel Paredes

Proyecto Jardin is also calling on the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council, its City Councilmember José Huizar , Mayor Eric Garcetti, its State Senator Kevin de Leon, its Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, the County Board of Supervisors, Governor Jerry Brown, and members of the US Congress to support gardens and green spaces in Boyle Heights.

Finally, we urge the readers and supporters of the LA Progressive to get in touch with foundations, community-based organizations, and nonprofit groups and progressive thinkers to support Proyecto Jardin as we reimagine what community spaces will look like in the 21st century that adhere to a horizontal power structure.

You, too, can help #SaveProyectoJardin and help Boyle Heights avoid the same fate as the South Central Farm in Los Angeles, which remains fallow and barren nearly 10 years after it was destroyed by a core groups of decisionmakers in city government at the expense of thousands of resident. We urge White Memorial Hospital to #StopTheDisplacement of Proyecto Jardin in Boyle Heights and allow the garden to continue. Please visit the website at proyectojardin.org and join a place, a people, a movement, and an organization that needs your help if we are to maintain it for future generations.

miguel-paredes

Miguel Paredes