By Paul Teetor

Strand gardens to stay

by Paul Teetor

The city and the county are working on a policy that would allow gardens on county owned land but prohibit structures like this old rowboat. Photo by Kevin Cody

Strand residents can keep the gardens if they get a permit, but the dollhouses, play houses, grown-over rowboats and other structures have to go.

That’s the bottom line in a new policy being worked out between the city and the county in an effort to preserve the string of gardens that have sprung up along the Strand on Los Angeles County property.

"We’re trying our level best to keep everybody happy," said Tom Martin, deputy to County Supervisor Don Knabe. "There are liability issues to be considered, and we still have to work out a permit system, but we want to be clear about this: we’re not trying to chase little old ladies away from their gardens."

The issue first arose several weeks ago, Martin said, when the county received a complaint about the increasing number of gardens on the strip of land between Manhattan Beach’s walking path and the Strand.

"Someone was actually building a flagstone patio around one of the gardens, and that prompted the complaint," Martin said.

The complaint raised the issues of land ownership and liability should someone get hurt, Martin said.

For many years, Strand residents have landscaped and maintained the strip of land, planting gardens and erecting small structures built around rowboats, barbecues and bird feeders.

Robert Caldwell, who lives at 21st Street and the Strand, is one of those who have planted a garden on public land.

"My wife has been tending that garden for 10 to 12 years," Caldwell said. "We have rose bushes and sunflowers and a little wildflower garden below the rose garden. People love it."

Caldwell said he has counted more than 70 Strand gardens that are tended by individual Strand residents.

"These residents spend thousands of dollars annually to give Strand users the joy of the beauty and fragrance of roses and other flowers," Caldwell said. "Their efforts should be appreciated rather than squashed."

Caldwell said he spent the weekend at the Old Hometown Fair talking to other Manhattan Beach residents and handing out more than 500 fliers urging people to contact the city and the county about the gardens.

"There was a widespread feeling that the gardens make the Strand a joyous place to walk and should be kept," Caldwell said. "I’m sure our county supervisor and our mayor have gotten a lot of calls the past few days after we handed out the fliers."

Caldwell said the evolving permit policy and the cooperation between the city and the county is a good sign.

"I figured something good would come out of this," he said. "If it has to be a permit system, that’s fine. And it’s understandable that they would want the structures down."

City Manager Geoff Dolan said the city will do anything it can to cooperate with the county on the garden issue.

"We’ve offered our assistance to the county," Dolan said. "One possibility for the county is to use a permit system similar to the encroachment permits we use on walk streets."

Martin said the details of the permit system still need to be worked out.

"One thing I know we would require is proof of liability insurance," Martin said. "Otherwise, the county is the deep pockets." ER