The C is for Crank

A Modest Proposal: From Vacant Lots to P-Patches

By Erica C. Barnett April 12, 2010

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I'm starting to think that it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for me to get a P-Patch plot in Seattle. For more than a year, I've been on the waiting list for a plot in one of three P-Patches in Southeast Seattle. Even staying on the wait list, I've discovered, requires a bit of work: Every year, I have to fill out a form to confirm that, yes, I'm still interested in a P-Patch, and fill the city in on my level of gardening interest and expertise. Fail to fill out the form (a physical form that arrives in the mail, by the way), get dropped off the list.

Not that being on the waiting list means a hell of a lot. According to parks department spokeswoman Dewey Potter (whom I called several months ago to inquire about my odds) most P-Patch tenants leave their garden plots "feet first." So short of offing the (probably very nice) little old lady who's currently squatting on MY P-Patch (kidding!), my only hope is for the city to open up more plots.

Conveniently, I happen to know exactly where they can do just that. When Sound Transit built light rail along Martin Luther King Jr. Way South, it bought 61 parcels of land to use for construction staging. Some—maybe half—of those parcels can be used for development, but the rest are pretty much good for nothing but pocket parks (tiny patches of grass that typically don't see much use), off-leash dog parks (which this non-dog owner thinks there are plenty of already), or P-Patches (for which, as mentioned, there's tremendous pent-up demand.)



Aside from my personal interest in obtaining a P-Patch plot before I'm old and gray, P-Patches have a lot of benefits. They improve community food security by providing healthy food (often lacking in low-income areas) for both gardeners themselves and through donations (more than ten tons a year!) to nearby food banks; create opportunities for people to meet their neighbors; give apartment dwellers an opportunity to commune with the land, man; and much more.

According to Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray, it wouldn't be all that hard to turn Sound Transit-owned plots into P-Patches—Sound Transit would just have to donate the land to the city (something they're planning  to do already), which—with the help of volunteer labor from prospective P-Patch tenants like me—would turn the plots into new community gardens. Et voila.

So how 'bout it, Seattle? Who wants to roll up their sleeves and get to work on a couple dozen new P-Patches?
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