Mount Hope Community Garden, San Diego, California
In 2011, Project New Village held the groundbreaking ceremony for their Mount Hope Community Garden, an urban community garden bringing sustainable agriculture to the communities in Southeastern San Diego that lack reasonable access to nearby, healthy foods. The garden is located on what used to be an empty lot that Project New Village had been leasing from the City of San Diego since 2011. When Project New Village inquired about renewing their lease in 2019, they discovered that the land was to be put on the market, where it would face a high risk of development. With a short deadline and an urgent need to acquire the property, Project New Village reached out to The Conservation Fund for a loan, and with our financing, bought the land in December 2019. Now owners, not tenants, of the once-vacant lot that flourished into the Mount Hope Community Garden, Project New Village owns their future and can create a healthy, sustainable community for current and future generations. Their future plans for the site include developing the Good Food District that will enhance urban agriculture’s connection to economic opportunity by changing the relationship between how people sell and source their food.
Managing Director N. Diane Moss and Board Member Bernard Mauricia , Summer Soiree Celebration 2019. Photo credit: Eder Escamilla.
WHY THIS PROJECT MATTERS
Southeastern San Diego is an ethnically diverse region comprised of several smaller neighborhoods that are adjacent to downtown San Diego. Established in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, these neighborhoods are distinguished from greater San Diego in their historic architecture and community-oriented developments built around churches, schools, and cemeteries. This region near San Diego Bay is known for its steep hills, and many neighborhoods were built atop small plateaus where military and other working-class families took residence throughout the 20th century. The historic significance and cultural diversity of these neighborhoods creates a strong community identity.
During the 1900s, discriminatory housing practices prevented many people of color from taking residence in other parts of San Diego, leading to a migration of people of diverse ethnicities to Southeastern neighborhoods. Following World War II, city zoning changes allowed unappealing and environmentally damaging industrial complexes to be located next to Southeastern residences, and freeway development demolished blocks of neighborhoods. These changes fragmentated communities and exacerbated the impact of segregation, contributing to socio-economic decline. In recent decades, these effects, coupled with environmental pollution, have overwhelmed many neighborhoods. These socio-economic challenges have also affected the availability of affordable, nutritious food in Southeastern San Diego. Instead, there is an undesirable amount of liquor stores and fast food establishments.
Concerned for public health and wellness, Project New Village established the Mount Hope Community Garden, utilizing urban land conservation to provide residents with educational, wellness, and economic opportunities from within the community. Nestled in the heart of Mount Hope, the communal garden beautified a vacant lot, and beyond the valuable health benefits, serves as a social gathering space used for movie nights, festivals, workshops and farmer’s markets – truly unifying the neighborhood. Urban gardens like Mount Hope also provide unique volunteer opportunities for children and adults where they can enhance their neighborhoods and learn about food systems in a safe, outdoor environment, which is especially important in underserved areas that have been disconnected from sustainability movements. Mount Hope Community Garden is a beloved place where a neighborhood came together to cultivate positive change, turning a vacant lot into a place that is equally valuable to the environment and the community.
- Article: “Mt. Hope Community Garden Re-Opens With Focus On Food Justice” (KPBS)
California State Director