By Hanna Plotnik
It was a sea of bright green in the City Council Chambers on March 22, as people wore their “Los Olivos” shirts in support of The Farm at Los Olivos Park.
About 50 people signed up to speak at the Parks and Recreation Board meeting. Dwayne Allen, owner of Breadfruit & Rum Bar, said this urban farm is a step in the right direction and that approving the urban farm sends a message that the city understands it needs to change the way it uses public lands.
“With greater appreciation for urbanized farming, people will be engaged in related activities that support healthy communities and healthy environments,” Allen said.
Tarek El Dokor, a resident near Los Olivos Park, believes that The Farm is an amenity that will bring in more diversity to the neighborhood.
“This is an amenity that really is a marketizer for everyone,” Dokor said. “Our neighborhood is constantly in evolution, just like the rest of Phoenix, it is a diversity of ethnicities, ages, and income levels.”
Not everyone was convinced that The Farm is a step in the right direction, though.
Brian Stanley, a local attorney and member of the Concerned Citizens for Los Olivos Park, said that a substitute, equally accessible land would not be able to be provided once the project started.
“There is a very naive presumption that if it is owned by the city, and we call it a park, it doesn’t matter for other regulatory purposes what actually goes on there,” Stanley said.
There was also some concern that the streets surrounding Los Olivos Park could not handle the traffic that it would receive after The Farm was built, but City of Phoenix Deputy Parks and Recreation Director, Judy Weiss, assured the board that, according to the Street and Transportation Department, the current use of 28th Street was only half of what it is capable of handling.
Katherine Hills, another concerned resident, was worried that this project would permanently install a commercial business in her only neighborhood park.
“This will create a form of private use that, I believe, violates the deep restrictions for this park,” Hills said.
Weiss said there will be gates around the area, but they will be open during park hours.
The Parks and Recreation Board voted 4-1 to approve The Farm at Los Olivos Park. Board member Sarah Porter, who cast the dissenting vote, agreed that Los Olivos Park needs a face-lift, but it is not neglected the way some parks are in Phoenix.
“Somebody said it is the right project in the wrong place, and I feel very sympathetic to that idea,” Porter said. She had been on the fence about The Farm at Los Olivos, and she still feels very troubled about it.
“It is hard to give up a significant amount of space in a park that is 20 to 25 percent of the park in a part of town that is becoming denser,” said Porter. “There is not much known about how this space as an urban-to-table farm-restaurant will work as a park.”
Editor’s note: Hanna Plotnik is a student at the ASU Walter Cronkite School for Journalism and Mass Communication.
TO READ MORE ABOUT WHAT IS PLANNED FOR THE FARM AT LOS OLIVOS, READ OUR FEATURE STORY FROM THE FEBRUARY ISSUE OF NORTH CENTRAL NEWS, HERE.