Pumpkin-Gate: No Rogue Squash Allowed
Photos Courtesy of Sharon Kilbride and Cindy Simon
“Who would not love a pumpkin patch, with fall approaching?” Santa Monica Canyon resident Joan Kramer asked in an August 31 email to neighbors.
It seems that would be the City of Los Angeles.
On August 31, the Bureau of Street Services ripped out a pumpkin patch that had been growing on the West Channel Road median since early summer, when it was planted by former Pacific Palisades Citizen of the Year Bruce Schwartz, with help from Canyon resident Sharon Kilbride.
Before the pumpkin seeds were planted, the median (near Mesa Road) was filled with weeds and occasional litter. The seeds have the potential to yield pumpkins that weigh as much as 100 pounds.
In a neighborhood newsletter, Kilbride wrote, “This is a great community story, and everyone is enjoying the new crop. The only problem is that some folks are taking pumpkins and we hope to have a few left for Halloween.”
Well, neighbors no longer have to worry about people stealing the harvest–the City took care of that.
According to emails received by residents and shared with Circling the News, City officials said the low growing foliage and pumpkins presented a safety hazard that could not be ignored. (It was far better for Street Services to deal with this unsafe foliage and dangerous pumpkins than the numerous streets in Pacific Palisades that need to be repaired and repaved—starting with Chautauqua and continuing with Temescal Canyon Road. The bicycle lanes on that road were repaired, but the center was left with holes and pavement breakup.)
Residents who contacted the City and asked why the pumpkin patch was removed were told that someone had complained that it was a visual obstruction.
A resident, who with her children watched the City rip out the plants on August 31, was told that Street Service employees came to inspect the complaints and found it [pumpkin patch] a “hazard” that blocked westbound traffic making a left turn from Channel Road onto Entrada.
One resident wrote in an email, “This news is so sad. The city could have suggested giving the patch a trim if visibility truly was an issue.”
Even Councilman Mike Bonin weighed in on Pumpkin-Gate in a September 1 email to neighbors. “If things needed to be trimmed, they should have been trimmed without this level of destruction. We are reaching out to city staff to get to the bottom of it. If a permit is needed in the future, my office will do everything to make that happen. The city needs to be rewarding, celebrating and helping great community projects like this.”
This was a project where neighbors planted pumpkins on an unimproved dirt median in the City. And both local homeowners’ associations in the Canyon, BOCA and SMCCA, paid for the seeds and hired a homeless man to weed when neighbors weren’t available.
But, there are laws in this town and they apply to Pumpkin-Gate: a permit is needed if citizens want to improve a City median. So, it seems the City should also need a permit before it destroys a project that is designed to beautify the community.
In an earlier story I wrote about the Chautauqua median at Sunset, which was adopted by Palisades PRIDE (a local beautification nonprofit), I noted that an adopter is required to plant only City-approved plants and to maintain the property.
In that story, PRIDE member David Peterson said, “Once adopted, the adopter takes over responsibility for landscaping or hardscaping the median in accord with the policies set out by the City’s program.
“The adopter also accepts responsibility for the continued maintenance of the median into the future,” he said.
So, renegade Santa Monica Canyon citizens will no longer be able to throw seeds into the ground—at least not without first checking with the City to make sure they are approved. And like it or not, those citizens will be on the financial hook for life for those medians.
Luckily on August 31, residents were able to snag a few large pumpkins before they were tossed into the trash by City workers.
What will happen with the contraband?
Kilbride, who is also active on the Pacific Palisades Task Force for Homelessness, wrote: “The pumpkins are safe at my house and we will determine later how to auction them off when it gets closer to Halloween.”
Careful. Should the illicit pumpkins have been impounded by the City? And, do you need a permit for a pumpkin auction?
This could only be the beginning of one of the most serious issues facing the City of Los Angeles: unlawful seed planting–otherwise known as Pumpkin-Gate.