There once was a garden here…

I was in my old hood the other day and passed a fenced in triangle of property at the intersection of 32nd and Union streets. I’ve driven or biked past this spot hundreds of times over the years.

It’s right in front of a couple loft developments, an older converted building called West Clawson Lofts (the building once housed the Clawson Elementary School ) and a newer development called Magnolia Row, built from scratch on the neighboring empty lots in the early 2000’s.

There once was a community garden installed in the small lot. I thought it was wonderful. I never knew who installed it there, but it existed for a year, maybe more, and consisted of raised vegetable beds surrounded by more ornamental flowering plants. One of the cool features was the reuse of old bicycle wheels (without the tires) along the chain link fence. They were used as trellising to encourage climbing plants (like morning glory) to obscure the ugly fence. I thought it was a lovely addition to the neighborhood.

But soon after it was established it was removed. My information is only hearsay so I can’t verify its validity, but someone told me that there was a dispute over the ownership of the lot and that, apparently, the rightful owner was intent upon installing a coffee stand/shop there.

I thought, well it’s a shame the garden is gone. But a coffee stand could be cool too.

It never came.

Years went by, and at one point it seemed promising as a small wood shack was erected inside the fence. But nothing ever followed.

And so for years, we West Oakland neighbors were deprived of our pretty little community garden, and instead, were left with a ramshackle hut inside a weed and litter strewn lot locked inside a chain-link fence. sigh.

empty lot west oakland, vacant lot art installation, west oakland graffiti

But recently some artists have taken measures to reclaim the lot, repurposing the walls of the hut as outdoor gallery space for their art. It currently houses a number of pieces but it looks like the bulk of it was jointly installed by a number of artists working collaboratively: Ras Terms, Dead Eyes, and Safety First included. I’m not sure about other participants.

Ras Terms, Safety First, Dead Eyes, Turnip, empty lot art

collaborative art installation, west oakland graffiti art, empty lot 32nd street

safety first graffiti art, safety first west oakland art

I hope more artists follow suit.

And who knows… maybe one day we could have our garden back too. A peaceful green space to sit and reflect upon the art…

6 thoughts on “There once was a garden here…

  1. Albin

    Sad to hear this news. I am sure that if the garden was allowed to flourish from the time it was started that by now this would be a beautiful space and a huge asset to the entire community 😦

  2. eeow

    Too bad you didn’t mention the nearby triangular lot that was a park at Peralta and 34th that City Slickers Farm recently took over. Its filled with raised beds that will soon be providing produce for the neighborhood.

    1. studiodeb333 Post author

      Well good thing YOU just did! I actually saw that but wasn’t sure what was going on there. I’ll have to go back and take photos when they do their planting… Any idea when?

      1. eeow

        hmm… not sure, if you go to their webpage you can learn more about what they do, they’re a pretty cool group that focuses on turning empty lots/yards into produce for West Oakland. I heard they even have chickens going in an old lady’s back yard. Most of what they do is volunteer based, I think. My neighbor just took an urban-composting class through them. I live with my husband and two kids in West Oakland and even though there are drive-bys, prostitutes, drug houses and misc crime, I love that the neighborhood has such a history and such involved, scrappy residents. It really feels like there is something going on here.

  3. Tasha

    the art looks beautiful, despite the absence of what was once a thriving garden (i did not know it myself).. where are the seed bombers when you need em??

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