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  • Writer's pictureLeslie Ryan

Under the asphalt, a garden

In April 2010, artist Lynn Susholtz watched a bulldozer break up the asphalt parking lot behind Art Produce, her studio building in North Park, San Diego. Two hundred square meters of asphalt and parking for four cars was replaced with gravel and permeable paving, an informal grid of horse troughs filled with soil, and planted with fruit trees, vegetables and herbs. Cars were out and a garden emerged.

The former parking lot at Art Produce is part of a growing movement to depave the places we live and work, and to turn parking lots into civic amenities, rain gardens and edible landscapes. Depave, an urban activist organization based in Portland, Oregon, is often credited with sparking this movement. The non-profit works with local communities to transform asphalt and concrete into gardens for food and stormwater management. Since the first Depave project in 2007, other communities have joined the network: Depave Paradise is active across Canadian communities, and Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River Restoration organization is depaving hundreds of small parcels within its urban watershed.

Art Produce is an example of radical gardening that cultivates community and public culture as well as squash and guavas. The new garden and former parking lot at Art Produce has become a platform for art and culture. For the price of temporary storage for four cars, the community has gained a dance space, pocket farm, party venue, urban lounge, and a classroom for art and agriculture. Depaving projects, such as the parking lot at Art Produce, are opportunities for direct civic engagement and demonstrate the ways small acts can lead to big change.


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