L.A. Finally Legitimizes Rebel Green Thumb

Originally published on Neon Tommy.

Ron Finley has emerged as a powerful community leader in South Los Angeles. | Flickr/Anna Hanks

Ron Finley has emerged as a powerful community leader in South Los Angeles. | Flickr/Anna Hanks

Just a few weeks ago, Ron Finley was best known for his highly visible, and nutritious, acts of civil disobedience. To combat the growing problem of malnutrition facing many throughout South Los Angeles, the Crenshaw-based fashion designer planted gardens full of strawberries, dill, thyme and other edibles in unused parkways.

For his admirable efforts, which were against the Los Angeles’ “residential parkway landscaping guidelines” at the time, the city of Los Angeles issued a Finley a citation. The community joined Finley in appealing the citation. The matter was only dropped after the dispute generated enough media attention.

Finley took his story to TED talks in Long Beach, California earlier this year. The video of Finley’s presentation propelled the guerilla gardener to Internet stardom and generated over 1.5 million views. The talk also compelled the media into examining a bureaucratic system that viewed Finley’s agricultural endeavors as illegal.

Now, thanks in part to councilman Curren D. Price’s support of a new city ordinance that will suspend penalties for planting parkway gardens, Finley is just another law-abiding citizen trying to revitalize South Los Angeles. The new guidelines, approved unanimously by the Los Angeles City Council on Oct. 23, allow for the planting of edibles in parkways without permits and only obligates residents to satisfy existing street safety requirements.

Finley is grateful for Price’s support.

“That’s Curren Price. [The ordinance] was approved unanimously and we got to thank Curren for that,” Finley said.

The new ordinance fits in nicely with Price’s “Clean & Green” initiative for his new district, and was a key component of the councilman’s campaign platform. Price has been aggressive on “beautification” projects early in his first term as Los Angeles City Council member. The councilman was notably visible in recent efforts to coordinate a community clean-up day with Life After Uncivil Ruthless Acts, a South Central-based nonprofit. Price has also reached out to reiterate his support for Finley’s gardening efforts. It’s all a part of a concerted effort to reclaim blighted portions of South Los Angeles and “improve the quality of life for all residents in the district.”

Finley is happy with the progress.

“It’s a long time coming and it should have happened a long time ago. So the fact that we have a champion here with Curren Price is a beautiful thing,” Finley said.

And Price is not all talk.

Just a month after taking office, Price coordinated a massive garden installation with The St. John’s Well Child Project. Finley saw the councilman in action firsthand when Price helped plant organic gardens on a two block stretch between Vermont and Hoover Street. The meeting impressed Finley with Price’s commitment to the community.

“He came out to one of the biggest plantings probably in the city’s history,” said Finley, “That was a big deal.”

Now Finley is excited to tackle new projects without the bureaucratic obstacles that once limited him in the past. While Finley hinted that he has a lot of “great stuff” on the agenda, the enigmatic gardener remained mum on details. But Finley is pleased from the cooperation he has received from Price’s office and the beloved green thumb can’t wait to see the city’s transformation.

“I think we’re going to see a greener city, with councilman Price behind it. That’s what he wants to do. And I’m glad to be apart of it,” Finley added.

Finley had one last piece of advice, especially for city residents now free from the tyrannical parkway guidelines previously imposed by the Bureau of Street Services:

“Plant with reckless abandon.”

Reach Neon Tommy Tech Editor Will Federman here or tweet him at @wfederman.

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