Seasonal Produce

Fallen Fruit of Del Aire: L.A.'s First Public Fruit Orchard

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Wed, Jan 9, 2013 at 6:49 AM

click to enlarge CHRISTINE CHIAO
  • Christine Chiao

Members of the Fallen Fruit collective, county government, and Del Aire neighborhood took turns settling in a Long Beach Peach sapling into Del Aire Park soil on Saturday, Jan. 5, painting one more stroke to the edible art installation known as Fallen Fruit of Del Aire. The young tree joined 27 other fruit trees and eight grapevines planted throughout the park. It rounded out the official unveiling of the civic arts project, which doubles as the first public fruit park in not only Los Angeles but the state of California.

From all appearances, it was an event very much rooted in the unincorporated neighborhood just south of the I-105 and I-405 junction. A smattering of residents gathered to hear officials like 2nd District Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas address the significance of the moment for Del Aire. Just a short while earlier, neighbors caught up with neighbors over strawberries and tangerines provided by the Hawthorne Del Aire Certified Farmers Market.

click to enlarge CHRISTINE CHIAO
  • Christine Chiao
At one point before the ceremony, a PETA campaigner dressed in a lettuce boy shorts and bikini showed up, passing out vegetarian and vegan recipe booklets. She was told by sheriffs to vacate the premises shortly thereafter, but her brief presence hinted at greater implications: What happened in Del Aire won't just stay in Del Aire. The community is at the center of what can have a positive effect for Los Angeles and its environs in upcoming years.

L.A. has been reported as park-poor in the past -- and parts of the county are still considered food deserts. In 2006, UCLA's Department of Urban Planning found that L.A. had the lowest number of parks per capita compared to other major West Coast cities.

The study also highlighted the issue of uneven park distribution among neighborhoods. The 2009 Citywide Community Needs Assessment reinforced the latter assessment and the city has since made an effort to mitigate this disparity.

Last August, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced the $80.9 million 50 Parks Initiative, leading to new spaces like 49th Street Park and the latest, Fulton Avenue Park. The month before, Grand Park in Downtown opened after a decade-plus partnership between public agencies and private sectors.

click to enlarge CHRISTINE CHIAO
  • Christine Chiao

The edible nature of the Public Fruit Park in Del Aire makes the addition of the park a possible resource for neighborhoods confronting the paradox of a region's resource-rich landscape against codes that discourage its use.

In late 2010, the Fruit and Flowers Freedom Act was passed unanimously by the City Council, with the help of the Urban Farming Advocates and Councilman Eric Garcetti. The UC Cooperative Extension launched the Grow L.A. Victory initiative earlier that year, designed to teach Angelenos gardening skills.

Still there remain instances where the paradox lingers. In May 2011, Ron Finley was cited for the edible garden he planted outside of his Crenshaw home, which was seen as violating Municipal Code 56.08. Finley was able to save his garden with the backing of a Change.org petition, his nonprofit organization L.A. Green Grounds, and later Councilman Herb Wesson.

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