H.A.C.E.R Project at the Gilliam Family Community Garden & Park
H.A.C.E.R (Helping Achieve Community Empowerment & Revitalization) at the Gilliam Family Community Garden & Park is a community-led movement to transform a neglected plot of land into vibrant community gathering place.
The Gilliam Family plot on Imperial Avenue has been an eyesore in the Greater Logan Heights community for years. Imperial Avenue is the historic commercial corridor of this neighborhood. It has always been a natural meeting point for a diverse group of residents, business owners, patrons, employees and other community stakeholders. Yet the scarcity of public parks, as well as lack of investments in infrastructure has resulted in few opportunities for meaningful public interaction in the neighborhood. Furthermore, residents often lack adequate access to healthy and affordable food options.
To address some of these issues, BAME CDC joined with Space 4 Art to bring together community residents, students, and artists to form H.A.C.E.R with the purpose of transforming a vacant lot into a gathering space for all community members to access.
The H.A.C.E.R steering committee is a collaborative of community residents and stakeholders, youth from neighborhood schools, and professional artists, architects, and designers from Space 4 Art. The group came together in the Fall of 2014 and spent several months collecting widespread community input about what should be created at the vacant site. Local students have also been active participants throughout the project, helping to conduct outreach and engaging in hands-on STEAM education (science, technology, engineering, art, and math). With the help of architect Bob Leathers, the committee translated the collective vision for a park, event space, and community garden into architectural designs, 3D models, and a construction plan. Throughout this process, community volunteers have been regularly cleaning and weeding the lot and building various components of the park (such as a fence and shade structures) out of pallets and reclaimed bicycle wheels. All of this preparation is leading up to the full-scale construction and landscaping phase, which will take place over the course of six days, September 22-27, 2015 and rely on the labor of hundreds of volunteers.
why we’re doing it
Greater Logan Heights is highly urbanized and dense neighborhood that is underserved by the City of San Diego when it comes to basic infrastructure and green spaces such as parks. Among the approximately 27,000 residents, 85% are primarily Spanish-speaking and there is a high density of youth and poverty. According to the City’s General Plan standards, this community has a deficit of 157 acres of public park space. Among the plan’s key policy recommendations are redevelopment of vacant sites, blighted properties, and properties in disrepair for a diversity of uses.
The H.A.C.E.R project will address the above challenges by 1) reducing the number of trashed and blighted spaces; 2) increasing the number of attractive and safe green spaces for the use of all residents, with particular reference to children’s play needs; 3) encouraging the development of additional green spaces that can counter the ‘heat sink’ properties of a largely non-natural environment; 4) creating spaces that can serve as an incubator for the development of community and personal gardens, as the demonstration garden here will be used to teach residents these skills; 5) creating an event space that can be used by community groups; and 6) facilitating resident engagement that will create a renewed sense of ownership and pride in the area and drive ongoing improvements.