Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Meeting with Caltrans

Today I met with the team from Caltrans at Farley's, and later we decamped to the garden. I was joined by, and really appreciated the support of Gary, John, David and Anna!

The meeting brought up, and answered some questions:
1. Will a wifi sprinkler system work at P. Garden? (Answer, probably not)
2. Will Caltrans provide sprinkler or drip components and install them? (No, but Jes gave me some parts so I'll do it myself, goshdarnit)
3. Can the current sprinkler system be switched back on? (Yes, in fact landscaping expert Mr Robert Poyas, who was there too, went right over and set the sprinklers to come on for 30 mins every Monday and Thursday at 4am. Well now. That was easy! Thanks!)
4. What aspects of the garden need to be revised to comply with Caltrans Adopt-a-Highway rules?

Well, more than a one line answer for that...

They have said that the arch, paths, steps, bench and now even the woven twig borders are a no-go. Reasons? Liability. Encouraging homeless people. Tripping hazard (border edges... a tripping hazard. Not like those sprinklers set up at shin height in the middle of pathways recently by Caltrans - oh no...)

They also said people under 16 years of age cannot enter the garden. And people cannot cross the road by the Wrong Way sign. And so on... and on...

Obviously these are sensible rules for freeways, and the P. Garden team pointed out in many ways that this is the case. And that P. Garden is not a freeway. And the Caltrans team heard and understood. But are they able to bend the rules? We shall see if they come back with directives to remove the items anyway... as at least one person said, if they cannot be more flexible they might get quite a bit of unwanted negative press...

We presented the petition (281 names) which were received in the spirit intended, I think. A random passer-by and his kid stopped to comment on how much he loves the garden, and what great things it brings to the 'hood (thanks, whoever you are!) We also discussed the idea of the city taking on this project as an intermediary, which would relieve Caltrans of the liability issues to a degree (or at least make them feel better about it all). However, months of permitting would ensue. What other choice do we have? Well, not much. In the meantime I'm just going to keep on keeping on.

Another point that came up was the wish of many locals that this part of the offramp could be closed off: it isn't necessary, it puts cars onto P. Ave at too high a rate of speed, and anyway, lots of cars turn down it in error and make a u-turn back to 18th St anyway, creating a danger to those driving down P. Ave.

I'm glad the meeting's done, but still dread the inevitable email with rules to follow that is sure to come. Pukey feeling in gut not gone yet! One thing's for sure: it really was great to have some of my P. Garden pals there to support me and the garden. Thanks guys :)

P.S. My mum just sent me the above image - perfect, I think! A "Don’t Panic" message from King George VI at the start of WW2, apparently. Another admonition at the time was "Loose Lips Might Sink Ships", so I am keeping my gub zipped, as they say, as a preventive measure. If my upper lip gets any stiffer it will get a stitch...

P.P.S. Garden supporter Denise saw the blog and send the image at left as a rebuttal. What can I say? BOTH sentiments will be put to use! Huzzah!

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