Monthly Meetings / Village Life

Garden Centers’ Current Status Was March 24 Meeting Topic

Friday, March 24: “Current Status of the Garden Centers”

Laguna Woods Village Performing Arts Center, Dining Room 1. No charge. All residents and their guests welcome.

Golden Rain Foundation President John Parker, who also chairs the Landscape Committee, provided an overview of this popular but recently-controversial amenity. Marion Levine coordinated the meeting, which included audience Q&As..



The meeting was opened at 2 PM by Friends of the Village (FOV) President Catherine Brians. She welcomed all present, commented that because of the Landscape Committee and M&C Committee meetings yesterday which also covered the changes in the Garden Centers, the attendance at today’s meeting was a bit sparse. She thanked and introduced GRF President and Landscape Chairperson, John Parker.
Mr. Parker began his presentation by giving some history about the budgeting for the Garden Centers. There had been $1.3 million in the budget to build a Garden Center 3 for some years, and plans were drawn up, but these plans were lost. He stated that back in 2010 there were complaints that the waiting list for a garden plot was lengthy, while some residents had multiple garden plots. Now, during his second term on GRF, there was still this $1.3 million in the budget, but no action taken. He walked both garden centers because of comments by residents that the centers were poorly managed, and his impression was that until the current centers were better used it was inconceivable to use that $1.3 million to build a Garden Center 3. Additionally, in the current time, the Mutuals would not allow GRF to use these funds for that purpose, as they have infrastructure demands such as dry rot and sewer repairs that are more pressing. As an aside, when such a budget item is on the books, it counts against the reserves. If it’s taken off the books, then the reserves can be lowered. This $1.3 million budget item was one of the holdover items that the staff accountants were looking at when doing the budget.

The Landscape Committee and GRF came to the conclusion that the plots in Garden Centers 1 & 2 were not being utilized to their maximum capacity. Plots were not being used, there was waiting list corruption by the prior manager which was unfair, and re-doing the rules would be a “hot potato.” Nevertheless, an advisory committee was formed and the Policies and Procedures (Rules for the Garden Centers) were revised. Mr. Parker felt that 200 square feet was adequate for a garden plot, however, because of strong opinions to the contrary, those holding 400 square feet, or two plots, were grandfathered in. When these are given up, they will be divided into 2 separate plots again. The Waiting List is currently around 300 residents.

Garden Center 1 needed to have a better appearance, as it was an eyesore and is visible to the public from Moulton Pkwy. First action was to plant a hedge that will eventually be trimmed to about one foot above the wrought iron fence. Although Mr. Parker is a licensed California landscape architect, he requested assistance from the City of Laguna Woods about the safety of the structures in the Garden Centers. The city had an inspector walk the garden centers with staff representatives (Lori Moss and Kurt Rahn) and Mr. Parker. It was determined if the garden plot lessee only wanted to build a fence, it would not require a permit. Three types of improvements were agreed to: Fences four feet tall, fences six feet tall, and cages eight feet in height. Building code would apply to structures like cages.

GRF hired a structural engineer who went to Home Depot to price appropriate materials, and details were created for the three types, with examples built in Garden Center 2. Because of pushback from lessees about fence rails, there was clarification about what size of rails are needed depending of spacing of posts.

Mr. Parker went to the History Center and researched Garden Centers and discovered that tree plots were not in the original plans. However, over time tree plots have been established and are growing in unsafe sloped areas. It is financially unfeasible to have a community orchard maintained by VMS maintenance, so instead liability waiver amounts will be required to re-lease tree plots and correct hazards. There are 25 tree plots on a steep slope by Garden Center 2 that will be treated differently – not sure of resolution yet.

GRF as owner of the land wanted secure perimeter fences because of theft issues. Both Garden Centers now have fencing. Garden Ctr 2 now has a key-card entry system that only Garden Ctr 2 lessees and their accompanied guests can use. Garden Ctr 1 has no electricity, so the gates will be controlled by the old combo locks from the tennis courts, since the tennis courts are now card key.

There are locked and water repellant bulletin boards at both Garden Centers for communications.

With the current plan, Mr. Parker believes they can create availability for 100 garden plots. In Garden Ctr 2, empty tree plots will become garden plots. In Garden Ctr 1, the area where the shade house was torn down will be garden plots. The shade house benches were recycled to the GRF nursery. The little office will be relocated to under the silk tree so it will have shade and the tree will be saved.

Aerial surveillance of Garden Ctrs for accurate plot location is in progress. Pictures can be superimposed over master plot plan, so plots can be located immediately. 26 people have garden plots that exceed the maximum of 400 square feet, or two 200 square foot plots. GRF is working hard to correct the mess caused by the corrupt poor prior management of the Garden Ctrs, and is trying to represent and be fair to everyone.

Q & A Subjects:

  • All lessees received a copy of compliance rules. They are also on the Village website.
  • Cattery ended up with cats becoming pets, not efficient rodent deterrent.
  • GRF does not have responsibility to do maintenance on lessees’ plots. Lessees choose to make improvements on owner’s (GRF’s) property without compensation. The lease fee of $50/yr in 2017 provides water, parking, rest rooms, tools, mulch, etc. GRF is in the process of having a full-time employee to oversee Garden Centers. A qualified staff member is needed to walk areas with an eye for details. This is a perfect setting for a horticultural internship through any of the area’s many schools, but an employee is needed to oversee.
  • In regards to rat population, with fruit trees and fallen fruit, we will never be rid of them. A separate pest control contract is needed specifically for the Garden Ctrs.
  • Theft in Garden Ctrs should be addressed by a Code of Conduct agreed between lessees. Garden Ctr 2 now has card entry system for better security.
  • Garden clubs could help to decrease waiting list by matching to existing plot holders who may want partners. Wait list is on website.
  • Part of Garden Ctr 1 was lost because of widening of Moulton Pkwy, what was left is called the annex and is located at the other end of the Garden Ctr 1 parking lot. There is a hazard from golf balls there. Most logical plan to add land to Garden Ctrs is to develop this area, which has wonderful soil, but first need to have a consultant explore cost and feasibility of putting up protective screening to make area safe.
  • Plots do not need to have permanent fences. Temporary fencing using stakes and wire or plastic can be used. Orchard Hardware in Irvine in the Gelson’s center at Alton and Jeffrey has the best selection in the area.
  • It is OK to have chairs in your garden plot.
  • GRF rules prohibit the growing of marijuana plants in the Garden Centers.

President Brians brought the meeting to a close at 3:20 PM by thanking our speaker and everyone present for attending, and inviting all to come to our next meeting, Friday, April 28, at 2 PM again our current location in the Performing Arts Center, Dining Room 1. The topic will be Remodeling Your Unit, and the different requirements depending on if your property is in United or Third Mutual.


Respectfully submitted by Mary Lopata


Annual membership in Friends of the Village is $15 for one, $20 for two. For more information, contact Mary Lopata, Publicity Chair, 714-814-5844.




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