Thursday, July 14, 2011

(Updated) Defending "Pleasant Uniformity" : Oak Park's anti-veggie law

Updated post...

Oak Park, Michigan

The other side of the story, sort of. I don't agree with this but, here you go, by Jessica Newman, "...recent law school grad and former Oak Park resident who happens to be the daughter of the city’s director of public information": In Defense of the Town That’d Jail a Woman for Her Garden | Moneyland |

The idea behind the Oak Park, Michigan's philosophy: "“pleasant uniformity," is a bit scary. Still, it's a city, not a private home owners organization or gated community. Most of all, in these times, where our world is literally falling apart on every level -- literally, physically, geographically, socand economically -- a citizen growing her own veggies is a good thing. What a difference among communities; in the city where I live (Eugene, Oregon) it's not one bit unusual to see veggies growing in front yards, whether they're in raised beds or not. (We have a few tomato and pepper plants in our front yard right now, among the roses and other plants.)

One of the issues on a local level seems to be the interpretation of the word "suitable." Newman writes that Oak Park has ordinances to keep alive the 1950s "pleasant uniformity" where the houses are painted " a limited palette of hues...", as to "suitable" yards:
One of these ordinances provides that any vegetation planted in the front of the home must be “suitable” for a front yard. For the past 66 years, the community’s residents have interpreted “suitable” to mean standard shrubbery, grass, and the occasional flower garden; inoffensive and conventional to be sure, but the reigning preference among Oak Park’s citizens nonetheless.

"...the occasional flower garden" ?!

As far as I, or anyone else from what I can gather, know, there is not direct and specific bit about raised beds and/or veggies in one's front yard. "Suitable" is the word used, and things have gone a certain way since the 1950s. But "suitable" doesn't mean "don't grow veggies." I think part of what's the issue here is, as Newman writes, Ms. Bass's thumbing her nose at authority:
But she acted with intentional disregard of her knowledge that the project had been deemed inappropriate for the front yard of her home, ...
Newman also seems to think she knows what "average people" want:
...early identical ordinances at work, designed to keep neighbors from building swing-sets and garden mazes on their front lawns. These may very well be lovely lawn ornaments, and even appreciated design by many, but the average citizen would prefer to see such décor contained to the back yard.

She gets downright snarky here:
If the majority of Oak Park’s citizens disagree with the code, and wish to see a cucumber in every yard, ...
Then she goes on to imply that Ms. Bass encourages harassing city employees (she does not, read her blog) and trivializes Julie Bass in general, calling her "irritated" at the city's actions. The gist of Newman's piece is that Ms. Bass isn't conforming, and the city is simply protecting all good "average" citizens from unsuitable vegetation.

Ms. Bass responds to Newman's article on her blog.
Comments left at the blog give more information as well. Seems Ms. Newman didn't quite get things right...

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