Cultivating the Growth Coalition: Advocating for Community Gardens in Seattle

Authors: Charlotte Glennie*, University of California - Davis
Topics: Urban Geography, Land Use, Social Geography
Keywords: Food, Gentrification, Urban Growth, Community Gardens
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Bayside B, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


How do community garden advocates engage with urban growth coalitions? Gentrification often threatens the tenure of community gardens, but these projects also rely on elite support for access to land and funding. In the case of Seattle’s P-Patch community gardens, advocates have largely worked with the growth machine in order to achieve site security. As part of a larger research project, I gathered interview data and public documents demonstrating the P-Patch advocates’ complex relationship with urban growth. My findings suggest that garden advocates in Seattle perceived the growth machine’s threat to their sites, but opted not to challenge it directly. Instead, as part of their efforts to build good relations with city leaders and garner public support for the P-Patch gardens, they positioned themselves as supporters of growth. Even in campaigning for an initiative to limit the city’s ability to sell green spaces, garden advocates actively promoted the standard growth machine narrative that Seattle would and should continue to grow. They also constructed an implicit argument about the role of gardens in attracting desirable new residents. In these ways, garden advocates aligned their interests with those of the growth coalition, and they have successfully protected the P-Patch gardens (as well as other Seattle open spaces) from development. The outcome is mixed: this compromise has facilitated ‘green gentrification’ that is likely contributing to the displacement of vulnerable populations, but the gardens also benefit low-income and minority Seattleites in direct, tangible ways.

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