City of Berkeley Community Garden Guidelines

City of Berkeley

Department of Parks Recreation and Waterfront


Community Garden Guidelines

Approved December 6, 2004

The City of Berkeley’s Community Gardens and orchards are intended for the use and enjoyment of the Berkeley community to grow organic produce, herbs, flowers and fruit, and for fostering community among Plot holders and between the Community Gardens and their neighbors.  The following guidelines are established to ensure that all participants are treated fairly and equally in their use of the gardens located on property that is owned by and/or leased from the City.


PART I:  Criteria for Assigning Plots

1.        Priority for the assignment of garden plots will be given to Berkeley residents. A Post Office box will not be accepted as proof of Berkeley residency.  Plot assignments shall be for the duration of a Plot holder’s residency in Berkeley and subject to the Plot holder’s ongoing compliance with these Guidelines.  Plots previously assigned to non-residents may be re-assigned to Berkeley residents after the current growing season, if a waiting list exists. Non‑residents and/or business owners with a Berkeley address will be accommodated only on a space available basis.

2.        The Garden Coordinator (GC, see Part III) is responsible for maintaining a waiting list for the garden.  Persons interested in obtaining a plot in a garden should contact the Department of Parks, Recreation and Waterfront at 981-6700.  Plots will be assigned on a first-come first-served basis as vacancies occur.  The GC shall refer interested persons on the waiting list to the other City of Berkeley community gardens to facilitate filling plots that may be available elsewhere. No person at any community garden may have more than one plot while a waiting list exists.  One-time opportunities for plots to be re-assigned may be offered by the Steering Committee (see Part III) to people on the waiting list when a vacancy occurs.  First preference shall be given to people who express the need for accessible plots, followed by existing Plot holders, giving preference to those who have been Plot holders for the longest time.

3.     There will be no discrimination on the grounds of race, color, age, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, political affiliation, Vietnam‑era Veteran status, physical or mental disability or medical condition, income, street address or lack thereof, or other factors in the administration of community gardens or application of these guidelines.

PART II:  Gardening Practices

1.        Plots may be individualized only in keeping with the overall garden layout and these Guidelines.  Garden layout and construction must be safe and secure and shall comply with City of Berkeley building code, permit and zoning requirements.  Gardens shall have an open and flexible use area (minimum 100 square feet) within the garden dedicated for the purposes of hosting community activities and communicating public information.  Proposed changes in the overall garden layout and construction are subject to review and approval by the City of Berkeley Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department, and cannot be approved without sufficient funds in place to cover all costs. The City may order changes as necessary to comply with law.

2.        Gardens shall provide at least one accessible plot for every 20 plots.  At least one accessible path of travel shall lead from the entry gate to the accessible plot and to at least one of each kind of facility (tool shed, water spigot, gathering area, etc.) within the garden.  Accessible paths shall be at least 48 inches wide and made of firm, stable and slip resistant material, with a 5-foot diameter turn-around space at one end.  The path shall be generally flat, well drained and maintained.  Other paths that are not required to be accessible shall be a minimum of 18” wide.  Gardeners shall strive to raise funds on an ongoing basis for the purposes of implementing accessibility upgrades, including pathways and raised beds, for example.

3.        Gardens shall be weeded, planted and well maintained year round.  Individual Plot holders are responsible for keeping the pathways around plots smooth, level, and free of obstructions including weeds, overhanging vegetation and hazards.  Plots must be kept free of debris, trash, and personal belongings and equipment that are not used for gardening.  Plot holders may not grow large permanent plants or plants whose roots invade other plots, or significantly block the sun to other plots. Gardens that are originally planned as orchards may include fruit-bearing trees.

4.        Individual Plot holders are responsible for controlling and eliminating pests and diseased plants in their own plots using methods consistent with the National Organic Program.  Only environmentally safe and non-toxic products which are listed on the Organic Materials Review Institute website ( may be used.

5.        Plants with invasive seeds or growth habits are discouraged and shall be maintained at a higher standard of care to keep these plants from spreading to other parts of the garden.  No illegal plants shall be grown.  Seed saving of non-invasive plants is encouraged.  A gardener practicing seed saving (allowing plants in their plot to fully develop seeds) may make the plot appear uncared for, and shall post a notice at his/her plot or on the bulletin board to alert other gardeners.

6.        Gardens shall promote the practices of reduce, recycle re-use, and rot (the 4 R’s), in order to minimize water use and the need for the off-haul of gardening wastes.  Plot holders shall strive to operate and maintain a system of composting yard waste onsite.  Garbage and other waste should be “packed out”, or Plot holders shall be responsible for arranging for garbage pick up with the City of Berkeley’s Solid Waste Division, ensuring that the cart is set at curbside on pick up days and not locked behind the gate.  Watering should be done in early morning or late afternoon hours.

7.        All Plot holders are expected to actively participate in garden matters and promote the aspects of “community” in and around community gardens.  Plot holders shall attend ¾ of all garden meetings, contribute a minimum of 8 hours per year towards the maintenance of garden common areas, and contribute no less than 6 hours per week during scheduled garden open hours.

8.        All garden meetings are open to the public and shall be held in accessible locations.  It is the responsibility of the Steering Committee (SC, see Part III.2) to provide for reasonable accommodation in all garden meetings, work parties and other events, if requested.

9.        Each garden shall be open to the public a minimum of six (6) hours per week. Gardens shall be supervised on site when they are open to the public.  Gardeners are responsible for participating in supervision activities (See II.7) and for scheduling their time in advance with the GC. Supervising means being physically present and observant to prevent losses or injuries to oneself, children, visitors, other Plot holders, plots or equipment. Supervision is not meant to require physical confrontation.

10.     Produce must be harvested.  Community gardens are encouraged to donate excess produce to soup kitchens or homeless shelters.

11.     Pets on the premises must be leashed and pet guardians must clean up after them.

12.     Watering, weeding, planting and harvesting on another person’s plot is not allowed without permission.

13.     Gardens shall be kept locked when unattended to protect all affected plots from loss, unless the gardeners otherwise elect to leave their garden open.  City of Berkeley access shall be coordinated.

14.     Each garden shall have a clear, legible, permanent sign posted where visitors from outside the fence can read it, and state the name of the garden and its public visiting hours. The sign shall comply with local requirements and shall include the name and phone number of the Garden contact person for information about the Garden.

PART III:  Administration

1.        Decision-making shall be democratic, based on a simple majority of the Garden’s Plot holders all duly notified in advance, and those present at the meeting.

2.        On an annual basis Plot holders shall nominate and elect a two or three member Steering Committee (SC).  The Steering Committee shall be comprised at a minimum of the following officers:

a) Garden Coordinator                a) Garden Coordinator

b) Secretary‑Treasurer or    b) Secretary

c) Treasurer

3.        The SC will schedule, invite all Plot holders, and conduct quarterly meetings, work parties, and promote garden community building events.  The SC is responsible for naming the common area maintenance tasks.  The Plot holders shall perform perimeter landscaping, litter pick up and graffiti removal.


4.       The SC shall maintain accurate and current records of Plot holder Agreements, Plot holder participation, plot configurations, funds, and may act in advisory capacity to the Garden Coordinator (see below). SC’s shall update accounting and membership records annually and as changes occur, and shall provide an annual written report to the City of Berkeley. Standard accounting practices must be followed and adequate records maintained to keep track of the Garden’s income and expenses.  The City of Berkeley may make inquiries, perform audits and may take any reasonable action it deems necessary concerning complaints, abuses, or the adequacy of how funds are managed.

5.        SC’s are encouraged to establish a fair mechanism for resolving disputes. If they fail, disputes should be taken to the Berkeley Dispute Resolution Service (528‑1811). Should the dispute not be resolved, the Director of the City’s Parks Recreation and Waterfront Department is responsible for making a final determination.

6.       The Garden Coordinator (GC, see III.2) shall have the lead responsibility to represent the interests of the Plot holders, enforce the provisions of the Community Garden Guidelines, act as liaison with the City of Berkeley Department of Parks Recreation and Waterfront, and take action as he or she sees fit, but only in accordance with these Guidelines and other local codes and policies.

7.       Plot holders have thirty (30) days from the date of written notice, to correct or respond satisfactorily to any deficiencies brought to their attention by the GC, the SC, or the City of Berkeley, or else must forfeit their plot.

8.       Annual fees and/or membership dues are expected to be charged to Plot holders in order to cover the costs for maintenance, improvements, and/or operational costs.

9.       A plot plan diagram and a list of Plot holder’s names and their assigned plots (not applicable to orchard gardens) shall be displayed within the garden, to aid communication amongst Plot holders.

10.    The City of Berkeley is responsible for maintaining and paying for existing utilities (water, electricity, and green bin collection), and for maintaining the perimeter fences it owns or leases. Individual gardens shall arrange and pay for collection of their own garbage and recycling, and for portable toilets (if applicable).

11.    The Community Gardening Guidelines are applicable to all City of Berkeley community gardens. Each community garden must comply with these Guidelines. These Guidelines may be reviewed and updated whenever necessary, subject to approval of the Director of Parks Recreation and Waterfront Department. The Parks and Recreation Commission shall approve recommended revisions.

12.     The attached Community Gardening Agreement is a part of the Guidelines, and shall be signed by all Plot holders, formalizing the relationship between the Plot holder, the Community Garden and the City of Berkeley.  All original copies of the Agreements shall be on file with the Parks Recreation and Waterfront Department.  Copies of the Agreements may be held at each Garden.

Revised:  12/6/04