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Bakersfield neighbors come together to help community garden

"We have to protect that."
Posted at 5:37 PM, Jul 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-08 20:39:30-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — On 23ABC we’ve brought you stories about a woman in Southwest Bakersfield who gives away food, flowers, and plants to those in need through her Giving Bench and home garden. On Thursday she received a complaint that her garden was in violation of the municipal code.

The garden in question grows food and flowers to give back to the community in need. When the community heard that her garden was in violation of code according to the city, people immediately showed up to protect it.

The Giving Bench

23ABC Community Connection

Community members rally around creator of The Giving Bench

Kallyn Hobmann, 23ABC
2:54 PM, Jul 28, 2020

It was Thursday when Southwest Bakersfield resident Francine Papadimitrakis received this notice from code enforcement from the City of Bakersfield, detailing that her garden, which she uses to help the community, is in violation of the city municipal code.

“It’s about that gentleman who approached me and said I have lost my job because of COVID. I don’t have money for my daughter who is deceased to buy her flowers. Your Giving Bench allows me to take flowers to her grave. That’s what it’s about. We have to protect that. Not for me, it’s not for me. We have to protect that," said Francine Papadimitrakis.

She tells 23ABCc that she believes the complaint came from one of her neighbors, who she says has complained about her to the city multiple times, about her Giving Bench, library, and now about her garden.

"This neighbor has vocalized directly to me and has approached a couple of other neighbors, but the vast majority of neighbors are in favor of. With the Giving Bench, with anybody in need”

The city’s violation details that by reinspection in 12 days, she must "remove all overgrown weeds and vegetation from the property" as well as “remove all junk, trash, and debris from the property.”

If these things don’t happen by then she’ll be fined $149. The code violation says that upon reinspection these things are not “abated” there will be an abatement hearing and an additional fee. The letter details she could accumulate more fees if action isn’t taken and the fees could eventually rack up to more than $1,600.

“I don’t have woodpiles and debris. I have wood chips. The Mount Vernon Recycling Center gives these away for free. It’s ergonomically and ecology sound. It’s not a fire threat. If anything, if you understand gardening and earth science, it’s the opposite it’s mulch.”

Papadimitrakis says that upon advice from some legal aid, she will not tear the garden down but will try to trim things down a little bit and “fight the fight.” People turned out to help with that.

23ABC did reach out to the city and they told us that they have no comment beyond the code violation letter at this time.