Laguna Beach, CA
United States
Mountain Rd. & beach Laguna Beach Garden of Peace and Love since 1 December 1989
without names
AIDS memorial Peace and Love garden needs some tender care
Laguna Beach's plans to refurbish steps leading to the beach off Mountain Road has brought attention to a neglected nearby parcel that at one time elicited pride for its beautiful flowers, which served as a tribute to those felled by AIDS. Now city administrators and HIV Advisory Committee members are asking what can be done for The Garden of Peace and Love and who should take on the work.
The garden sits atop a bluff overlooking the ocean but has hardly more than a few concrete steps, a bench and a statue of an angel. Iceplant covers half the plot. It was the brainchild of longtime Laguna Beach resident Michel Martenay, who succumbed to the disease in 2009 after faithfully tending the garden for 20 years.
City staff wants to add ground cover to the area as part of a larger project that includes fixing the stairs to improve beach access. The Design Review Board will consider the plan Nov. 20. Some residents are upset that the city hasn't taken better care of the garden. "I'm surprised all they want to do is add ground cover," said Brian Sadler, chairman of the city's HIV Advisory Committee. "To me it needs a lot more than that." Sadler said the city should take the lead in the restoration since it owns the land, which sits below the Coast Inn, which served as a gay nightlife hub in the 1980s and is poised for its own renovation. He said the committee has tried to organize volunteers to regularly tend the garden, including watering by hand, but could never get a long-term commitment. "Most people who care advocate to the city," Sadler said. "It is city land, but the city won't put any irrigation into it. Plants are going to die if they don't have water." But Public Works Director Steve May said the "city is interested in doing more" and plans to meet with the HIV committee to discuss possible options.
Martenay tended the area for two decades, planting flowers and watering them by hand in honor of those suffering from AIDS. But in 2008, Martenay learned that he had contracted the disease, which rendered him too weak to care for the garden, according to the Los Angeles Times. Martenay moved to an Anaheim hospice. Friends rallied at first, pulling weeds, planting roses and day lilies, and watering, the Times reported. Over time, though, no person or group could replicate the kind of work Martenay put into the land.
Korey Jorgensen, an HIV specialist and family doctor at the Laguna Beach Community Clinic, would like visitors to have an easier time entering the garden, which requires that they squeeze through a railing that lines the stairway. "I'd like that barrier removed and [another] bench added so people could sit and contemplate their loved ones," Jorgensen said. "If the city is worried about people falling over the edge, they could build a barrier."
The garden holds special meaning for many, including former Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who told the Times in 2008 that he met his partner, who died of AIDS, at The Garden of Peace and Love. The area "had great significance to many of us who've been through the AIDS epidemic," Rosendahl told the newspaper. "I would go there and pray literally in my meditative way, and remember people who have passed on."
Photo © Don Leach Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot

13 November 2014
Bryce Alderton, Laguna Beach, CA