Tensions are growing between guerrilla gardeners and neighboring businesses

On Wednesday night, two men allegedly paid by Mission realtor Louis Cornejo were given a task: move seven giant planters away from the western gate of the disputed strip of land, Lot 36.

It was not an easy job. Each planter, installed at the site by the green space advocacy group Mission Greenway, weighed hundreds of pounds. A local resident saw the couple use a pick-up truck and wooden ramps to drag the planters about 30 feet northeast of the gate. Several planters appeared to have broken in transit, and the bottom of one appeared to have partially collapsed.

The next morning, drag marks in the mud showed where the planters had been pulled. Lara Hanna, a Mission Greenway member who helped install the garden, was not impressed.

“This guy thinks he’s above the law,” Hanna said. “That’s what’s so disgusting.” Hanna called the incident “illegal displacement and vandalism.”

Cornejo’s nocturnal plantation escapade was the latest escalation in tensions between Mission Greenway and a group of aggrieved neighbors bordering the controversial 23,522-square-foot parcel. The land, which cuts a diagonal strip through the block at 22nd and Harrison streets, has unclear ownership but is fenced off for the exclusive use of nearby businesses. In October, Mission Greenway cut the chain on the fence, created a chain lock to access the site and planted a garden inside. A handful of neighboring businesses have since hired lawyers to make their claim public on the site, and relations between the two groups are fractious.

Louis Cornejo reportedly directed workers to move the Mission Greenway planters Wednesday night. Photos by a local resident.
The corner of one planter appeared to have partially collapsed. Photographed by Will Jarrett.
Map of contested lot 36 by Will Jarrett. Basic map from Mapbox.

Cornejo is the realtor of the Heinzer warehouse, which abuts Lot 36 and uses the land for loading dock access. The warehouse has been for sale since the artist tenants were evicted last fall. Cornejo declined to comment directly on the incident, but referred to the statements of attorney Stephen Preonas, who is employed at the warehouse and other businesses surrounding the strip of land.

“We are not aware of any damage,” Preonas said in an email. “The owners may have relocated the planters disrupting commercial operations.”

In a video recorded by Hanna the day after the planters were moved, Cornejo said the land is “private property” and the gate is needed for trucks to get in and out. Where the planters had been placed, one of the large double doors on the west side could still be opened, but the other was blocked. “It’s malicious what you’re doing,” Cornejo said.

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