Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mr. Happy the Balloon Man, San Francisco 2011

Here's the guy with the balloons and the bad temper. I can never decide if he's for real or in character doing street theater, but he's my favorite psycho on the bus and always good for a laugh in my book. Here he is on the 30 Stockton putting the fear in the guy next to him. He'd just moved up from the very back where he'd been shouting "You STINK!!" at the person next to him... I love the look of real fear in his seatmate's eyes. Very convincing. So, yes kids, there really is a balloon man with explosive disorder, now you know. You can actually see the balloons in spite of my slow cameara work in the first pic; in the second he'd just slam-dunked the balloons through the bus window...I just love this guy and want to make him a big cup of coffee some day!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

What I Learned About Myself and my Neighborhood

What I learned about myself in this class is that sometimes I really have to force myself to be engaged in whatever it is I am supposed to be doing because if I am disconnected with my reporting at all, it completely shows in my writing. I also learned that reporting is a very multilayered profession that requires competence in many different aspects of writing such as how to make a story flow or how to describe different scenes or people in a manner that transports the reader from the page to the actual visual scene.

I also learned that I still have a ways to go before I actually can go out in the world and do this completely on my own but that it’s still okay because the more I try to grasp the strengths I have and let go of my weaknesses, then the better I really do get. I am still grappling with if I can pull reporting off but I am confidant then I will get the true gist of it soon, with a little bit more practice. I did like how challenging and engaging this course was and how I had to really push myself to do the assignments in a way that I can actually be proud to have written them. I do wish that the awkwardness of interviewing strangers will dispel with some time and practice, too. My favorite part of the course, no doubt, was definitely the more creative aspect of reporting where you can submerge yourself with details and descriptions and I hope to continue to do that in my future stories.

I learned many things about my neighborhood this semester. It was especially interesting for me because I was reporting on two different neighborhoods all semester, which was the Fillmore and Pacific Heights. I did have some trouble because I tried really hard to not seem more inclined to report on one but not enough the other. However, it was extremely interesting to see the infinite differences between the two neighborhood and how economically, socially, and racially, these two neighborhoods have so much division and exclusion from each other.

Despite the difficulties, it was amazing for me to see and hear about how rich these two neighborhoods are. The Fillmore being so rich in culture while Pacific Heights being so rich in money. I thoroughly enjoyed both of the neighborhoods and felt that even though things there don’t always seem so great, especially with each other, it is undeniable what alluring aspects both neighborhoods have on me and others. They both are definite enclaves of San Francisco and will continue to be that. It will be exciting and interesting too see how time will change these neighborhoods from what they were, to how they are, to what they will be.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Final Story Hayes Valley

Crowds of people stand huddled together listening to the holiday tunes coming from the portable stage set up at Patricia’s Green for the 6th Annual Hayes Valley Block Part. The crowds bundled up in multiple layers of clothing hold hot beverages to keep themselves warm in the piercing cold Friday night.

As Hayes Valley residents watch the main stage the shows producer Joseph Jody stands off stage in his red sequenced Santa hat, Dalmatian spotted jacket, and a feather boa wrapped around his neck. His two dachshunds, Guido and Vinnie, sit in a red Little Red Flyer next to him. Jody looks at the dogs then his clipboard for the next act.

“Where’s the choir?” Jody asks frantically with a slight New York accent.

Jody, a resident of Hayes Valley for 15 years, witnessed the neighborhoods transformation from the seedy side of town to a thriving neighborhood.

“It was depressing,” Jody said, “there were no stores and a lot of buildings were boarded up.”

In 1959 San Francisco used federal money to renovate the cities highways and built the Central Freeway. The freeway cast a shadow over Hayes Valley. The streets were littered with the homeless and prostitutes would prowl around the neighborhood looking for their next customer.

In 1989 the Loma Prieta earthquake severally damaged the Central Freeway overpass in Hayes Valley, which led to its demolition and the creation of Octavia Boulevard in 2005.

The Mayor of Hayes Valley, David Cook, stands against a mailbox guitar strapped to his back. His glazed eyes fixed upon the stage.

“Five years ago you would’ve been robbed on this street,” said Cook.

The 400 block of Hayes Street has been home to Cook for over 14 years. He can be found sitting against the same chain link fence on the same blue milk crate with the same makeshift fishing pole with a cup reading “Gone Fishing” as the hook.

Although Cook has stayed in the same place the area around him has morphed from empty storefronts to chique clothing boutiques and restaurants.

Groups of people patrol up and down Hayes Street with drinks ranging from Pabst Blue Ribbon to hot chocolate in hand. Waves of residents and visitors flow in and out of the many clothing and shoe stores during the 6th annual block party.

“I’m still surprised to walk pass all the stores,” said Mary Baird lifetime San Francisco resident.

At nine the stores start to close, and the crowded streets start to open. The block party is over, but the over 21-crowd move into the couch filled bar, Place Pigalle. Former resident Nico Deliveyne aims his pool stick carefully, and shoots at one of the many solids left on the table. He misses.

“Everybody within a two-block radius you can consider your family,” says Deliveyne’s girlfriend Laura Pucci as she aims for the only striped ball left on the table. “It’s the best secret spot you can stumble into.”

Many Hayes Valley residents agree that since Caltrans tore down the overpass the neighborhood flourished and became a thriving community.

To further develop the neighborhood a proposed interim community garden will fill an empty lot between Oak St., Fell St., Laguna St., and Octavia Blvd. One of the main goals of the project is to serve as a model and resource center for urban agriculture education and green job training, according to the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association.

Over the next few years the empty lots left from the old overpass will be filled with new multi-unit housing complexes. One planned complex will be affordable housing for disabled individuals and their families. The ground floor of the proposed 15-unit complex would contain space for businesses including a firm for the Nor Cal Vocational Inc. NCVI specializes in providing developmental disabled adults with the opportunity to use art as a vehicle for developing skills. Construction is dated to start next fall, according to Curbed SF.

The destruction of the old Central Freeway overpass led to the resurgence Hayes Valley. With the proposed community garden and multiple housing complexes Hayes Valley will continue to grow. Soon the only remnants of Hayes Valley’s past will be the homeless that still wander around the neighborhood asking for change, collecting cans, or just sitting on a milk crate playing a guitar.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Final Story: Fighting Prop 8 from the Personal to the Professional

It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Frank and Joe Capley- Alfano’s apartment, where boxes full of Christmas decorations were waiting to be strung up around the apartment. That wasn’t the only thing that filled the apartment- excitement, as well as champagne, filled glasses as the two plus their roommate toasted. “It’s a win for the community,” Joe Capley-Alfano said. The victory he was referring to was that, after five years of fighting his husband's labor union, Joe Capley-Alfano now has healthcare. Why the delay? Their married relationship status.

Once Prop 8 passed in the November 2008 election, it seemed that the issue of marriage equality dropped off the political radar. Just because the bill was passed, however, does not mean the fight was over. Groups such as One Struggle, One Fight, and the International Socialist Organization have been doing their part to help raise awareness and support for equality, which recently has taken place in the Castro.

Proposition 8 is cited as the “California Marriage Protection Act”, stating that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid in California. San Francisco issued marriage licenses to same sex couples on Feb. 12, 2004, and, almost 4,000 marriages later, ceased on Mar. 12, 2004 after the California Supreme Court ordered San Francisco officials to stop producing marriage licenses to same sex couples. On Jun. 2, 2008, Proposition 8 qualified for the November 2008 election ballot.

“We stood in line in two and a half, three days in the rain,” Frank Capley-Alfano said. Before he went on Capley-Alfano chimed in smiling, “it was the best three days ever.” The two got married back in 2004 during the Winter of Love when Gavin Newsom allowed gay marriage in San Francisco. “That kind of love was erupting through the city,” Capley-Alfano said. They married at 3:34 in the afternoon on Feb. 17, 2004. Once the California Supreme Court lifted the ban on gay marriage in 2008, the two were one of the first couples to set a date. Both being big on tradition, they got married in the exact spot where they said their “I do’s” back in 2004.

After their marriage, Joe and Frank Capley- Alfano became very active in their community, as well as the state, in rallying up support against Prop 8 by telling their story. It was at this point in time when the two met with the people of One Struggle, One Fight.

Capley- Alfano attended a meeting in San Francisco about grassroots organizing that people were working on to fight against the newly passed Prop 8. “I remember a lot of blame going on and lots of finger pointing and also lots of grand standing,” Capley-Alfano said. During the meeting he noticed Kip Williams. “[Kip] was talking about moving forward and intersections in the communities and building allies outside the LGBT community all these sort of ideas that really were refreshing,” Capley-Alfano said. Capley-Alfano especially liked the idea of direct action and taking the movement back to the streets and the effectiveness of grassroots organizing. They exchanged numbers and started organizing the six day march to Sacramento.

Along with Williams, Flik Huang was one of the founders of the group One Struggle, One Fight. Huang explained that OSOF “work[s] with many different organizations, on a local, state-wide and national level. We have close ties with the labor community, a bond which goes back in the LGBT community as far as Harvey Milk's time. We strive to build coalitions with as many different and progressive groups as possible, for we believe that our struggles are fights for human and civil rights, rather than separate issues [labor, LGBT, immigration, health care]. Hence our name, which comes from an LGBT rights chant from the 70's: "gay, straight, black, white: one struggle, one fight."

Huang remembered how she felt when she heard that Prop 8 Passed. “The next day I cried for a long time. I'd never believed it could pass; who on earth votes to revoke other people's rights? How is that even remotely legal? And felt blindsided and horrified that this had been allowed to take place. I could feel very deeply my friend's - and the LGBT community's - pain and anger, and I had to do something,” she said.

Although a fairly new group, OSOF has become a force with organizing for marriage equality as well as other human rights causes. “In under a year we became one of the most active and recognized grassroots groups in [Northern California], and within the LGBT grassroots community we have a lot of supporters nationally. It's been an arduous, breakneck, often painful and excruciatingly difficult journey, but worth it in so many ways for all we've accomplished and everyone our work [has] had an effect on,” Huang said.

Both the OSOF and International Socialist Organization have done events in the Castro. “Although we often are criticized for ‘preaching to the choir,’ it must be pointed out that many of those who live in and frequent the Castro district, though supportive of our goals, are complacent or indifferent to actually participating in even the most basic ways. We are hoping that our presence in the Castro can help to motivate and mobilize members of our very own community who at the moment are often not even aware that their rights are threatened or what they can do about it,” Huang said.

Recently OSOF, with the help of the ISO and Equality California, held a rally on Nov. 4 at Harvey Milk Plaza noting the one year anniversary of the passing of Prop 8. The night started out with various speakers from each organization, as well as members from the public, talking about how Prop 8 has affected their lives.

“All of us working on the event thought the Castro and specifically Harvey Milk Plaza would be the best place for it. It has significance for the LGBT community and we wanted to draw folks in from off the street who would have common cause,” ISO member Ashley Simmons said about the Nov. 4 rally. “I don't think the Castro is by any means the only place to be having LGBT rallies,” adding, “I think for the political moment it was the appropriate place although OSOF has planned, with many ISO comrades taking part, many actions in the Castro.”

“Whenever we get attacked, we meet at Harvey Milk Plaza,” Capley-Alfano said. Frank Capley-Alfano added, “Historically it has always been a place for community.” He continued to explain that it’s a great common spot to meet and organize, but, depending on the situation, it would be very beneficial to move the protests elsewhere to draw attention to instead of just staying in the Castro.

Capley-Alfano suggested that a creative way to do this is through flash-mobs. The idea of the flash-mob originated on the internet but basically it’s setting a time and event online and on a certain day and people come together for whatever cause it may be- even silly ones like no pants days. Capley-Alfano mentioned that a good example of this would be something called Guerilla Queer Bars; it’s when a group of LGBT members would go to relatively straight bars at a certain time and interact with them showing the patrons that gay people aren’t very different than they are.

Now, this is not to say that the efforts in the Castro have been in vain. “It’s hard to engage people who have politically been beaten down so many times… that they just want to have fun,” Capley-Alfano said, and added that “in terms of engaging our community we need to start being creative.”

Another supporter of marriage equality who has been documenting the various movements is photographer Geoff King. Since the passing of Proposition 8, King has documented various events and rallies in the Bay Area that have taken place since then. He plans on bringing the various images and stories together in a book called “Such a Bittersweet Day”.

King has grown up in the Bay Area. His parents met in San Francisco in the 70s and told him about San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk at an early age. He grew up with the understanding of San Francisco’s colorful past that got him interested in documenting the aftermath of Prop 8. He has been photographing various protests and other human rights events since the Iraq War started.

While attending a candle lit vigil on November 5, the day after the election, King overheard someone say it was “such a bittersweet day”, a black man was voted president but gay people were denied the right to marry. “I have to document this going forward,” King said. To him, it was an important civil rights matter; although he wasn’t affected directly by Prop 8, his friends were. He said that it seemed irrational and foreign and wanted to explore the topic more.

A year later, King’s book, “Such a Bittersweet Day”, is a compilation of black and white photos of the demonstrations that have taken place in the past year with captions of an oral history of the movement by journalist Sunny Angulo. All proceeds from the book go to Transgender Law Center and Health Legal Services.

Desiree Aubry spoke at a rally that was put on by OSOF that King photographed in the Castro. She didn’t go up with a speech in hand, like the ones before had. Instead, she stood in front of the crowd and bared her soul for all to hear; it was one of the more emotional speeches of the night. “Hate cannot defeat love,” she said. “No matter how much it [hurts] our hearts… we are going to be strong.”

Aubry joined OSOF because she wanted to help. “It baffles me to this day how people can be so full of hatred and ignorance and how they can justify taking away our rights, taking away our happiness, demeaning us, telling us our lives and our love aren't worth a damn because it's different,” Aubry said when she heard about Prop 8’s passing.

Although Joe and Frank Capley-Alfano were part of the lucky group who got married, and more importantly got to keep their marriage, they had a long battle ahead of them; the couple still faced many financial hardships and discrimination. For five years they have been fighting to get Capley-Alfano put under his husband’s healthcare. Frank Capley-Alfano’s work could deny the joint health care because the federal law does not recognize the two as a couple. “As domestic partners we called the union to see if they could put [Joe] under healthcare as a domestic partner. Of course they said no,” Frank Capley-Alfano said. He works for the International Union of Elevator Constructors, who went with the notion that federal law supersedes state law and therefore did not need to offer domestic partner benefits; the union even sent out a letter defining what they saw as a married couple and what they considered a spouse.

After five years of back and forth with the union and various government officials and appeals, the two finally achieved the equality they worked so hard for. Their excitement was very apparent and contagious when speaking to them. It was a victory well worth celebrating, but it showed that there is still so much more to fight for. “Prop 8 took away and affected a lot more than people who wanted to get married. It opened the door for discrimination of all types in California… all communities to be attacked,” Capley-Alfano said. He then went on to say that “it’s not about marriage equality. It’s about civil equality and about equality for everyone.”

Many No on 8 organizations and supporters have been working hard on campaigning for the next general election in 2010. One Struggle, One fight is currently working on strategizing for their part in the effort to make a change with the California voters come November.

As for the future of LGBT equality, Aubry said she hopes “for full federal equality. I hope that the rest of the world not just the nation can accept us for who we are and who we love. I hope that when we get full equality, we don't forget the past and that we don't become complacent. Complacency is dangerous. If we become complacent we'll forget to fight for the rest of our rights… I want us to be able to be happy and free and truly live our lives, and be considered equal to others. My hope is that our hearts heal from all the breaks we've experienced, and that the anger dissipates. I hope the hate, more than anything disappears and that we can just celebrate love as it is.”

Final Story

A few trees, some patches of grass and dirt, and a “SERVICE VEHICLES ONLY” sign are most of what sits in the lot on the corner of San Jose and Ocean avenues. Next year, this tucked-away corner of Balboa Park will be the location for San Francisco’s fourth skate park.

For months, dozens of residents have been discussing plans for the future of the park at meetings with the Trust For Public Land, a national nonprofit organization that deals with improving parks and preserving green space within them.

“Skate parks bring skaters out of the streets and into the park,” said Yohan Mangsy, a student at San Francisco City College, located across the freeway from Balboa Park. Mangsy, who has been skateboarding for 7 years, says less property damage to walls and ledges are reduced as a direct effect of having skate parks. Less security guards are beat up by skaters and vice versa, he said.

One concerned resident, Pat Ward, said that a skate park might bring more crime into the area and serve as a hub for drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana.

A skatepark brings skaters young and old alike, where in some cases “little kids grow up too fast,” said Mangsy.

“Have you seen the skate park at 25th and Portrero,” asked Christopher Campbell, who rode his skateboard to the TPL meeting, defending the positive aspects of having a skate park. “It turned that neighborhood around,” and gave the kids something to do, he said.

However, Mangsy said that sometimes NorteƱos pick apples from the apple tree next to the Portrero skate park and throw them at the skaters. The mess of apples also makes the ground dangerously slippery, he said.

Having the highest density of children in San Francisco, Excelsior residents pushed for safe entrances leading into the park. They agreed that entrances should be built as far away from the intersection as possible and a fence keeps skaters from rolling into and out of the park from the crosswalks. The skate park is being built on the corner of one of the area’s busiest intersections, according to an SFMTA pedestrian and bike traffic study.

It will cost between $250,000 and $400,000 to build the skate park.

Companies including PG&E, Levi’s and GAP have matched the $1 million that TPL has raised and will match $4 million if they can raise it. However, the fund has hardly passed the $2.5 million mark.

These Balboa Park Improvements meetings allow the community to have input in deciding how this money will be spent.

Other funding comes from a $75,000 Community Challenge grand that goes towards park development only if ADA accessible pathways are constructed at the entrances.

Mike Neumann, principal of Neumann Construction Management, said that drawing plans would occur in the winter and bidding in March. Construction would begin three months after the lowest bidder is chosen, and residents can expect six to eight months before the project is complete, he said.

However, the city, not the community, will chose which companies to contract for everything between concrete and labor, said Jacob Gilchrist, a TPL landscape director.

Other plans for the Balboa Park’s renovation include a new play area, including 14-foot-tall swings, new play and picnic areas, and lighting improvement.

The fund will be distributed according to what the community prioritizes, said Gilchrist.

(Re)Discovering China Basin

A big story happened in my neighborhood along with last weekend's big storm; the ruptured water main on Division and 10th showed once again the nature of the shaky ground that makes up the landfill area near Mission Channel. I went to take some pictures and found Michael Carlin of the PUC supervising repairs to the "sinkhole." I asked Carlin whether the heavy rain had contributed to the rupture but he said that the age of the pipe was the main factor in the break. Other theorists cited the temperature of the water as a factor(3).

Some pictures of the old pavement tell a different story: a long crack in the asphalt with grass growing in it showed that the ground beneath the pavement had been sinking for some time previous to the break (pictures here soon). Given the intersection's location along the old creekbed, it seems more ikely that the heavy rains undermined the massive old pipes, causing them to shift and burst.

I wanted to go there Saturday night when I found the story online, but I was fighting off the flu, besides, I would have needed a rubber raft to get near the place. But I could really picture the whole scene and imagined what might happen if things got out of hand. I pictured the old creek coming to life again and the deep magic washing the whole Mission Bay neighborhood into the sea, just like when Narnia awoke in the famous book and all the bridges fell and the animals started talking again.

But back to reality:

When I took the China Basin beat this semester, I honestly wasn't sure what part of town it was, but I vaguely recalled from long ago that it was a gritty, dangerous area. What I found out about the Basin involved numerous and long-standing factors that combine to contribute to the area's hazardous character. The Basin is a waterfront area taken from the natives and created out of tideland marshes by speculators and industrialists in the Gold Rush era. Mission Creek was, and still is to some extent, polluted both by raw human sewage and offal from creekside slaughterhouses. One houseboat resident told me the Channel was a de facto military base during WWII when navy vessels docked there.

I learned that in essence, although the view is nice from the north side of the channel, the southern landfill side is essentially a demilitarised zone and a hotly disputed conversation piece for a myriad of local agencies and planning commissions lobbying for their projects and plans regarding the area. Even Francisco Da Costa, a local environmental expert whom I've often quoted as an impartial source, has recently been accused of making racist remarks (1); he also promotes the creation of a self-sufficient black community in the area. Da Costa is Chief Executive Officer of the South East Sector Community Development Corporation, whose website states: "SESCDC seeks bring about a shift of consciousness from dependency to self-sufficiency among the people of depressed African-American communities and other similar minority communities" (2). As noble a goal as this may be, it addresses long-standing social disparities between the area neighborhoods, and it seems that one of the main functions of the China Basin industrial area is to exist as a sort of buffer zone between SOMA and Bayview residents, whether intentionally or not.


Heather Knight - SF Chronicle, March 19, 2008
Francisco Da Costa Gets The Outster From Chris Daly in SF



See also

Building bonds in the Bayview — one person, one community at a time

The Bayview-Hunter’s Point District is not ashamed it is forgotten. No, it relishes in this fact. As industrial spires climb their way to the tops of San Francisco, it seems as if this area of town is proud of itself. It humbles itself so outsiders must search for the beauty here. Terraces don’t rise and grocery stores don’t buzz about with upper-middle class sensualities. Toyota Priuses don’t glide about leisurely, rather cars from America’s industrial apex grind the pavement. Cadillac DeVilles and Pontiac Firebirds puff CO into the air. A lot of Bayview-Hunter’s Point is a relic of America (and San Francisco’s) age of industry and community.

The former Naval shipyard rusts against the bay and local shops are boarded up, creating a ghost-town feel. This is not the San Francisco of brochures. Golden bridges and green parks are replaced with grey edifices and burnt tarmac, the only shade of color being the faces of people who stroll Third Street. And though this all seems fitting for a forgotten town in the southeast part of San Francisco, a new bud is blooming. Bayview-Hunter’s Point, despite its reputation, is a hotbed for community actions and involvement. But again, these developments aren’t explicit. Bayview-Hunter’s Point rewards seekers, and for some, they only had to look as far as their backyards. Others go door-to-door, and see the problems in the area and offer help, hoping to spur movements that’ll move beyond the community. Nonetheless the community thrives, and whether it’s a fifth grade student or a district supervisor, we can all learn who we are from our communities.
51-year-old James Ross’ Southern drawl is subtle, yet inviting. The way he pronounces his words takes you back to a place in time where Coca-Cola was just a nickel and the only propaganda you needed to worry about was coming out of your radio. His Aunt purchased his home on Quesada Street in 1948, and as a result, he now lives in it with his youngest son.

“It was wild as a deer,” Ross said after being asked how Bayview was in the past. “Bayview had drugs, prostitutes and trash in the islands.”

Ross came to Bayview-Hunter’s Point from his hometown of Danville, Ky. (population: 31,000) to San Francisco in 1979 to live with his aunt. In 1983, he left to travel throughout the world and in 2000 Ross came back to Bayview and moved into his aunts house to take care of her.

Quesada Street is a caterpillar of a street. It runs up and down, starting at Third Street and riding up west to the Hunter’s Point hill. Ross’ home is located to the east of Third Street, on a little bloc with maybe a dozen homes. It was after returning back to the Bayview that Ross and his neighbors worked together to spur on a movement that would touch the lives of many Bayview-Hunter’s point residents. The group ushered forth community and began to see what true community looked like and it all began with flowers.

Nature struck its wrath on the Quesada street median, and as as result, 8-foot-tall bushes encompassed the already planted palm trees. It looked like all the quasi-vegetation that peeps around San Francisco’s concrete. It seemed just like any other median.

“People used to park their cars on the median and change their oil,” Sharon Bliss, Quesada Street home owner and professor at San Francisco State’s Fine Art department, said.

“Some of the seniors were putting flowers in the median in front of their homes. They wanted something nice in front of their homes,” Ross said.

Ross said he watched his neighbors for six months before he asked them what they were doing out there. Annette, one of the neighbors planting flowers, told him that she want something pretty to look at outside of her window. Unfortunately, it seemed like others didn’t care as much, which left Annette often fixing her plants from foot traffic or cars. Ross said she wouldn’t give up and soon began taping off the area. This soon inspired him as well as another neighbor, Karl, to begin doing so too. Soon, multiple houses began to plan their own creations on the median.

“The city came in and cut down the 8 foot tall bushes after we told them,” Ross said. Soon after this, the entire neighborhood became involved with more and more people planting something each day. Ross said they soon realized this is something that should spread to Bayview and so the Quesada Gardens Initiative was born. The city even installed watering systems to keep the plants going.

But it wasn’t that simple.

Becoming a Non-profit organization takes work, man-power and money. A mob of people will get you the first two. The last one takes a bit more.

“If you know who your neighbors are, you know what skills they have,” Ross said. Upon asking neighbors about their skills, Ross said they found a banker, a grant writer, a filmmaker and a professional gardener.

A graphic designer was needed so Ross enrolled in City College to take image editing classes. Ross said he does all the flyer work now. They soon pitched their idea to Renaissance Parents of Success, a 28-year-old Non Profit who worked with at-risk youth, who gladly provided funds to start.

And so it began.

For seven years the Quesada Gardens Initiative planted all kinds of foliage up the median. They enlisted help from the entire Bayview Community, as well as other parts of San Francisco and the Bay Area. Students from the University of San Francisco came to help build planter boxes. Students from Stanford took an entire weekend to help dig trenches for gardens. The end result was a beautiful, almost mythic garden that welcomes Third Street residents a chance to stop and look.

In 2007, Karl Paige, one of the pioneers of the Quesada Gardens movement, passed away. Ross said they wanted to make sure they honored him in a way that showed the community what he was about. A Bayview artist was chosen to paint a mural on the 30 foot wall at the end of the block. The top of the wall holds a memorial garden with a bench that offers a gorgeous view of the city and neighborhood.

Currently, twelve other gardens sprinkled throughout the Bayview exist, each with support from the area it’s in. The Bridgeview Garden, which is on the next street above of the Quesada Garden in the garden of a couple, is an orchard with apples and pears. Ross said the couple that houses the garden allowed them to pick the fruit and give it out to the the neighbors.

Ross has also created a side project called BayBloom that encourages families to place planter boxes in their backyards, creating fruit and vegetables for the entire community. The idea came from others on the Quesada garden block, who grew vegetables in their backyard and also because Bayview lacks grocery stores.

“In other districts they got everything they need, but when it comes to Bayview everything seems slow,” Ross said. He also said that though a lot of produce comes through the Bayview, it’s shipped out everywhere else.

Ross view of grocery trains in the Bayview are not too far-fetched. According to a Google Maps search of grocery stores listed in the Bayview, roughly nine are displayed, mostly miniature grocery outlets that serve more fast food than produce. Whole Foods has a distribution center in Bayview, but most of its stores are either downtown or in areas like Noe Valley. GreenLeaf, a company founded in 2005 whose goals are to are to provide great products to restaurants, is located in Bayview but their website does not list any ways for residents to take advantage of their produce.

“It’s almost fraudulent they do that,” Ross said about the lack of grocery stores in the Bayview. “And even when they do have organic foods, they’re too expensive.”

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, a British grocery train that’s become popular in the last few years for their cheap and healthy produce, was scheduled to build two stores in the Bayview last year, but halted production as of April 2008, according to an San Francisco Chronicle article. Fresh & Easy’s website list the locations at Third and Carroll Streets, as well as Silver Avenue and Goettingen Street, both epicenters of activity in the district.

A Farmer’s Market in the Bayview is listed on Jerrold Avenue but only offers produce from May through October on Wednesdays, according to the California Certified Farmer’s Market website. Ross confirmed the location of the farmer’s market but said it’s not frequent enough for the community to use.
As a result, Ross wanted everyone in the community to use their backyards to grow fruit. Bayview-Hunter’s Point houses the most homes owned by their occupants in San Francisco with average home ownership at 66 percent according to the 2000 census.

“Most homes have some kind of fruit trees but most people don’t want to deal with them so they rot. What we’ll do is go in, harvest the fruit, and give people a portion. We give away the fruit to the community and it would cost them nothing,” Ross said. “We’re trying to bring back fresh food and vegetables to the community. We’re trying to keep history alive in at Bayview.”
The project is one hold as the winter doesn’t offer much produce. That said, Ross is
working with agriculture and engineering majors at USF to create cheap, planter boxes that will allow residents to grow all kinds of fruit and vegetables. Ross was quick to make sure people understood the point of Quesada Gardens and why it began.
“It’s not about gardening, it’s about bringing people together.”
Last June, the San Francisco board of Supervisors passed a law, mandating stricter compost recycling laws. Mayor Gavin Newsom wants San Francisco to be the greenest city by 2020 and thus, agencies like SF Environment came to help. SF Environment is a zero waste program responsible for enforcing this ordinance, but the organization is not new to enforcing or changing municipal laws. They were the driving force behind San Francisco’s plastic bag ban in 2007. They’re pushing city-wide for better electricity and compost habits, but it’s their grassroots campaign in Bayview-Hunter’s Point that’s become a big focus.

“People don’t care about the environment because people don’t know,” Jean Walsh, Outreach Specialist for SF Environment said. Walsh said that SF Environment’s goals are to educate and show people that becoming green isn’t just good for the Earth, but good for them too.

“A lot of contaminants are in the air of people’s homes,” Walsh said. “We send people to have a look at what cleaning products they have that may cause health issues like asthma.” Based on a 2000 report done by the San Francisco Public Health Department, rates of asthma were higher in African Americans than any other ethnic population. African Americans account for roughly 7 percent of San Francisco’s population, but make up roughly 34 percent of Bayview, according to the last US census.

Recently, SF Environment started a campaign to make house calls to residents in the Bayview and do door-to-door visits to teach them about the new law, as well as how they can save money with eco-friendly light bulbs. Walsh said people were excited they came and that interest in the environment was very popular.

SF Environment also employed around 40 people through San Francisco’s Jobs Now program, many of them Bayview residents. The program uses federal stimulus money to great greener jobs for unemployed people in San Francisco.
“It’s running only until next year so we’re pushing to keep it going,” Walsh said. Walsh also said that the need for a better environment creates jobs for that need, which in turn provides better community. These are the goals SF Environment wants to bring not only to the Bayview, but city-wide.

A greener Bayview continues to be a strong issue for both activists and residents alike. Bayview is the only part of the city with 25 percent of its land unindustrialized, according to the San Francisco Health Development Tool, leaving much debate about how to utilize the area. Furthermore. Bayview has 12 acres of public space opened to the public, compared to the city average of 9. Bayview is poised to become an area of health and prosperity, but it takes time to let people know that.

“We want people to know it’s not some hippy environmentalist thing,” Walsh said. “People want to talk about the environment.”
“Put your problems on probation, run your troubles off the track, throw your worries out the window, get the monkeys off your back. Silence all your inner critics with your conscience make amends, and allow yourself some happiness, Its Christmas time again,” Fifth grader Jocelyn Eisner yelled. The crowd smiled as the curly haired girl with a caramel complexion and glasses sliding to her nose recited Bob Lazzar-Atwood’s poem It’s Christmas Time Again. Starbucks cups with free hot chocolate twitched, both out of anticipation of the next event and the harsh San Francisco winds that cut through the amphitheater. District 10 Supervisor Sophie Maxwell appeared, seemingly anxious to begin the display. She asked the audience to clap three times and with that the behemoth Christmas tree lit up Third Street. This was the end of a night of fun, holiday cheer and community.

The Bayview Community packed the Bayview Opera House last Saturday for the Sixth Annual Bayview Holiday Marketplace and Tree Lighting, which offered a free toy giveaway for kids ages zero to 12, live entertainment, an ice skating rink, local food and a marketplace for local vendors to sell their creations.

“Every year is a loving outpour,” Jacqueline Hunter said. Hunter, who’s come to each event since the first one, noted that this is one of the biggest events in the area.
The event began at noon and ran until 8 p.m. Different organizations such as social justice groups, The African American Holistic Wellness Center through the YMCA, Wells Fargo and others came to offer both events to attend to, as well as support such as help purchasing a new home. Vendors and organizations used this event to not only provide fun for the families and children around Bayview-Hunter’s Point, but wanted to challenge the community to grow and change.

“This is the time to galvanize the community,” Bayview artist and activist Malik Seneferu said. Seneferu was among one of the vendors who sold art at the event. Among the food vendors were The Po-Boy stop, Noah’s Dirty Popcorn, La Laguna Taqueria and Miz Lynn’s Pies.
Demarcus Freemon, a member of the African American Holistic Wellness program at the YMCA, said that it’s always great to see people out and that he hopes the programs they’re bringing attract the community. Among them were a spoken word and poetry event Dec. 16 and a city-wide Kwanzaa celebration beginning Dec. 28.

Supervisor Maxwell joined the celebration at 5 p.m to light the Christmas that overlooks Third and Oakdale streets. Mayor Gavin Newsom was scheduled to appear according to the SF Bayview Newspaper’s community events calendar, but there was no mention of his absence.

Bayview Police officer Greg Surh introduced himself as the new captain of the station and offered his help and protection to the residents of Bayview.

When Maxwell was asked about the importance of politicians in public, she said that because supervisors are district elected, it’s important that they go into the community.

“This is where we come from,” Maxwell said. “This is who we are.”