Patricia De Fonte, captain of the Ney Street Neighborhood Watch
Many San Franciscans travel through the Ney Street neighborhood on the way to the 280 and 101 freeways. But the Ney Street neighborhood isn’t just a gateway to one of San Francisco’s main thoroughfares – it’s also the home of a vibrant community that is dedicated to improving the lives of its residents.
It All Started with a Neighborhood Watch
In 2010, the Ney Street community started working with San Francisco SAFE to initiate the Ney Street Neighborhood Watch (NSNW). After a year of meetings, the group felt cohesive enough to start tackling other problems in the “Neyborhood.” They made a list – dumping, graffiti, greening, better lighting at night, cleaning up the local grocery store, and more.
“We started out as 20 strangers in a room. We soon realized that we were more than that – we had common concerns and goals in addition to safety. We wanted a cleaner and more beautiful community and we felt confident enough in each other to start working toward it,” says Patricia De Fonte, captain of NSNW.
A Full-fledged Greening Effort Begins
Trees line the streets leading up to the entrance to Alemany Boulevard
Supervisor John Avalos had been attending NSNW’s meetings from the beginning and the Neybors brought him their concerns. Seeing the level of commitment in the group, Supervisor Avalos gave them $5,000 for greening and introduced them to Mohammed Nuru of the Department of Public Works. This kicked off a new mission and a new energy in the group.
NSNW members began monthly cleaning crews, going block by block weeding, meeting new neighbors, increasing group membership and educating residents on their rights and obligations. They worked with Friends of the Urban Forest to plant 70 trees within six months with the money from Supervisor Avalos.
The whole community came out to plant – they brought their children, they planted trees for elderly Neybors who could not participate, and they celebrated with potluck meals afterwards.
In just over a year the Ney Street residents had made big changes in their neighborhood – and people were noticing. In 2012, they received the “Outstanding Neighborhood Watch Group” award at the annual NEN Awards.
Joel and Mary McClure, project leaders for the Bridgeview Garden, got the event planning in motion weeks earlier, along with Vidal Perez who did most of the work on the stunning garden entryway. Vidal supplied music for the event, and brought a hearty soup to go with fresh local fruits and a sweet potato pie from the kitchen of Quesada Gardens Co-Founder Corine Pettus.
Under blue skies and overlooking a skyline that puts the “view” in Bayview, Alejandro Murguia delivered a poem written for the occasion. Alejandro and his partner Magaly Fernandez have been supporters of the Quesada Gardens Initiative and the showcase Bridgeview project for years, and live across the street from the garden.
Alejandro is not only a neighbor, but also a National Book Award-winner and San Francisco’s Poet Laureate. In his poem, palm trees tip their hats as Bayview’s past, present and future swirl about them.
The event also served as a celebration of the accomplishments of a group of service-learning students from University of San Francisco. Over the past several months, these young people have done gardening in several gardens, staffed five community events, and installed a new sign in the Quesada Garden.
Robyn Brault and Anthony Terrazas shared moving reflections about their experience with Quesada Gardens. Anthony introduced his mother to the group, and read an essay about his family’s immigrant journey and his own personal part of it.
See Anthony’s moving reflection online now. “[Quesada Gardens] offers community members the opportunity to not only define and create their physical surroundings, but to cultivate a place where one is capable of developing his or her abilities and exercise his or her capacities.”
Serenity, who won a national youth gardening award at Quesada Gardens GRO1000 event last year, shared her essay about the Bridgeview Garden where she and brother Legend and mom Quay Markham have connected with their neighbors.
“In my neighborhood garden we are planting food for everyone in our community….”
Many student stars contributed to Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood in recent months. One student group reported: “Now we’ve become the voices that will carry the positive image of the Bayview Community.”
The reasons an individual might take a permaculture course varies widely, but one thing most people have in common when coming into this realm is the desire to help in some way. It may be that they want to help with environmental issues or that they want to help build a stronger and more resilient community, or it might be they want to help their immediate family meet their needs more sustainably and abundantly. Beyond the individual’s initial intent, the whole systems approach of permaculture adds resilience and meaningful inter-connections to any community by a factor of the number of designers residing there.
One of the aspects of resiliency that is brought forth through an Urban PDC (permaculture design course) is an awareness and understanding of the myriad of skills, strategies and techniques surrounding sustainable living. The themes explored are many and cover the entire spectrum of day to day living and how we assemble our urban environment. Topics including highly productive food systems in dense urban spaces, waste cycling and closed-loop design, community-scale renewable energy, greywater and rainwater systems, transportation and village design, community organizing, and natural building are just a few examples. The skills learned and practiced today become eminently valuable when a disaster strikes. When resources become limited or even unavailable for an extended period of time (such as we have witnessed in disasters), it becomes critical to shift the way we meet our daily needs; to survive and thrive, a community is wise to implement systems of conservation and renewal.
Building resilience today in anticipation of a shift or change in culture is essentially what Permaculture Design seeks to enable. We see the opportunities to help all around us and it is the whole systems perspective that helps us to see where our actions can be the most effective. In the training offered by the Urban Permaculture InstituteÂ here in San Francisco, we highlight the many effective city sponsored programs as well as community programs already available.
Weaving together the various pieces into an integrated whole is the work before us today. We learn skills to compose with the people in each community to come up with strategies for resilience that prepare us for disaster while also building the interpersonal connections that are so vital. Of all the resources we have available in this beautiful city, the most abundant, challenging, filled-with-hope and enjoyable to work with is its people.
We invite you to join us for this valuable training which we offer four times per year right here in San Francisco.There is still room to sign up, or you can keep an eye out for our fall dates which will be announced sometime this month.
The NEN is excited to announce a new partnership with the Urban Permaculture Institute of San Francisco who has provided training in resiliency design and specific techniques and strategies for sustainable living for over 300 residents all over the city for the last 5 years and continues to offer training around town to those interested in developing such skills and learning about critical resources for their neighborhood.
Permaculture, though sometimes misunderstood as a style of gardening, is a design system for meeting all of human needs in a way that enhances all life. So, imagine meeting our needs for food, water shelter, community, even fun – in ways that benefit the environment and people to create healthy, safe, resilient neighborhoods. People use permaculture design to develop food systems, water systems, energy systems even economic systems and more. Common techniques and strategies used in permaculture design might include perennial, polyculture food gardens, rainwater harvesting, greywater systems, natural building, appropriate technology, even compost toilets and community currencies. More than a collection of alternative, healthy techniques and strategies, permaculture is a methodology and system for arranging such techniques in an appropriate way that considers the context.
In the 85 hour training provided by UPISF, trainees learn both specific techniques and strategies related to growing and preparing food, harvesting, cleaning and reusing water, managing waste, conserving energy, building with natural materials, convening governance groups for effective collective decision-making, developing local resilient economies, communicating effectively with others especially where there might be conflict, researching and analyzing data about a place or problem, manageing microclimates and more, and, methods of design for composing with the conditions of any moment or site to make an effective plan for implementing strategies on a hyper local level in such a way that feedback can be monitored and used to make a system more effective.
Some people take a permaculture training to develop professional skills and get valuable education to enhance their current career or prepare them for their next venture. Some people take the training just to share the experience with an enthusiastic group of like-minded community and meet new friends. Some people take a permaculture training because they are deeply concerned about their neighborhood and how to prepare for an emergency and how to act appropriately for an effective recovery after the first 72 hours of a disaster. UPISF is evolving its training offerings with the help of the NEN leadership to enhance the neighborhood empowerment aspects of the training. Expect to hear more about these new plans soon!
Through a mix of classroom discussion time, small group work and hands-on activities, UPISF explores methods of designing and establishing regenerative communities and economies. UPISF visits and participates at several permaculture projects here in San Francisco and the Bay Area, observing and interacting with Permaculture principles in practice. In the forthcoming weeks and months UPISF will share some designs and content developed by past trainees to share resiliency (and fun) strategies that we can potentially explore to make our neighborhoods more abundant, prosperous and joyful!
Join District 4 Supervisor Carmen Chu for a visual tour of the newly renovated Ortega Branch Library located in the heart of the Sunset District. After four years of planning, the newly finished library boasts LEED certification as well as a newly refurbished playground. Also featuring Michelle Jeffers, the San Francisco Public Library Public Relations Officer and Greg Syler of Friends of the West Sunset Playground.
The Ortega Branch Library [google-map-sc zoom="13"]
Nestled in the rolling hills of San Francisco’s east side rests the Bridgeview Community Teaching and Learning GardenÂ serving as not only as a way to beautify the community but also as an area for residents and their children to learn about urban agriculture and community building. Congratulations to the organizing groups for receiving the 2011 NEN Award for Best Green Community Project.
Not to belabor the point (or the puns …), but the view from the Presidio’s Inspiration Point truly is inspiring. Pack a sweater and a picnic and head for Arguello Gate, and you can experience this gorgeous vista firsthand! When the NEN stopped by, some people were having an impromptu dance party up here– clearly getting into the inspirational spirit.
Alemany Farm, in the north-east of San Francisco, is the city’s largest food-producing plot. But this place is more than about food: skill-sharing, opportunities for residents from nearby low-income housing, and community all thrive in this remarkable space. NENtv delves deeper into why Alemany Farm is so unique.
Trash, recycling, or compost? Who doesn’t scratch their head at some point when sorting their trash? With a million different kinds of items to throw away, it’s easy to get confused as to what goes in what bin.
Never fear, NENtv’s Ashley Larson is here to clear the fog. She catches up with SF Department of the Environment’s Jean Walsh and Deanna Simon to demystify some of the most commonly confused items. Watch this video and, trust us, you’ll sort it out.
Mohammed Nuru, Deputy Director for Operations, SF Dept of Public Works
Every month the Department of Public Works (DPW) dives into each of the eleven Supervisorial Districts around San Francisco to rally volunteers and partners to make San Francisco residential districts, commercial districts, schools, and parks safer and cleaner through our Community Clean Team program.
Arbor Day â€“ March 12, 2011
Created over 10 years ago, by then Public Works Director, San Francisco’s current Mayor, Ed Lee, Community Clean Team has become a mainstay in the DPW’s operations.
This year we brought the Community Clean Team in with a bang at the Ping Yuen Housing Development on February 12th where we celebrated the Clean Team kick off and Chinese New Year with fireworks and Lion Dancers; volunteers helped with landscaping projects, school improvements and even repainted the Broadway Tunnel. In March, we celebrated Arbor Day at Washington High School in the Richmond District where we planted dozens of trees along Geary Boulevard, and in April we worked in and around the Tenderloin and South of Market cleaning up trash, and removing graffiti in honor of Earth Day. In between those Community Clean Team events, we’ve hosted special events with volunteer partners from all around San Francisco and the greater Bay Area â€“ our partnership with Starbucks’ Global Month of Service event helped us clear over 60,000 pounds of green waste from the Great Highway, and plant over 500 plants.
Since February, over 3,000 volunteers rolled up their sleeves and dedicated at-least three hours to work side by side with Department of Public Works employees. Volunteers help leverage the city’s resources tremendously; DPW employees alone cannot complete the amount of work our volunteers complete.Â And during these challenging economic times, utilizing volunteers has become one of the most cost-effective ways to accomplish our work.
Over the past three months, our 3,000 plus volunteers contributed at-least 9,000 hours of community service to the Department of Public Works, totaling $270,000.00 worth of labor. I can comfortably state The Department of Public Works San Francisco works more with volunteers than any other Public Works organization in the nation.
Help us continue our momentum by volunteering for the Community Clean Team May 21st in honor of National Public Works Week at Balboa High School beginning at 9am. For more information email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Along with Mayor Lee, all our volunteers, our key partners like Recology, PG&E, Walgreens, Luxor Cab Company, Clean City Coalition, the Academy of Art University, Starbucks, Hilton-Financial District, and the Emerald Fund help sustain the program.
Thank you to all our partners, all who have volunteered, and all who will volunteer. Together we have and will continue to make a difference in San Francisco.
Mohammed Nuru is Deputy Director for Operations at the San Francisco Department of Public Works (SFDPW).Â Follow him on twitter @MrCleanSF