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Introducing the Urban Permaculture Institute of San Francisco; Bringing design skills for resilient, healthy life in the city.


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!

2010 Youth Leadership Award – Mitzi Chavez from NENtv on Vimeo.

Congratulations to the 2010 Neighborhood Youth Leadership Award winner Mitzi Chavez for her work as a youth mentor, educator and peer leader.

“She is truly a positive role model. Her intellectual curiosity and intelligence, open-heartedness, and her communication skills are three of her greatest attributes. This combination shows through in her work both in and outside of Peer Resources. Whether a mentor or an educator, Mitzi’s welcoming nature and true passion for helping others regardless of their diverse needs and backgrounds has had a great impact in many lives,” said resident Sarah Brant.

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Sandra Zuniga, Community Liaison, SF Department of Public Works

Don’t have much of a green thumb?  Me neither, but I like the challenge of learning something new and I love to eat, especially fresh fruits and vegetables.  So when Mayor Newsom passed the Healthy and Sustainable Food Directive our department looked at ways we can incorporate the directive’s goals into Department of Public Works‘s (DPW) everyday business.

Increasing food production on public land is thus a priority for the City of San Francisco, hence Street Parks, one of our Community Programs here at DPW. The community members with whom I work are more than happy to partner with us and add herbs or tomatoes between the flax and dieties.

Take the garden at Broadway and Himmelman Streets, stewarded by Dian Blomquist.  The area was once a drab looking piece of land, but with a little TLC, Dian transformed it in less than a year to a garlic/chard/tomato-producing community garden where members of the local Self Help for the Elderly help Dian maintain the garden and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

One of our most unique community gardens is located on a median at La Playa between Judah and Kirkham near the Great Highway.  We have broccoli, chives, mint, cabbage and we anticipate some pumpkins will be sprouting up before the fall.  Oh and did I forget to mention our stewards are creating two full-length bocce ball courts among all the flowers and food?

What I like most about the Street Parks Program is that even if you are like me and don’t have much of a green thumb, the program works to engage and educate the public to help them learn tips and techniques from experienced gardeners.  We hold workshops every six months on topics that the 200+ Street Parks participants are interested in.  Street Parks stewards learn something new and share what they know, plus it’s a great way to network. 

This July I am more excited than ever about our upcoming workshop “Dig In“.  We’ve partnered with the American Community Gardening Association andWoodbridge by Robert Mondavi Wineries who will bring gardening experts from around the United States to provide would-be gardeners and San Franciscans the best tips and tricks on planting vegetables, garden maintenance and composting.  Plus, we’ll have a guest chef show participants the best ways to prepare vegetables.

The workshop is free and open to the public, Saturday, July 24, 2010 at the Visitacion Valley Greenway located at Leland Avenue and Peabody (map).  The workshops begin at 9:30am and end at 1:30pm.  Lunch is provided and all participants receive a free gift.  You do not have to be part of the Street Parks program to attend.

So whether you are a novice gardener or HGTV has offered you a primetime show, join us at the next Street Parks workshop. I look forward to meeting you. Email me at to register for the workshop.

Sandra Zuniga is the Community Liaison for the Department of Public Works and manages several programs that engage San Francisco residents in cleaning and greening the City. She can be contacted at


How can you make your house and your neighborhood greener? The NEN Clean & Green Summit 2010 is your chance to find out with some of San Francisco’s biggest green leaders and organizations. Join us for an environmental resource fair; a Mission-based green walking tour; and practical workshops on rainwater harvesting, growing food in your neighborhood, identifying spaces for greening, and more.

The NEN’s last Clean & Green Summit back in 2008 was a huge success and we expect it to be even better this year! Don’t forget, this event is FREE but registration is required; visit here to sign up.

For more information, visit the NEN Clean & Green Summit 2010 page.

Any questions? Email us at

We’ll see you there.

The NEN Team

Event Details

Date: Saturday, May 8th
Time: 9am to 3pm
Location: Cesar Chavez Elementary School, 825 Shotwell St (map)


  • 8am – 9am: Resource Fair set up
  • 9 to 10am: Registration sign-in
  • 10am to Noon: First series of breakout groups and walking tours
  • Noon to 1:30pm: Lunch, networking and resource fair time
  • 1:30pm to 3:30: Final series of breakout groups and walking tours
  • 1:30pm: Resource fair closes

Workshops include:

  • Urban Agriculture: Growing Food in Your Neighborhood (Department of the Environment / The Parks Trust)
  • How to green your neighborhood’s open spaces through Pavement to Parks and Street Parks (Department of Public Works / The Parks Trust / The Mayor’s Office)
  • Rainwater Harvesting: How to capture rainwater for use in your garden (Public Utilities Commission)
  • Demystifying the community challenge grant process (Community Challenge Grant Program)
  • Organizing your community to stop graffiti (Department of Public Works)
  • How to leverage “GreenFinanceSF,” San Francisco’s new green home improvement financing program (Department of the Environment)
  • Walking tours of the Mission (the NEN Team)


The Office of Mayor Gavin Newsom, City Administrator’s Office, Department of Public Works, Department of Emergency Management, Public Utilities Commission, 311, and Department of the Environment, and San Francisco Parks Trust.

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