Tags Posts tagged with "gardens"


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San Francisco’s Policy Thumb Gets Greener

By Isabel Wade & Eli Zigas

On a spring morning last week, Mayor Ed Lee signed a bill that places San Francisco at the forefront of major cities supporting urban agriculture.  The law, which changes the city’s zoning code, was the culmination of a year of collaboration between the Mayor, Supervisor David Chiu, the San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance and supporters from across the city.

The new law does two things:

1) Makes clear that gardens are welcome in every part of the city.

Previously, the city prohibited the establishment of gardens in certain zones of the city.  Going forward, San Franciscans can start a garden or farm less than one acre in size anywhere in the city with a simple over-the-counter permit.  These gardens can be traditional community gardens or they can be market gardens that grow for sale. Gardens and farms one acre or larger are allowed in the industrial zones of the city, and can also be permitted in other parts of the city after a more lengthy application and hearing process called Conditional Use Authorization.  Home gardens cultivated for personal use are unaffected by this new law.

2) Allows gardeners to sell what they grow. 

Whether it’s to make a little extra cash or to make a living, gardeners and urban farmers in San Francisco can now sell what they grow no matter where they grow it.  A backyard gardener can sell to their neighbor, a community garden can make a deal with the local corner grocer, and an urban farm can start a CSA or supply produce to a restaurant.  Sales are permitted both at the garden site itself as well as off-site.  And, San Francisco took a unique step among cities by explicitly allowing gardens outside of residential areas to sell value-added goods such as jams, pickles, and other processed products so long as they follow health code regulations and the primary ingredients are grown and produced on-site.

By passing this law, San Francisco is encouraging the development of urban agriculture throughout the city. Theunanimous support of the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor demonstrates an understanding that urban gardens and farms provide open space in our dense city, offer “green thumb” jobs, serve as a source of fresh produce in “food deserts”, build community, and allow city residents to connect with and better understand the food system.  This understanding comes from the success of numerous model projects that have sprung up in recent years.  Gardens such as the Quesada Gardens InitiativeFree Farm, and 18th & Rhode Island Garden all provide examples of vacant, untended areas turned into vibrant, welcoming greenspace.  Those gardens, and others such as Alemany Farm and Hayes Valley Farm bring together hundreds of volunteers to dig in the dirt and build something meaningful together.  Meanwhile, small businesses such as Little City Gardens and SF Landscapes will now have the legal backing to sell produce grown in residential areas to their neighbors and others throughout the city. Altogether, these gardens — whether they grow for sale or not  — strengthen their neighborhoods and communities by bringing people together out of their homes and around a specific place and their harvest.

While this change to the zoning code is a great step forward for San Francisco, we believe it is only a first step forward.  Other actions that would enhance food production and the city’s sustainability deserve attention as well.  Foremost among them is land access and land tenure.  San Francisco is a dense city where available land commands a pretty penny. Though the zoning code change allows gardens throughout the city, it doesn’t create any new ones nor does it protect spaces that are obvious choices for food production or neighborhood greenspace.  The City has begun to look for vacant public land suitable for urban agriculture, but we should also consider other space that could be converted to gardens.  Taking advantage of our urban setting, San Francisco could follow in Seattle’s footsteps by allowing rooftop greenhouses dedicated to food production to exceed existing height limitations. Moreover, building codes could be altered to require roof strengthening and appropriate plumbing in all new structures in order to allow rooftop gardening. Another critical step to foster more food production is the establishment of Neighborhood Food Hubs where residents could pick up mulch, compost, and tools for their backyard and community gardening efforts. Further north, the City of Vancouver, Canada envisions these hubs to also offer places to cook, taking cooking lessons, can and pickle. These are just a few examples of further policy steps the City could take.

After the Mayor signed the zoning ordinance into law, we all raised our plates for a “salad toast” to celebrate the occasion. We look forward to many future “salad toast” to a more resilient city at garden ground-breakings, rooftop plantings, and more.

The NEN and AII Release the First Episodes of NENtv’s KIOSK

The Neighborhood Empowerment Network (NEN) and the Art Institute of California San Francisco have collaborated through the NEN University Academic Alliance to produce the first two NENtv episodes of “Kiosk”.

Kiosk is a 30 minute broadcast quality TV show dedicated to elevating and celebrating the community building work that is happening in the neighborhoods every day. Each episode features both in studio guests as well as video profiles of people and organizations from around the City who are making a difference in their communities.

The premier episodes include:

Building Community, One Garden at a Time

The Power of Art and Building Strong Communities

KIOSK was produced and directed by students enrolled in instructor Marc Smolowitz’s Studio Production course. “As an instructor, it’s my goal to help the students achieve the academic goals of the curriculum.” Stated Smolowitz, “If we can do so while at the same time helping the communities of San Francisco celebrate the great work happening in their neighborhoods, it only enhances the learning experience.”

Daniel Homsey, the program manager of the NEN, stated “The ability to collaborate with an organization such as the Art Institute of California San Francisco with its talented instructors and students, helps the NEN achieve its mission to help the communities of San Francisco no only be acknowledged for their work, but also present their efforts in a way that is easily consumable for other residents.”

To view the episodes of NENtv’s KIOSK, visit empowersf.org/nentv.

The Neighborhood Empowerment Network (NEN) was launched in the fall of 2007, when the City and County of San Francisco partnered with residents and community serving non profits to create a new platform to nurture collaboration and community centric problem solving. The NEN’s mission is to develop tools, resources and strategic partnerships that empower communities to steward themselves to being safer, cleaner, greener and healthier places to live and work.


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NEN Kiosk: Growing Communities from NENtv on Vimeo.

This debut episode of the NEN Kiosk focuses on community gardens. Join NEN’s Daniel Homsey as he talks about this growing trend with Blair Randall of Garden for the Environment, Fran Martin of the Visitacion Valley Greenway and Mei Ling Hui of the SF Department of the Environment. These community leaders join in to share their experiences with community gardens and how they play a major role in uniting neighborhoods.

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We Are Growing Home from NENtv on Vimeo.

“Growing Home”, a new community garden located along Octavia Boulevard in the Hayes Valley neighborhood, is a unique collaboration between a surprising assortment of people. Watch this latest NENtv episode to find out who’s involved.

In 2010, NENtv visited Growing Home on the final volunteer work day needed to fully open the garden to discover a rich assortment of views on what a community garden can do for the community.

The video also features Ed Lee in his pre-Mayoral role!

[Also viewable on Youtube here.]



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Join NENtv and the students at the Art Institute of California as we explore the exciting work being done at Quesada Gardens. What began as an effort to remove unsightly debris and waste in the neighborhood has steadily evolved into a dynamic social center for members of the Bay View Community to come together. We were fortunate enough to catch up with organizer Jeffry Betcher and co-founder Jeannette Hill as they take us through the background of this open space and what inspired them to beautify their community.

This video was produced as a collaboration between NENTV and The Art Institute of California, led by instructor Marc Smolowitz.

Quesada Gardens from NENtv on Vimeo.

Happy New Year!

We are pleased to announce the second of four Park Town Halls . We invite you to join us on Saturday, January 29, 2011 from 10am to noon atSoMA Gene Friend Recreation Center to share your thoughts and potential solutions with city decision makers regarding your parks!

This meeting will be citywide in scope and will help to inform park budget decisions that are on the horizon. Help us spread the word by forwarding this email to your contacts.

As you can imagine, this fiscal year (2011-2012) will be another tough budget year. We look forward to working closely with leaders and elected officials to make sure parks remain a priority.

For our parks,

Meredith Thomas
Executive Director









Second Park Town Hall Meeting: January 29, 2011

Throughout 2010 – 2011, Neighborhood Parks Council will be hosting a series of four Park Town Halls to hear your views about managing our parks, get your creative solutions to challenges, and identify concerns BEFORE park decisions are made by officials.

The first Town Hall was held in late October. We encourage you to join us at the second meeting on January 29, 2011 from 10am to noon at SoMA Gene Friend Recreation Center . The location of each Town Hall will vary, but the meeting scope will remain citywide. Come represent your park and neighborhood!

Recreation & Park Updates

Budget Planning for Fiscal Year 2011-2012

The Recreation and Park Department must follow specific budgeting instructions from the Mayor’s Budget Office each fiscal year. The Department’s initial budget proposal for fiscal year 2011-2012 is due on February 22, 2011. At this time, the Department will need to propose how it plans to achieve a General Fund reduction of approximately $6.79 million over the course of next year. Click here to learn more and to get involved.

RPD Commission Schedule Changes Effective Now

The Recreation and Park Commission has amended its bylaws, changing its regular meeting time as well as by adding both a capital committee and an operations committee. Click here to view the new schedule.

Get Involved!

Balboa Park

Join NPC, TPL, RPD, and Friends of Balboa Park for a community meeting on Thursday, January 13th. Attendees will have the opportunity to give feedback on the proposed community art project and park signage as part of the park and playground renovation. Click here for more information.

Glen Canyon Park

The Trust for Public Land is partnering with RPD to vision and design a Park Improvement Plan for Glen Canyon Park and will be holding the second of six community workshops this Thursday, January 13th, from 6:30-8:30pm at the Glen Canyon Recreation Center. Click here to learn more.

Ocean Beach

The San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) is spearheading a new long-range planning effort for Ocean Beach, and will be hosting a special public workshop. This “Open House” will be held on January 15, 2011, from 9 am until 2 pm (you can arrive whenever you want and stay as long as you choose) at the SF Zoo. This Open House represents a great opportunity for the public to weigh in on the project and submit ideas to SPUR’s design team. Click here for more details.

Guerrero Sidewalk Greening

Join the Guerrero Park Neighbors for their sidewalk garden planting on January 22nd.

Sports Basement Fundraiser for NPC

Join us on February 2nd at the Bryant Street Sports Basement and enjoy a 10% discount while supporting NPC! NPC will receive 10% of the profits. Sports Basement will be providing beverages and snacks to whet your appetite for shopping. Contact council@sfnpc.org with any questions.

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Pennsylvania Garden: The Jewel of Potrero Hill from NENtv on Vimeo.

There are no finer examples of one person’s determination transforming an unsightly piece of land into an urban oasis of plants and community than Potrero Hill’s Pennsylvania Garden. In 2008, resident Annie Shaw took a d-shaped piece of land next to the Mariposa Street off ramp on 280 South and began transforming it into a community garden. Soon, the neighborhood got behind her and the result is quite possibly the Jewel of Potrero Hill.

NENtv visits Annie, garden volunteers, and neighbors to find out how Pennsylvania Garden happened and what the rest of San Francisco can learn from Annie and her team’s courage and determination.


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Ever wondered what you and your neighbors’ gardens would look like without fences between them? When artist Wanda Westberg and her husband moved into their Berkeley home, they set about doing removing fences, working neighbor by neighbor. Wanda explains to NENfm how they did it.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Show Information

Guest: Wanda Westberg, artist and North Berkeley resident
Host: Adam Greenfield
Neighborhood: North Berkeley
Additional credits: Moontan (music)


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Annie Shaw, Founder, Pennsylvania Garden

Planning a street garden is something I’ve had a lot of time to think about. Usually I do this as I am moving a plant to a new location, and thinking to myself “If I had planned all this out, I wouldn’t be breaking my back right now…”

Pennsylvania Garden had one plant in the beginning – a Princess Plant (Tibouchina urvilleana) planted by our neighbor, Jim. I put other plants around it, and bought more that I stuck in various groups and those became other beds. It was all very random! I don’t recommend this method…

I chose species from my Sunset Western Gardening Book, or on a whim at the garden center. Many other plants came from neighbors who donated them.  At times it was a bit of a mess (still is!) As the winter turned to spring, then summer, some species were clearly out of place. The donated Hydrangea wilted in the hot sun, and the Nasturtiums I’d foolishly planted for quick color went berserk and suffocated their neighbors. And let’s not talk about that evil pineapple mint…

Clearly, there are a few thinks you can think about before setting shovel to dirt. Here’s what I (try to) take into consideration now:-

Paths and other hardscape items. Eventually I realized I needed real beds and paths, and these came about organically. I noted the straightest path into the garden, and to the dog area, and saw that people and dogs followed those paths no matter what I put in their way… I altered the beds to allow for that, and planted species that could handle the traffic. I wove twigs into bundles to make a recycled and compostable border edging. Next came steps on steep slopes, and the arch and various other hardscape items: the framework of the garden.

Size. How large will this tiny 4” plant get eventually? I simply could not imagine the plants getting much bigger, despite the label assuring me I was planting a shrub that would make 4’ x 4’ eventually. Was it a failure of imagination, or lack of confidence in the plants themselves? Either way, they grew! And this meant I had to move other plants out of the way.

Deadliness. Species known to be somewhat poisonous or spiky should also sit back in the bed to prevent risk to passersby with low risk aversion!

Water. Newsflash: water is in very short supply in the Bay area. If you don’t have access to it, choose xeric plants that like to be dry. If you do have access to it, think about the moral imperative to use water wisely: plant in the rainy season, and choose plants that can manage with just weekly watering, or less if possible.

If you’re planting on a slope, remember that water will run downhill. Get to know the lay of the land and plant your thirstiest plants where the water collects.

An overhead map of Pennsylvania Garden

Yes, you can be very clever by having papyrus and other bog plants at the top of a rocky slope but after a while your shameless water consumption will cause people to point and wrinkle their noses. And nobody likes to be pointed at.

Sun. Plants are usually labeled by their preference for “shade” “part shade” or “sun” but these classifications are too vague.  Some plants claiming to love full sun withered under the glare at my garden.  And supposed shade-lovers practically uprooted and dragged themselves to a sunnier spot.  Be sure to spend an entire day at your garden to see what areas are in full shade all day, or which ones get just an hour of shade in the morning and full sun the rest of the day. You might be surprised what you find.

Accept death. Some of your plants will die. This is why they invented compost heaps: so you can bury your mistakes. Just make sure you learn from those poor little victims and their demise! And don’t be afraid to move plants that look unhappy to a better spot.

Draw it up. With all these things in mind, sit down with a pencil and grid paper, or a nice fresh copy of Photoshop or Illustrator, and map out your garden. Redo this design 17 or 18 times, and show it to every landscape designer and architect you meet, begging them to help you. Throw a few giant, invasive, deadly species into your design so you can a) assess their competence to assist you based on whether or not they notice, and b) make them think you are an idiot in desperate need of their help. This little trick should net you a great deal of qualified advice.

If you’ve read my other blog posts you’ll know that after that getting the garden built is a simple matter of applying for grant money, mustering volunteers and sitting back with a nice cup of tea while everyone else does the hard work. Ha!

If you want to do a little gardening one weekend and find out for yourself whether I’m kidding or not about the volunteers, come to our monthly volunteer day on the first Saturday of each month. Check out our website for more details – I’d be happy to show you around.

Annie Shaw is founder and head gardener of Pennsylvania Garden in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood. She can be contacted through the Pennsylvania Garden blog.


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Mayor Gavin Newsom today announced the winners of the Community Challenge Grant Program (CCG), which provides matching grants to local residents, businesses, non-profits and other community groups to make physical improvements to their neighborhoods.

The CCG Program has awarded 28 grants totaling $577,656. The bulk of the CCG awards continue to be for permeable landscaping, public artwork, graffiti/litter abatement, community gardens and gathering spaces, equitably covering all areas of the City. The funding for CCG awards come from city businesses who voluntarily designate one percent of the business tax they already pay. 

The CCG focuses on projects that directly engage residents and businesses in creating green spaces, gathering places, public art, and other neighborhood amenities by featuring and applying ecologically friendly practices. The program is an important tool for enabling communities to take the lead in conducting small scale improvements in their own communities and neighborhoods.

“The Community Challenge Grants promote innovation in our neighborhoods and encourage communities to take pride in their streets,” said Mayor Newsom. “These innovative projects leverage public and private dollars to get communities working together toward making San Francisco a cleaner, greener, and safer city for everyone.”

“We are inspired by the twenty-eight innovative projects awarded this cycle,” said City Administrator Ed Lee. “The Community Challenge Grant Program works best when community groups are empowered to take charge to improve and green their neighborhoods. These projects continue to make San Francisco a cleaner, greener place to live and grow.”

The CCG partnership with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Urban Watershed Management Program is a critical part of the project. Through this partnership, grants were awarded to six community projects including implementing environmentally sustainable technologies for sidewalks and infrastructure and managing local rainwater in schools and parks.  The awarded amount totals $102,600.

“Each of these community-driven projects will help the entire City to better manage stormwater,” said SFPUC General Manager Ed Harrington. “They demonstrate the importance of acting locally and are vital to the health of our watersheds.”

Community Challenge Grant Program Fall 2010 Grant Award Recipients

1. Jose Ortega Elementary School PTA

Awarded: $10,000
Project: Community Art

2.  Precita Valley Neighbors, sponsored by SF Parks Trusts

Awarded: $8,500
Project: Urban Forestry & Landscaping

3. Progress Park, sponsored by SF Parks Trust

Awarded: $8,600
Project: Urban Forestry & Landscaping

4. Inner City Youth  OMI Clean Team

Awarded: $15,000
Project: Litter Abatement

5. Market Street Association

Awarded: $20,000
Project: Neighborhood Beautification

6. Worchester/Alemany Triangle, sponsored by Mission Neighborhood Center

Awarded: $13,328
Project: Urban Forestry & Landscaping

7. North West Bernal Alliance

Awarded: $14,579
Project: Graffiti & Litter Abatement

8. Korean American Community Center, sponsored by SF Clean City Coalition

Awarded: $15,000
Project: Urban Forestry & Landscaping

9. Kids In Parks, sponsored by SF Parks Trust

Awarded: $20,000
Project: Urban Forestry & Landscaping

10. Hayes Valley Farm, sponsored by SF Parks Trust

Awarded: $10,000
Project: Urban Forestry

11. Sunnyside Neighborhood Association

Awarded: $20,000
Project: Urban Forestry & Landscaping

12. Chinatown Community Development Center

Awarded: $25,000
Project: Graffiti Abatement

13. Excelsior Action Group, sponsored by Community Initiatives

Awarded: $30,000
Project: Neighborhood Beautification & Urban Forestry

14. Portola Neighborhood Steering Committee

Awarded: $45,000
Project: Urban Forestry & Landscaping

15. Hunters Point Family/Girls 2000

Awarded: $30,000
Project: Urban Forestry & Landscaping

16. Japantown Sakura 150 Project

Awarded: $20,000
Project: Urban Forestry

17. Sand@OB Project

Awarded: $24,600
Project: Neighborhood Beautification & Urban Forestry

18. San Francisco Clean City Coalition

Awarded: $50,000
Project: Neighborhood Beautification & Urban Forestry

19. Pennsylvania St. Gardens, sponsored by SF Parks Trust

Awarded: $45,000
Project: Neighborhood Beautification & Urban Forestry

20. Storrie-Ord Neighborhood Group, sponsored by SF Parks Trust

Awarded: $5,449
Project: Urban Forestry

21. Vermont St. Neighborhood Group, sponsored by SF Parks Trust

Awarded: $10,000
Project: Urban Forestry & Landscaping

22. Tenderloin Housing Clinic

Awarded: $35,000
Project: Community Art

Urban Watershed Stewardship Grants Fall 2010 Award Recipients

23. Alice Fong Yu Elementary School PTA

Awarded: $3,500
Project: Rainwater Harvesting

24. Pennsylvania St. Gardens, sponsored by SF Parks Trust

Awarded: $40,000
Project: Street Park with Rain Gardens and Swale System

25. Plant*SF, sponsored by SF Parks Trust

Awarded: $15,000
Project: Sidewalk Landscaping and Impermeable Surface Removal

26. SF State University

Awarded: $21,000
Project: Rain Garden with Native Plantings

27. Sunnyside Cooperative Nursery School

Awarded: $3,100
Project: Sidewalk Landscaping and Impermeable Surface Removal

28. Surfrider Foundation, SF Chapter

Awarded: $20,000
Project: Sidewalk Landscaping and Impermeable Surface Removal


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