by Michael Barba
The Hayes Valley Farm functioned as a green space at the center of San Francisco’s urban chaos until the beginning of last June, when its interim use of Parcels O and P ended.
“It was beautiful,” said Growing Home Community Garden volunteer Jim Donahue. “They had hills of kale and lettuce and mustards, and I’d never seen such a gorgeous radish forest – radishes just blooming, wild radishes – and you could eat them too.”
Unlike the Growing Home Community Garden, which is a part of the Department of Public Health’s San Francisco Project Homeless Connect, Hayes Valley Farm was part of 49 Farms, an urban farming organization with a simple goal: “One in every square mile of San Francisco.”
At the forefront of urban farming, it offered services such a bee keeping, Urban Permaculture Design Classes, a comprehensive seed library, and free soil for anyone.
“Three years ago they had a gourd. One seed the guy said! It just covered the whole area,” said Donahue. “One seed, tentacles grow that much!”
Located just west of Octavia Boulevard at Oak Street, the farm was home to a bustling community of volunteers to whom producing food was only the byproduct.
“I’d love to see it explode into fireworks so that little farm projects start popping up all over, as a space to grow food, recycle, create compost, take classes and share tools,” said Jay Rosenberg of the farm’s leadership team in their final blog post.
by Michael Barba
As the leaves rustled louder than the vehicles sweeping across Octavia Boulevard in the air of a December afternoon, amongst the fresh food and familiar company, a street person said that her daughter had been taken from her over a year ago and that she recently witnessed friends and strangers beaten by police. Others said that she could often be found here in the Growing Home Community Garden, where the boulevard meets Lily Street – in an oasis from the nearby urban blight.
In five short, traffic-bustling blocks the pavement bordering Octavia Boulevard guides pedestrians from the Hayes Street intersections’ fashionable boutiques – featuring an ice cream parlor and coffee shop housed in dual cargo-crates – to a pair of chain-link enclosed plots of vegetation which, according to a volunteer at the garden there, encompass a sense of community that keeps the Hayes Valley neighborhood in a favorable balance.
But for the homeless and volunteers at San Francisco Project Homeless Connect’s garden – partially located in front of a building with enormous, colorful letters spelling “Great Adventure” – future tales of gorgeous vegetables and blooming flowers may be halted in the summer of 2014 with the city government of San Francisco planning to redevelop the pair of land parcels into mixed-use housing.
“Do I personally look forward to seeing that garden disappear? No, not at all,” said Daniel Watson-Weller, co-owner of Streets of San Francisco Bike Tours on Octavia Boulevard and Linden Street. “But it is kind of the reality of these temporary use projects.”
The Growing Home Community Garden is a placeholder on Parcels R and S for the city of San Francisco, which made several plots of land available for interim use along Octavia Boulevard after the removal of the Central Freeway in 2000.
“This neighborhood is going basically from an area for freeway traffic,” said garden volunteer Markos Chimes, “to a better living area for people. I think this garden, Patricia’s Green and this boulevard have gone a long way to creating that – and all three of them together, to me, just work.”
In late October, the city announced they were seeking developers to purchase or lease the parcels, as well as one other nearby lot, for the construction of pedestrian-friendly, residential housing or a mixed-use development with retail spaces at ground level.
“I feel like we have enough condos in Hayes Valley,” said Watson-Weller, a Hayes Valley native who has witnessed rapid changes in his surroundings over the past decade. “There’s four different major complexes which are growing right now within the neighborhood. However, given that it’s the city’s land, it’s their prerogative to try to make money off of it – it’s kind of expected.”
The garden contributes no annual revenue to the city of San Francisco for its use of the parcels, according to an announcement by the Office of Economic and Workforce Development.
The city will announce their selected contractor on March 14, 2014, less than one month after development proposal are due.
Until then, “we have neighbors that come in, office workers that take their breaks here, [and] we have the homeless people that come in,” said garden volunteer Carol Phillips. “It’s a real monopoly of people. And that’s a wonderful thing because everybody kind of interacts with each other. It’s a sweet thing in a very busy neighborhood.”
The garden first opened to the public in February of 2010, three years after its conception by Eric Bayer, according to Phillips, who wanted to create an outreach for people experiencing homelessness or mental illness.
“We’re growing all kinds of food: lettuce and carrots and onions,” said Phillips. “Our trees are developing, we have fruit, we have peaches and apples – we’ve had a very good year.”
Last summer, the city ended Hayes Valley Farm’s use of several parcels, located across Octavia Boulevard from the Growing Home Community Garden, in favor of housing developments. Police raided the defunct farm after protestors, reacting to the temporary uses’ termination, occupied the lot for two weeks.
“I hope [Hayes Valley community members] all just stand up and say, ‘we want to keep this,’” said Phillips. “Then I’m sure the powers that be will want to keep it going. That would be a nice thing for all these folks that are living here. I hope we can save it, I really do.”
After the garden is uprooted, Proxy, where Watson-Weller’s Streets of San Francisco Bike Tours operates alongside places like Smitten Ice Cream and Ritual Coffee Roaster, will be the last remaining interim-use project to have come from the freeway’s destruction in Hayes Valley.
The Growing Home Community Garden welcomes volunteers Monday, Wednesday and Friday from noon to 5 p.m.
“I think Octavia Boulevard is really going to lose something if we lose this garden,” said Chimes, “because just having Patricia’s Green isn’t enough, because it’s getting more and more commercialized up there.”
by Michael Barba
Moishe’s Pippic closed Monday after feeding Hayes Valley for over a quarter century. The Chicago-style deli provided stability for Hayes Street, where storefronts have flipped regularly since the destruction of an encumbering freeway overpass in 2005.
“I’m retiring,” said owner Joe Sattler to Inside Scoop SF.
— Roshan Vyas (@rotron) December 2, 2013
— lil mike sf (@lilmikesf) December 2, 2013
by Michael Barba
John McDonell’s bicycle shop peeks through the urban chaos near the western entrance to Van Ness Muni Station like a beacon for flat-tired commuters – it is the only bicycle shop in Hayes Valley.
“This block is still emerging, if that is the nice way to put it,” said McDonell of Market Street Cycles at Franklin and Page streets. “You could just as easily buy crack as a bicycle in this location if you wanted to.”
It is not an area for the faint of heart, McDonell said, but the bald-headed, beard-bearing owner and his business partner, Matt Ames, have served the growing mass of bicycle riders commuting in San Francisco from their storefront since November 2011 – using the thoroughfare on Market Street as their best possible form of advertisement.
“Our location is mostly based on the confluence of three bicycle routes,” said McDonell, “being Valencia, Market Street, and Page Street. They come together right here and we kind of just take our cue from our customer base because it’s mostly the commuter who’s going right passed the front door.”
A San Francisco native, McDonell has been working, managing and starting bicycle shops since 1997 after he returned from a six-year stint as a bike messenger in Washington D.C.
A founder of Mojo Bicycle Café on Divisadero Street, he hired Ames there as head mechanic before later introducing him to the idea of Market Street Cycles – and the opportunity to become full partner.
“Matt is affectionately known in the industry as a ‘grom,’” laughed McDonell, “or he was, which is what they call little kids who start working in shops for almost no money and gradually learn to work on bikes and become actual bike-shop mechanics.”
Based on the pictures selected for their business’ website, McDonell should be clean-shaven, and Ames looks like Nicholas Cage in Raising Arizona. For Halloween, McDonell took on the look of Walter White from Breaking Bad and his girlfriend purchased a yellow chemical suit to play Jesse.
Supported by their combined 30 years in the industry, the duo has crafted the ideal shop for the commuter – opening at 8 a.m. for the morning rush and closing at 7 p.m. for the evening departure from work. They carry bicycle racks, lights, helmets, and locks – essentials for anyone navigating the city streets.
“Our perfect experience really is somebody has an appointment ahead of time, they come in the morning on their bike, drop it off for a tune-up, they hop on the train or a bus or BART or whatever, go to work, and on their way home that evening their bike is done,” said McDonell. “That’s the way most of our stuff happens.”
Before Market Street Cycles opened, the space at 1592 Market St. suffered through a series of short-term leases, according to McDonell. The new renters decided to invest in reconstructing much of the interior from the floors to the rafters, signifying their intent to set up shop in the area for the long haul.
“As the neighborhood changes I expect things to improve a little bit, but we deal with a lot of drug dealing, a lot of intoxicated people, some crazy people,” said McDonell. “We’re pretty close to Civic Center so we get our share of transients and people who are out of the SRO hotels in the area and it’s all part of dealing with the area we’re at.”
And with the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency reporting a 71 percent increase in bike riders over five years in 2011, condos near completion at every look, and an unfavorable nearby corner store losing its lease, McDonell has reason to anticipate success.
“I probably would not set up a business here yet that depended purely on foot traffic,” said McDonell, “I think in a few years that’s going to change but right at this location I think that would be risky and that’s why we don’t worry about it as much because we depend on roll up traffic.”
With its location at the foot of Hayes Valley, Market Street Cycles contributes to the community by advertising in the neighborhood newsletter. Last spring, it donated a bicycle as a raffle prize for a street fair on Octavia Boulevard.
“The margins are small with bike shops, I doubt that I could afford to do this shop right on Hayes,” said McDonell. “Our choice was more regarding this intersection than Hayes Valley in particular, although we do like being close to Hayes Valley – [it’s] a nice little neighborhood.”
A member of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association accused the developer of a planned supermarket in Hayes Valley of “divisive race-baiting” in a recent post on the SF Bay Guardian.
Jason Henderson, who chairs the Planning and Transportation Committee of the HVNA and is assistant professor of geography at SFSU, linked the motivation for the SF Planning Commission’s recent decision to allow the introduction of a chain supermarket at 555 Fulton St. to issues of gentrification.
According to Henderson, Fulton Ventures – the developers of the lot between Laguna Street and Octavia Boulevard – convinced the commission to vote for the lifting of Hayes Valley’s formula retail ban on the basis that the policy and reduced parking were “racist and elitist.”
Yet another Shoup axiom is “Planning for parking is more a political than a professional activity.” Instead of being creative, Fulton Ventures balked at the parking ideas and employed divisive race-baiting to push its profit-driven agenda. It financed a quiet campaign to accuse anyone supporting the formula retail ban and reducing parking as racist and elitist. It leaned heavily on City Hall and somehow got the Planning Department to suddenly retract its support for upholding the chain store ban. Sup. London Breed, who remained publicly detached, insisted that all she cared about was an affordable supermarket, but she offered no path to achieve it.
In a confusing Oct. 3 hearing, supporters of Fulton Ventures LLC made below-the-belt public comments that seemed to come straight out of a Tea Party playbook. It was tough to watch. Their position was that a chain store with excessive underground parking was the only way to an affordable grocer — anything short of that was racist. The commission voted 4-2 to lift the ban.
Read on here
Also, Rob Anderson comments on the Bay Guardian post in his District 5 Diary here
SFMTA will park its first Bay Area Bike Share station in Hayes Valley early next year in an attempt to connect San Francisco’s neighborhoods to the numerous bike stations of the Financial and SOMA Districts.
The transit agency selected Hayes Valley – along with the Mission District, the Castro, and Mission Bay – to receive a part of 15 new stations and 150 new bikes, according to a press release by the agency.