Garden club has first workday at Dolores Park

In an effort to enhance beauty and promote safety, the Dolores Park Garden Club has been formed to, among other things, build and sustain flower beds throughout the park. Under the direction of volunteer Robert Brust, a small group recently gathered near the park’s Helen Diller playground to prune, pick, and pluck.


“This is one of park and rec’s babies,” said Brust, referring to the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department while standing inside a bioretention flower bed constructed earlier this year. Bioretention planters are planted depressions designed to collect and absorb runoff.

Under Rec and Park’s supervision, the bioretention flower bed sits near the base of several Guadalupe palm trees, which stayed in place during the park’s $20.5 million renovation that was completed in early 2016. Added during construction, underground pipes guide natural spring water from the hillside of Dolores Heights and Castro Hill to the enclosed flower bed.

“With the slightest amount of rain, this thing bursts into water,” said Brust of the bioretention area, which was strategically placed near the children’s park for educational purposes.

The Dolores Park Garden Club had three volunteers and two Rec and Park employees during its first workday September 28. It’s a project of Rec and Park, Dolores Park Works, and the Dolores Park Ambassadors.

“I love the park,” said volunteer Kim O’Connor, a lesbian who has lived in the Dolores Park area for almost 30 years. “I’m here weeding and pruning and looking forward to planting later.”

Volunteer Tom Shaub, a gay man, has seen the transformation of the park since moving to the area in 1991. “We’re making the community aware they need to be involved. There’s been so much trash accumulating since the rebirth,” he said.

The volunteers agreed that the August shooting on the pedestrian bridge, which wounded three people, has decreased community interest in the park. So far, police have announced no arrests.

“The horrible shooting was a symptom of a problem,” Brust said. “The park needs people to pay attention to it.”

Brust, a gay man, said he and his partner got involved in the park soon after they moved to nearby Liberty Street 12 years ago. He said that he “spent the first five years just picking up trash and talking to people,” which allowed him to meet his neighbors.

“If you just take your children and flee when the park gets overrun, it goes feral,” said Brust. “[Since the shooting], there’s not enough energy near the bridge and it’s an opportunity for the LGBTQ community to do stuff in the park.”

Brust feels it’s important to bring a strong LGBTQ presence into Dolores Park again, noting that he misses the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence’s Easter Sunday Hunky Jesus contests. Due to the park’s renovation, the Sisters moved their annual Easter festivities to Golden Gate Park’s Hellman Hollow in 2015.

“This is a good first start,” Brust said of the garden club’s inaugural workday. “We’re trying to make this a sustainable effort, a real club that keeps [the community] engaged.”

Dolores Park Ambassadors, a community group supporting the garden club, encouraged neighbors, visitors, dog walkers, and concerned citizens to take an active role in making Dolores Park a clean and safe environment for everyone.

“There’s plenty of areas in the park for us to really get involved in,” Brust added. “The overall trash problem has gone down, but [broken] glass is a big problem. It’s difficult for gardeners to pick up. Children and dogs are at risk, too.”

In September, the Board of Supervisors approved a ban on glass containers in all San Francisco parks. However, the most controversial aspect of the legislation, a proposed $1,000 fine for littering and dumping in Dolores Park, was tabled due to the effect it could have on low-income residents.

“There’s still a lot of work left,” Brust said.

Dolores Park Needs More Outreach Workers

The letter below was printed in the Bay Area Reporter on October 5, 2017.


As a resident of the Mission Dolores district and a proud member of our neighborhood association board, I’ve been gratified to see our community come together over the past months to take a firm stand against violence in Dolores Park, which we all agree is unacceptable.

I do worry, though, that the response to the August incident [in which three people were injured in a shooting] is too singularly focused on increased police presence. While the police must be a part of the solution, too much presence will have negative side effects. I implore my neighbors to remember that the park does not exist solely for those who can afford to live nearby; as a public space, it is for everyone. We must therefore consider how any response affects all its users.

The data show us that people of color, especially those in the LGBTQ community, are disproportionately impacted by police presence, even in San Francisco. Given the park’s critical position on the outskirts of the Castro, it serves as a safe haven for these vulnerable groups, and it would be a shame to damage that through well-intentioned efforts to end violence.

There are alternatives. In the long-term, we should invest further in programs like the city’s Street Violence Intervention Program, whose on-the-ground workers deescalate potential altercations around the city every day without the direct involvement of law enforcement. They need considerably more staff to advance their mission. Proposed environmental changes, like a redesign of the park’s footbridge, are also encouraging.

And in the short-term, the police will play a role. I hope that we can see beyond this period to a brighter future that is more consciously inclusive of all those who call Dolores Park a second home.

Alex Sayde

San Francisco

Friends of the Urban Forest is planting trees in the Mission

Friends of the Urban Forest is planting trees in the Mission!


For details on how to get a tree for your street, please see the attached flyer. Please pass this on to your friends and neighbors.mission-flyers-9-18

Jasmine Lim
Community Outreach Manager
Friends of the Urban Forest
1007 General Kennedy Ave Ste 1
San Francisco CA 94129

(415) 268 – 0773

In Mission meeting, SF officials seek safety solutions for Dolores Park

A cadre of San Francisco officials told a crowd of concerned residents Monday evening that the city is seeking collaborative, permanent solutions to address the public safety issues looming over Dolores Park and the neighborhood surrounding it.


The packed community meeting at Dolores Park Church was convened by Supervisor Jeff Sheehy in the wake of what police are investigating as a gang-related shooting on Aug. 3 that wounded three people, one of whom remains in critical condition.

Representatives from the Police Department, district attorney’s office, parks department and public works highlighted the city’s efforts to enhance safety at the 15-acre park since the shooting, and fielded a range of comments and questions from residents.


Many who spoke at the meeting — including Jeff Kelton, who identified himself as one of the shooting’s victims — expressed concerns about what they see as a rising tide of vagrancy, hard-drug sales and violent activity at the park that’s spilling into the adjacent Mission and Castro neighborhoods.

“Every year — the crime, the homelessness — the little things keep turning into bigger things,” said James Lewis, who said he’s lived in the Castro for 50 years. “It’s the same problems year after year.”

Sheehy, whose District Eight includes Dolores Park, praised the Police Department for stepping up patrols in the area but stressed the importance of acting on broader “strategies that we can implement together that will permanently change the trajectory of what’s happening at the park.”

“We don’t want this to be an episodic event where something bad happens, we respond, and six months later it’s back to where it was,” Sheehy said.

San Francisco Police Capt. Bill Griffin, who leads the Mission Station, said that more uniformed officers are patrolling the park seven days a week and that reports of major criminal activity have fallen since they began.

No suspects have been arrested in the triple shooting, said Police Chief Bill Scott, though the department is “working on a belief” that the incident is connected to another shooting a month ago in which “no one was hit.”

In recent months, the park has been beset by violent altercations that have rattled those who live nearby. In mid-May, a 23-year-old man was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after he was attacked by five assailants who beat him with bottles and a golf club. Last year, a 25-year-old man was stabbed in the torso by a mob of 10 men. The victim didn’t know the men and told police he assumed some were gang members.

Kelton said he was walking through the park when he ran into a “group of kids” near a pedestrian bridge that connects Dolores Park to Church Street when gunshots erupted, hitting him and two others. Kelton expressed his gratitude to the police for their timely response, which he said, “saved his life.” He urged the police to maintain a constant presence at the park, or at least the appearance of one, to deter criminal activity.

Numerous residents referred to the bridge, calling it a magnet for criminal activity and homeless encampments. Recreation and Parks General Manager Phil Ginsburg recommended taking down the bridge, a suggestion that was met with scattered applause.

Lewis, the longtime Castro resident, said he would support mounting cameras around the bridge, “if they led to a solution.” He added that he’s routinely witnessed drug deals taking place at the bridge. “Are they swapping stories about the best steaks at Whole Foods up there? I don’t think so,” Lewis said.

June Castle, who lives near the park, said that while she was gratified there was a public dialogue taking place about the neighborhood’s problems, she felt shortchanged by what she saw as a paucity of concrete solutions by city officials. While there was much talk about fixing the park’s problems, Castle said, there was little offered in the way of specifics.

“I would have liked to have seen more concrete ideas and plans,” Castle said. “It all felt a little vague to me. Dolores is a beautiful place, but lately there have been a lot of issues.”

Dominic Fracassa is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @dominicfracassa


Former Site of ‘Home’ to Host 7-Story Apartment Building

Home is no more. Bulldozers finished the demolition in March to make way for construction of a new apartment building with retail leases.
Photo: Steven Bracco on Instagram

By Brad Bailey (Castro Courier)

New changes are coming to the corner of Church and Market in the Castro. The site was previously the location of “Home” restaurant, and construction has begun on a new residential and retail space.

2100 Market St. will soon be the location of a seven-story structure with 60 new residential apartments and two ground level retail spaces. Brian Spiers is a local business owner and real estate developer for the project.

Visitors to the area can already notice the bulldozers on site. Demolition of the original building was earlier this year. “We have broken ground,” Spiers said. “We expect to start to move forward on the foundation and some of the excavation as early as next week.”

Spiers forecasts that construction will last about 18 to 20 months, which puts an opening in 2019 or 2020.

The former restaurant “Home” closed in 2011, and a Preliminary Project Assessment was submitted to the San Francisco Planning Department in June 2014. During that preliminary proposal the developers called 64 dwelling units, on grade parking for 15 cars with car lifts, and 4,700 square feet of retail commercial space on Market, 14th and Church streets. Several changes took place after a review of that Assessment in 2014 to the present day. The number of units was dropped to 60 and residential units were moved to higher floor to make space for ground floor retail.

“As you find out what you need for your ground floor space, sometimes you lose or gain units based on your final formula for those areas,” he said.
When asked about what type of retail space will go in the building, he stated that a restaurant/bar or bar will occupy the larger of the two spaces. The other space is still undecided.

The building will also have affordable housing units and will fall in line with the city’s inclusionary housing law. “All of our BMR’s (Below Market Rate) will be to requirement on site,” he said. “We’re picking up much needed apartments in the neighborhood.”
Spiers was born and raised in San Francisco, which may give him an insight into the potential changes of the project for the Castro and the city at large. In addition to 2100 Market, Spiers also owns the Lucky 13 bar at 2140 Market Street and the Bitter End Bar and Grill at 441 Clement Street. He also owns the ground floor commercial space at 280 Valencia Street.

“I feel it’s a positive change for the neighborhood,” he said, “It had been vacant for 5 years, so in less than two years it will go from a vacant, obsolete, run- down building to a new apartment building with ground floor retail in excess or matching the existing ground floor footprint of the prior business.”
After years of planning, Spiers is optimistic about the development so far, and the changes coming for the building and area. “We’re pleased with our progress up to date,” he said.

Upper Market St. Development May Offer 96 New Apartments

Upper Market St. Development May Offer 96 New Apartments
Changes are afoot at the corner of Duboce Avenue and Market Street.

By Brad Bailey (Castro Courier)

A proposed mixed-use development at 1965-67 Market Street is one of the many in recent years that could soon be changing the Upper Market landscape. The highly visible site is currently the location of a FedEx Office outlet. David Baker Architects designed the development for Keller Grover Properties, and when finished will have 96 residential units, retail space, and an underground parking garage. Fourteen of the new units will be designated for affordable housing.

The developer still needs the Planning Commission to approve the project but they are optimistic they could break ground as early as next spring.

According to city and state regulations, all buildings constructed over 50 years ago that possess architectural or historical significance can be considered historic resources. The current facade on Market Street fits this requirement, and will remain intact while the new development will be built around it.
David Prowler, project manager of the new development, discussed the projected impact. “We worked very hard to learn from the Market and Octavia plan, [and] that the city and neighborhood associations worked for years to develop a plan that meets the goals of neighborhood residents,” he said.

The Market and Octavia Neighborhood Plan covers Market Street between the Van Ness Avenue and Church Street Muni stations and along Octavia Boulevard. The Plan has been in effect since 2007.

“We’re really happy to say that the project complies with the Market and Octavia Plan,” Prowler said. “We’re working to further the neighborhood’s goals of creating a gateway in that corner, and creating a scale that relates to the buildings around it and to the width of Market Street.”

Prowler said the project preserves the significant elements of the historical building and creates housing at all levels of affordability at a time when the neighborhood needs it most.

Currently, any building along Market Street at that intersection is zoned for development up to 85 feet in height. However, the current parking lot, along Duboce Avenue, is only zoned for 55 feet. Therefore, the project team is utilizing the state’s Density Bonus Law, passed in September 2016. The law enables an increase in height or configuration in order to increase the number of units that are created on a site. This will allow two additional floors to the Duboce Avenue side of the building, making the new structure 75 feet tall.
“What it enables us to do is to push the addition that goes above the historic building way back in order to create a setback that honors the existing building. We’re set back from Market Street property line 35 feet, more than the width of a typical building lot,” he said. “The state density bonus allows us to recapture what would be lost by increasing the height above the existing zoning.”

The current FedEx Office Outlet will be converted but the amount of retail in the development will stay the same, Prowler states. “It’ll go from office and retail to residential to retail,” he said.

Originally, the development was projected to have 80 units. San Francisco’s Inclusionary Housing Program requires developers of projects with 10 or more units to pay an Affordable Housing Fee, or to instead sell or rent a percentage of the units to low or middle income households. The required rate for BMR (below market rate) units for this project is 14.5 percent. However, the additional space allowed by the Density Bonus Law allowed for the addition of 16 units to make a total of 96 units.

To keep the original number of affordable units at the rate of 14.5 percent, they voluntarily added two additional units, making it a total of 14 units that qualify as affordable housing. “We’re applying the local requirement to all the units, even those attributable to the state density bonus, even though we’re not required to,” he said.

Prowler states that the management team made presentations to six or eight neighborhood associations to solicit their input. “Some people have critiques of the design and we’ve made some design changes in response to those critiques,” he said. “The basic use, the scale, the residential mix- we’re doing exactly what it is that people called for in the community-driven Market and Octavia plan.”
Prowler said a crucial component of the development is that the management team are residents of the area. “Just about all of the project team lives or works in the neighborhood,” he said, “One of our goals is to create a project that we can all be proud of.”

Elixir, one of SF’s oldest saloons, has changed with the city

Ladies and gentlemen, let us drink to history. Let us toast San Francisco as a drinking town, and let us celebrate the life and times of one of the city’s oldest saloons.

That would be the Elixir, an establishment at 16th and Guerrero streets in the heart of the Mission, the oldest neighborhood in San Francisco. The Elixir first opened its doors — under another name — in 1858, which makes it the second-oldest bar in San Francisco, after the Old Ship on Pacific Avenue, which dates to 1851.

read more in the San Francisco Chronicle