Cancer and community

By Jeffrey Betcher

Maybe there should be a more uplifting title to this article, not just because it might be gentler on you, dear reader, but also because there is so much about “cancer and community” that is positive.

It’s a strange way to start a sentence, but…  The good thing about dying is how it can make a person feel more alive than ever, a phenomenon that can extend to the family, friends and community of the person dying.  Most of my relationships are healthier as a result, just as the hole my death will leave in my community has clarified.

When you’re sick, it’s hard to remember this:

Death isn’t just about the dying. It’s also about those left behind.  I’ll be pissed at myself enough to come back for a do-over if my friends and neighbors are shocked to learn of my death. Ideally, I will have included them in my journey so that whatever beauty there might be in my passing will help balance the grief.

In past updates about my own illness and how it relates to the community of place I love so much, I’ve talked about how those living in traditionally under-served communities like Bayview can be at higher risk for all sorts of diseases than those living in more affluent places.  That’s something communities can help address, primarily through education and advocacy.  More

I’ve also talked about how my neighbors have helped me in ways that only neighbors can, and how being part of a local community improves my odds. Wherever you live, when it comes to being sick, the closest support is next door if not in the house with you.  Clearly, being part of a community comes with benefits for the sick person.  More

We’ve lost two more neighbors to cancer here on my block of Bayview in just the past couple of months. One of them a relatively young long-term resident, something that may speak to the incidence of cancer rates here.  The community response as I’ve observed it speaks to the value of social networks to getting through tough times. While it may be impossible to understand loss suffered by others, folks in Bayview seem to understand that acknowledging it and reminding those in grief that they are not alone makes a difference.

Connecting with the people and physical environment where we live takes some effort. But I believe it’s important. A sense of community contributes to a better life for even the healthiest neighbors. And when a community member dies, the community context helps make sense of the loss.

I’ve come to think that a person with a life-threatening illness or injury has a unique role to play in their community that goes beyond being the receiver of help from neighbors.  Active awareness of death, something we will all grapple with one day, can be depressing. But it can also make each day more valuable.  Every word and act can be more compassionate, intentional and responsible.

Trust me on this: get a terminal diagnosis, expect to change in practical ways. No one could blame you if you lowered the blinds, powered-down your phone and burrowed under the covers. On the other hand, you could find yourself picking up litter in the SuperSave parking lot, waving at the person across the street who you had been angry at for some reason you can’t quite recall, seeing beauty in precisely those things that had made your life less beautiful the day before your diagnosis….

Folks have told me that by witnessing my journey (and by my willingness to share it) they are living life more fully and dealing with their fears more successfully. It seems that I am contributing to my community in a new way these days: by living with death, openly. Sometimes, building community is as easy as breathing.

Get a recent update on Jeffrey’s health and cancer treatment, and a whole lot more, by going to and searching on his name.

Literacy for Environmental Justice seeks board members

By Elizabeth Skow

Literacy for Environmental Justice was founded in 1998 by community members to build a greener, more equitable future for itself. LEJ has been educating youth about their environment and leading volunteer groups to restore green parts of Southeast San Francisco for almost twenty years. They also run a native plant nursery that provides plants for many greening and conservation projects in San Francisco.

Currently, LEJ is restoring an area of Candlestick Point and building six campsites that will accommodate walk-in, boat-in and bike-in campers. It will be one of only two places in San Francisco that allows camping. The campsites will be available to the public, and will prioritize youth camping in an urban setting.

This project is in conjunction with expanding their garden and native plant nursery for eco-restoration on Carroll Ave. The nursery will provide plants for the Candlestick Point project and others in Southeast San Francisco. LEJ will have coordinated 1,000 youth and other volunteers who will have donated 3,000 to 5,000 volunteer hours by the time the work is finished. The project will also involve Parks and Rec in an effort to promote better use of San Francisco’s parks.

LEJ’s Executive Director Patrick Marley Rump has been working with LEJ since 1999. He got involved after he did some restoration work at Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and heard about LEJ projects at Heron’s Head Park. He had noticed a disconnect between ecology and preservation work and the communities most in need of that work. As he was living in Bayview, he saw an opportunity to serve the community in which he lived.

Today, Literacy for Environmental Justice is looking for Board of Director candidates.

Patrick says the ideal LEJ board member would be rooted in Bayview, and would want to be involved in governance, planning and community building. That board member would have a connection or desire to connect with environmental justice work in Bayview, would want to impact the lives of young people here, and would bring to the board role some funds development skill.

If you are interested in becoming involved, please contact LEJ.

Neighborfest success

By Wei Ming Dariotis

Neighborfest volunteers
 On Saturday, October 29th, the weekend of Halloween, a block party for the neighborhood was hosted on the 1700 block of Quesada Avenue!

Despite a few sprinkles and a bit of wind, neighbors gathered all day long, enjoying such highlights as the Bret Harte Elementary School dance troupe, singing and musical performances by several neighbors and a wonderful barbecue. We also had a smoothie shake maker, a taco truck, a bounce house and free popcorn and games with prizes.

                                                            Dancers from Bret Harte Middle School

Proceeds from the raffle and a neighborhood yard sale held in conjunction will go towards neighborhood emergency preparedness. The Neighborhood Emergency Network (NEN) sponsored the event to help and encourage neighbors to come together and learn about each other’s strengths and skills so that we can be prepared to work together in case of a disaster such as an earthquake.

The event’s core organizer was Maxine Kraemer, who was just amazing. There were about twelve main organizers from the neighborhood and others who volunteered on the day of the event to make sure things ran smoothly. People donated time and money, skills and community connections to make the event come together. The effort involved brand new neighbors and people who have lived on the block for over thirty years. It was a very diverse group, and we had a great amount of fun putting it together.

My favorite thing was how many people just hung out all day and talked to each other. I met so many new people, including folks who just live a block or two away, all of whom were grateful to have an event they could enjoy with their children. The talented Bret Harte kids who danced and sang really formed the heart of the event as they reached out and brought joy to everyone watching.

The event was so successful we have already started planning next year’s event.

QGI forges relationships with intrepid volunteer groups

By Shane King

Quesada Gardens has gone through many changes over the years. But one constant has been the great feeling newcomers get when they first hear the Quesada Gardens’ story and then get to do some work in the place they just learned about. On Sunday, November 22nd, two great relationships between the Quesada Gardens’ community and outside organizations were forged.

It took months of back and forth with various groups to settle on dates and times and tasks that would work for everyone. But now new volunteers have been oriented to the project and are eager to come back and help.         

Event planning included Craig Cannon’s renting of a truck that would take debris to the dump multiple times during the day.

The work party started as they have for over a decade now: neighbors and visitors meeting in front of Jeffrey’s house. Craig, Liz Skow, Shane King and Jeffrey Betcher talked with young people from the Student Conservation Association. Three high school students and two youth leaders arrived in the pouring rain, heard a bit about the history and mission of QGI, grabbed tools and got to work. It felt a little crazy to be working in the middle of one of the hardest rains we’ve had this year, but everyone was willing and, in fact, worked really hard.

The first task was to load the pile of debris that has been sitting across from Lisa’s house for the past eight months. Then we set our sights on the Founder’s Garden at the top of the hill wanting to give it the love it’s been needing. The pounding rain finally stopped about an hour into the work, and we could take off our hoods and see how much we’d gotten done.

Volunteers in Founder’s Garden. Photo: Jim Gatteau

Carlos Davilla joined us at the top of the hill where we finished loading up the truck and then said goodbye to our first group of volunteers for the day.

Craig, Carlos and Shane headed off to the dump and unloaded a very packed truck before returning to the gardens just in time to meet our second group of volunteers. The group is known as “Blue,” a Palo Alto/Oakland-based set of families with a deep commitment to community and service.  It included about 30 people, ages 1 to 60, each as hard-working as the last.

Shane King tells a story to a group of volunteers from Palo Alto known as “Blue.”  Photo: Carlos Davilla

Their eyes lit up when they heard the Quesada Gardens’ story, and most of them gravitated towards the dirtiest, most difficult tasks of weeding and pruning in the Founder’s Garden. These people seemed determined to do hard work, and thrilled to have had the chance to work outside for the greater good.

Along with these amazing volunteer groups, neighbors Jeffrey Betcher, Shane King, Carlos Davilla, Craig Cannon, Liz Skow and Danny Kim with his intrepid kids DJ and Emma accomplished Herculean tasks:

  • We took two truckloads to the dump for a total of 1800 pounds.
  • We filled 38 tall compost bags for DPW to pick up.
  • We filled two larger garbage bags with bottles, shoes, litter and other junk.
  • We disposed of one huge, unsightly pile of debris.
  • We introduced 35 people to the inspiring story of what a community with unity and purpose can do.
  • We renewed our faith in humanity after what was, for many of us, a very disappointing election.

Our next scheduled big volunteer day will be March 4th with a group from Habitat for Humanity.

Look for another group, ARC, in the garden, too.  These folks have been coming every Thursday, and have been planting native plants and other vegetables and flowers across from 1771 Quesada.

Rise University prep coming to Bayview in 2017

By Danny Kim
Danny Kim with Zariah and Azu at Fitzgerald Marine Preserve.  Photo: Joanna Boyd
If you come by my 2nd floor classroom, you will see framed collages of every senior class that I have taught for the past 19 years decorating my walls.  Students in caps and gowns, in elegant prom dresses and tuxedos, in old T-shirts and shorts covered by whipped cream after pie throwing contests.  Now after 19 wonderful years teaching English for San Francisco Unified School District at Abraham Lincoln High School, I am saying goodbye to the Sunset, and finding my life more and more converging with this neighborhood called the Bayview.
In the fall of 2017, I will be joining a new independent middle school endeavor starting with one cohort of 6th graders. Rise University Preparatory’s mission is to serve a thriving community of diverse students challenged to be their best– to reason, create, serve and lead. As an independent Christian school, Rise Prep is committed to academic excellence, as well as educational equity, justice and reconciliation across racial and socioeconomic lines. As such, 80% of our seats are reserved for scholars of the Bayview or scholars who are low-income or first generation college-bound.
This past summer, we had the privilege of teaching twenty 5th to 7th graders over a two-week period.  What a joy it was to see students programming sphero robots to dance, building homemade trebuchets to knock down paper cup castles, oohing and aahing at animated anemones at the Fitzgerald Marine Preserve, and making Skittles come to life through stop motion animation.
Launching trebuchets with Luis, Mar’Tay, Dulce, and Mariah.  Photo: Gaylene Wong
Just today, two of my current Lincoln seniors, Hector and Reyhan came up to me and said, “Hey, Mr. Kim, we saw you with your kids outside your house as we were driving to school!”  Hector and Reyhan, Bayview residents, make the daily commute to the Sunset because they are choosing out of the neighborhood for high school.  My hope is that the Bayview will soon have more great middle and high schools to choose from so that students like Reyhan and Hector do not have to commute hours to get to a desirable school, and that community can grow and thrive in this neighborhood that we love.
Yes, I will be taking down all those framed pictures of Lincoln seniors at the end of this school year, and  a new blank wall will face me in the summer of 2017 as I move my stuff to the Rise Prep school building.  But to me, that blank wall is symbolic of hope — a wall waiting to be filled by the stories of our children — our children who grow up and thrive in this our Bayview community.
(More information and student applications are available online. You can also sign up for school tours, Oct 15th, Nov 19th and Dec 10th, online or by email.

Dead End vs. Not a Through Street

By Wei Ming Dariotis
Replacing an old, faded, “Dead End” sign doesn’t seem like it would be an issue, but this year when this issue came up for Quesada between Third and Newhall, it didn’t just spark debate, it caused serious reflection for some residents.
Long-time neighbor Carla Eagleton asked us to consider, “What does it mean to live on a ‘Dead End’ in a neighborhood that has been dismissed as just that–a dead end?”
A number of shootings and several deaths from gun violence over the past several years have made neighbors especially sensitive to the idea of living on a “Dead End,” but we all knew that too many big trucks drive up the right-hand side of the block and are forced to back (slowly) out when they get to the end and find it does not go through.
The old sign definitely needed replacing.
However, “Dead End” is the only sign in current usage, so we were told it was our only option. Hoping they would understand that it was deeply inappropriate given our situation, we asked the City to make an exception. We asked them to recognize that the words “Dead End” can mean more than just that there is no way to drive through: It can mean you have no hope; it can mean your government has forgotten you; it can mean there is no future here.
Those of us who live on Quesada have so much pride in the place and delight in the camaraderie of the neighborhood. We love to say we live in the Bayview!
And we’d like to let drivers know that the lower side of our block is “Not a Through Street”–but it is definitely not a “Dead End!”

Gray water laundry conversion on Quesada

Quesada resident Shane King and his friend Anne-Lise are shown installing a gray water system in the “watermelon house.” Re-published with permission.
By Anne-Lise Breuning
IT IS FINALLY HAPPENING. After dreaming of a gray water system for years, we installed the purple pipes at Shane’s watermelon house today. Why do we put off small sustainability projects when THEY ARE SO SATISFYING TO FINISH?
Last month Shane and I took the free Laundry to Landscape class at Urban Farmer, taught by the delightful and brilliant Kat Sawyer.

She even came to our homes to give us personal gray water consultations.
Armed with knowledge from Kat and starter supplies from Urban Farmer L2L class, we measured, glued and drilled our way to a smokin’ hot gray water system. Once you get a taste for diverting water away from the sewer, you don’t want to stop.
Now Shane’s orange, apple and fig trees will be able to bare plump, juicy fruit in the middle of this dusty drought.

History of Quesada Ave. speed humps

By Jeffrey Betcher

A neighbor asked me about how a recently installed speed hump on our Bayview block came to be. Like most resident-led civic improvements, it didn’t happen quickly.  And it didn’t happen because one person, on either the community side or the City side of the equation, tried to make it happen.

Truth is, NASCAR-like traffic on this single residential block has been an issue for residents even before the first record we have of asking the City for speed bumps (or speed humps, as we evolved). I’m going to age another year just by typing this, but that first request was in 2003!

>We caught a break when community-sensitive Nick Carr at SFMTA contacted me about a traffic calming planning process for an area of Bayview that included the Quesada Gardens’ block.  I inserted our request into that traffic calming plan, noting the history of our community’s request, a history that involved lots of others beside myself.

That speed hump slowed traffic for about a third of the block, but checkered flags were still waving on the rest of the block.  At the same time, work to improve life on the block had succeeded enough that there were many more pedestrians walking the sidewalks and crossing the street to enjoy the gardens and art projects. The risk of an accident was still high.

I kept in touch with Nick about it all, and he responded again!  Hydra, Wei Ming, Shane and others did a lot of footwork to get neighbors to vote for the second hump. Hydra contacted Nick to help keep things moving.

Here’s a bit of speed hump history …

2003: The first request for speed bumps is noted in Quesada Gardens’ first set of meeting notes.

2004: Sharon advocates for traffic calming through DPT. We organized a community meeting, and presented a petition to City reps asking for action.

2006: A Quesada Gardens meeting is devoted to the issue of traffic calming after Denise King‘s new car was totaled in a head on collision at the upper end of Quesada, but resulted in our being turned down for speed humps in favor of speed limit signs and the elimination a parking spot that made turns at the top of the hill dangerous.

Work to slow traffic continues on Quesada. More