Organizers of Quesada Neighborfest, including Maxine Kraemer, Charlie Castenada and Wei Ming Dariotis, just won a NEN award for Extraordinary Neighborhood Block Party! These three and many other neighborhood volunteers got together, raised funds,engaged the block and created something really cool. more about the volunteers
This year was their first party, and clearly they did a great job. Plans for next Neighborfest are already underway. The party happened Oct. 30 on the 1700 block of Quesada Avenue. It featured wonderful food (local BBQ and a taco truck) live music and a dance troupe from Brette Harte Elementary School.
By Jeffrey Betcher
Footprints has been championing solar power in Bayview for years. See some local history.
Quesada Gardens, in the heart of the neighborhood, is dense with solar panels, most installed by Oakland-based nonprofit GRID Alternatives. The home of Jeffrey Betcher sports ten solar panels, as of last Thursday, with help from GRID.
Pictured are volunteers who joined with GRID staffers and solar professionals to make Jeffrey’s home more sustainable, and to help train workers for a new economy.
In 2007, former Quesada Gardens Initiative Board Member, Leah Pimentel, pushed to make the area the most solar powered place in San Francisco. Quesada Gardens, in the heart of the neighborhood, is dense with solar panels. Homes on parallel avenues Palou and Revere, along with several homes on Bridgeview Drive, are also part of the sustainability effort.
Other neighbors are getting in queue for affordable solar. Contact Andres Rosario to learn if you qualify for the program.
Text and image By Beth Johnson
Mr. Allen has been a familiar face on our block for over 7 years. After completing his military service as a medic in the Korean conflict, Mr. Allen returned to his home state of Louisiana.
In 1956 Mr. Allen moved to make a new life for himself in San Francisco. He moved into the Bayview at that time, but relocated into the Dogpatch for a number of decades, before he moved into his current long-term home on the Northern side of Quesada Avenue.
Mr. Allen is well known to any who spend much time on our block. Although he is well into his golden years, has spent most of those years working hard, and has surely earned time for sloth. Mr Allen says that sitting at home makes him restless, and leaves him feeling old. Thus, when his health is not bad and it isn’t raining, Mr Allen emerges from his home to hold court on the block.
Because of the consistency of his presence, and because he is a thinking man who enjoys exchanging ideas, there are many who seek him out to visit with him. I myself very much enjoy conversing with him, while watching the quotidian life in the heart of my neighborhood, and meeting others who stop by to see him. His accepting personality and sharp mind make him excellent company to man or beast alike.
My little Josie dog (see pic) craves his attention, and always feels like she’s won the lottery when Mr Allen permits her to sit on his lap.
By Wei Ming Dariotis
A longtime resident of the Bayview, quiet, unassuming Jon Chester is an artist, graphic designer, teacher husband and father. After three or four years of working on his own personal art when he could find time, he recently finished his poignantly lovely short animated film, “Rudy with a Flashlight.”
He used a multimedia technique to create the film.
First, he took video of his son, Chester with his phone, then transferred this video to his computer, stopping the film frequently and taking screen shots.
He then drew and painted the screen shots onto 8×10 inch drawing paper, scanned in all the drawings, sequenced them with the music in Adobe After Effects and rendered the movie into the video.
“The music of Rainer Ptacek was very important to me. He was a great person, father and musician and I feel more people should be exposed to his music.” Jon says his inspiration for the film is rooted in two things. First, he said,
The second part was being inspired by his family and his son’s experiences in life.
“I was watching the miracle of my son Chester learning and growing and wanting to ‘capture’ that with my drawing and painting skills,” Jon said.
The finished artwork is lovely in itself, but its meaning to Jon is not only a love letter to his wife and son, but also to the great musical artist who inspired him.
“I’m really happy that Rainer’s widow Patti and his son Rudy love the video, and Rainer’s best friend Howe Gelb (of the band Giant Sand), one of my musical heroes, called it ‘stunningly fantastic.'”
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 CaringBridge.org and searching on his name.
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.
By Wei Ming Dariotis
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.
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.