Category Archives: Communities

Gardener’s guide to setting up a home office

Karl Paige's office was the Quesada Garden. Not much writing, but a whole lot of accomplishment. Photo: Footprints
Karl Paige’s office was the Quesada Garden. Not much writing, but a whole lot of accomplishment. Photo: Footprints

By Elizabeth Skow

I’m setting up a new office in my home to bribe my lazy muse. Setting up an office is easy. Here are directions in simple steps:
#1 Paint the room a lovely peachy color after filling in dents, holes and divots, sanding and smoothing them.
#2 Leave the paint to season for about a year – the only remaining furniture belongs to your cats (they love their new sun room). Your yoga mat sits in a corner collecting dust and claw marks.
#3 Spend spare moments for at least a month or two, browsing your favorite online stores for office furniture you can’t afford or even justify, really…. You will need a nice sleek desk for all those imagined future hours toiling away at the laptop… and a mint colored filing cabinet on casters that slides perfectly underneath.
Add a sofa bed and chest of drawers, ’cause you know, you can’t really have a room just for your office, right? I mean when’s the last time you actually made any money writing-or even wrote anything?  At least now you have a guest room.
Your budget (snicker … “budget.” Who are you fooling?)  Your quarterly taxes (ok you never really pay quarterly taxes) ruptured on the desk, chair and minty filing cabinet.
#4 Re-work your “budget” several times to see how soon you can afford the couch, dresser and printer cart. Think how cavemen used red ochre and cave walls, and their muses seemed to think they were just grand.
#5 Receive delivery of desk, cabinet and chair. Assemble them all in a hurry and then realize you’ve put the legs on backwards. Re-attach legs correctly. Find optimal position for desk. Set up printer, laptop, stapler and envelopes. Look at overall effect to see if it seems inspirational. Sit down on chair, open laptop …look out window the garden needs weeding. Go make coffee. Sit back down with coffee. Look out window…realize it’s a gorgeous day. Shut laptop.
#6 It’s a gorgeous day, go weed in the garden. Play some old funk and R&B, wave and smile to your neighbors, think how lucky you are to live here and how cool it is that you actually have some neighbors you like, and pull out weeds for several hours until you’re too tired to move, let alone write.

Realize that petty resentments, slights, real or imagined, all melt away when you are pulling weeds from the ground, shaking off the dirt, throwing them in the pile. Pulling weeds from the ground, shaking off the dirt, throwing them in the pile. Hmmm…maybe your muse likes gardening!

Walk up Bayview Hill with your incredible little dog, given to you by the lady who used to sit on your stoop (she was really nice!). Look at the beautiful view and think again how lucky you are to live here. Find a good walking rhythm.

Think about the garden. Think about all the new people in the neighborhood and all the people who have been here awhile. How much things have changed since you moved to the block seven (!) years ago, how much has stayed the same.

Realize that change is inevitable, always hard and drives people crazy. But change brings growth, and usually that’s good.

Think about the garden…the way it drew out Annette Smith and Karl Paige to tend it. The way they inspired their other neighbors…Jeffrey Betcher and Shane King and Edward Allen and James Ross and Linda Pettus to name just a few, and more and more people joined.

People in and around Quesada Gardens planted and lovingly tended this movement. It grew like the roots of trees, flowers and vegetables…to Bridgeview Garden and Latona Garden…throughout Bayview.

It all starts and ends with the garden. Let’s keep that in mind. THAT is what “COMMUNITY LOOKS LIKE.”

#7 Sit down inspired and write for a couple of hours. Your office has arrived!

Getting to know the neighbors: Rithy Chan

By Wei Ming Dariotis

Some people mishear his name as “Ricky,” but it is pronounced “ri-T.”

He was born in Battambang, small little town in northwestern Cambodia, in 1968. Rithy’s wealthy family was targeted by the Marxist Maoist-nationalist Khmer Rouge during the Cambodian genocide. Rithy’s parents and most family members were killed, leaving his older sister to take care of all their surviving siblings.  

WMD: How do you feel about being Cambodian American?

RC: How do I feel about my Cambodians roots? I guess when you are born somewhere you always feel connected to the place you were born. I love my culture and my roots, I am very proud of Cambodian heritage and culture, but at the same time, I am happy where I am now. Like my nephews, even though they were born in California and Hawaii, they are drawn, like I am, to go to see their family’s original roots.

Being Cambodian American to me means being my own person. We are such a minority and there are only one or two families in San Francisco that I know personally. I’m not so involved with the Cambodian community here. I try to blend in with my neighbors. I have gone to temples and community centers and I feel a little left out. I prefer diversity and integration. Since we moved to America, we settled in the middle of Harlem and lived there for two years with no other Cambodian families around and we integrated with many different ethnic groups all the time.  Surprisingly, I do still speak perfect Khmer, or “Cambodian.” When I come back to the US after speaking Cambodian for two weeks I can’t speak English because my tongue muscles won’t switch over.

English is an interesting language to me because it is non-hierarchical. “You” in English is just “you”—not upper or lower class “you” just direct simple “you.” That’s why when I speak to Cambodians who speak English I prefer to speak with them in English. Cambodian derives from the two main root languages of Sanskrit and Bali from India, where there was a caste system. So the language is hierarchical, like the society is hierarchical.

Being Cambodian means a lot to me. The culture dates back over a thousand years. For Southeast Asia, Khmer culture, art and architecture is as the Greek and Roman cultures are to Western culture. Everyone in the region tries to identify and associate with it and preserve it. Classical Khmer art and architecture were extraordinary achievement for any society, in any era. We have “golden proportion or ratio” just like the western world. I did a study and analyzed Angkor Wat, which was built in the 1100s, and the golden proportion or ratio is everywhere. Being Cambodian means a lot of different things. Even the Khmer Rouge [note: the nationalist socialist regime that massacred over a million Cambodians in the genocide often referred to as the Killing Fields] —it was a bad thing, but what I got out of it was that living through that drove me to be a better, tougher, stronger person and to have more tolerance.

My family was wealthy, but during the massacre both of my parents and two of my siblings were killed. In 1979-1980 was a desperate time. I begged people for food. We would go to the jungle where the Khmer Rouge was with land mines to pick fruit then walk for miles to the market to trade it for a little rice to survive.

My family escaped to Thailand and spent three years there in the refugee camps. We were the first ones there and almost the last ones to get out.  We waited for my older sister to be old enough to become our guardian.  We did not want to be split up to orphanages. My older sister is my hero, role model and also like a mother to all of my siblings.  She is so amazing and to this day, over three decades later she is still the most successful one. She is a single mom living in a brown stone in Park Slope, New York City. 

WMD:  You are working on a body of drawings; how would you describe your artistic style?

RC: I guess right now it is pencil: realism combined with surrealist and imaginary images. I don’t want to say just surrealist—maybe fantasy/Escher-esque. “Tricking the eye.” To me, artwork doesn’t have to be realistic because for that you can take photos–so you might as well have fun with it.

WMD: How would you describe the themes in your art?

RC: The stories usually involve figures in universal themes. For example, in the latest piece, the single figure is trying to help all the others stranded together below, but he is holding on to broken brick balloons, which don’t exist; they don’t make sense. The people below are being oppressed or massacred, and he can’t do anything to help them. Like the UN which was supposed to stop massacres after WWII.

A lot of times I try to juxtapose images that are transcendent—between the planes of this world and those of another world.

Humanity repeats itself all the time—look at San Bernardino recently—or Paris. It’s like WWII, Rwanda, or the Khmer Rouge all over again. This kind of trauma doesn’t seem real to the population at large, so I try to put it into my artwork. It’s an abstract concept until you have experienced it yourself. For example, what Donald Trump says about immigrants and refugees shows that he hasn’t experienced that kind of trauma.

For each person it’s different; I was younger than my older sister when we survived the Khmer Rouge. So, compared to her, it is much easier for me to talk about it because it seemed normal to me to see people getting killed. From the eyes of a kid, you think it’s normal and natural.

If you grow up in the ghetto, you would think that is normal life, too, unless you move beyond it. Some of my friends can’t understand why I live here in the Bayview, but I love it. I won’t say I’m not scared—I’ve been on the street when there have been gun shoot outs and it doesn’t matter who you are—Black, White, Asian, Muslim, Buddhist, rich or poor, you can get hit. Bullets don’t discriminate.

WMD: What do you like most about living in the Bayview?

RC: I love the weather, and the diversity of the community. All the houses are separated and you get a big garden.

WMD: Have you always been a gardener?

RC: No, after coming from Cambodia, our family lived in New York City; I never had a garden before. When I came to Quesada Street I saw the palm trees and they were the main draw. I love the palm trees and lots of wild life here and I especially love the parrots. And then I found out the neighbors were very diverse, which is a major plus that I didn’t know before. In my mind, since I knew I was going to make it my home, I just planned to get to know my neighbors anyway, so the diversity was a nice bonus. It is like a little paradise in the city.  

But it a paradise with garbage—I picked up three bags of garbage this morning because the people that come here to buy drugs just throw trash out of their cars. But even if you paid me to live in the Sunset or Richmond I wouldn’t live there—the summer is just depressing.

WMD: What do you think you’ve learned about yourself from living here?

RC: How to be tough and kind to the neighbors at the same time. It’s a balancing act. You have to respect the people you live next door to, and at the same time, some people are doing certain things that are destructive. I have to negotiate to make sure people respect my space like I respect theirs.

I also learned how to garden.  It’s a lot of physical work but it is sort of meditative for me. Weeding, I can let my mind go instead of thinking of the stress of the city. Seeing plants produce fruit or vegetables, taking care of them, seeing some plants succumb to disease—its all very challenging. It’s fluid—it’s the relationship between life and death. It’s like anything else—you have to take care of it to keep it surviving. For example, this year we really cut back water and a couple plants died. We learned what can survive in these drought conditions.

This yin and yang is also reflected in my artwork. You have bad people and good people working to balance each other. No matter how it is resolved, I think everyone has good intentions.

I wish we had better services—like a gym. Better stores. More restaurants. But on the other hand, house prices are lower because of that so I can’t complain. It would be nice for your neighborhood to be walkable. Homelessness in this city is just growing, and it makes me sad to see that.  It is one of the richest cities in the US and yet, the disparities are growing rapidly and the gap is getting wider.
Overall I feel lucky to have ended up in this neighborhood and community – the Quesada Gardens Initiative and the people here are unique and special.

New beginnings at QGI

Wei Ming Dariotis
Fall is a time of change and transformation in the Bay Area; with the advent of the rain, it is also the best time to sow new crops or plant anything that might like a little extra water while getting established.
Like our garden, the Quesada Gardens Initiative is also going through a major transition during this fall season as Jeffrey Betcher, who has long been the backbone of the organization, is stepping back. This raised critical questions: Do we as a community have the capacity to continue running the Quesada Gardens Initiative? Do we even want to or need to?
At a meeting on November 5th, at the home of Craig Cannon, the response to those questions was a resounding, “Yes!” We were moved by the dedication and vision of the founders, Annette Smith and Karl Paige, and so many others beginning in 2002. We were moved by the continuous organizational work of Jeffrey, and the amazing tireless gardening work by neighbor John Davila and so many more.
Jeffrey had already stepped back into “just” the roles of Bayview Footprints editor and Board Treasurer.  Now Eric McDonell, who is used to handling budgets for the United Way Bay Area for which he is the Chief Operating Officer, is stepping into the Treasurer’s role.  Eric’s wife, Hydra Mendoza-McDonell, who serves on the SF School Board and as the Mayor’s Senior Adviser on Education and Family Services, took on leadership too: funds development and outreach for the organization.
[As a side note: Eric and Hydra who have lived on Quesada for many years, just recently became homeowners on the block. Congratulations, Eric and Hydra!]
Other critical roles are being filled, mostly by neighbors who have had some previous experience with the organization or who are re-committing to their roles.
John Davila, who has been recognized in posters all over the neighborhood, will officially become the Gardening Outreach Coordinator, with support from Shane King. John has been the most recognized face of Quesada Gardens through his almost constant presence and continuous work to develop the garden.
As a chef, John is especially attuned to planting yummy edibles.  But he is just as adept at growing relationships between neighbors as he is at growing tomatoes. John is the guy you will always see with what seems like a dozen kids swirling around him, including his daughter, Meah. In many ways, John has become the “heart” of Quesada Gardens.
Building on his experience as an independent filmmaker who coordinates groups to achieve a common goal, Shane King has recommitted to his role of Volunteer Coordinator. He will work with John to make sure that the large groups of volunteers are achieving goals that support the needs of our community.
Second-generation journalist Elizabeth Skow, whose work has been published extensively in Bay Area newspapers and who has been involved in writing for Bayview Footprints in past years, will take over from Jeffrey as editor with support from Craig Cannon and Wei Ming Dariotis.
Liz and I will also work on grant writing, and I will continue as Meeting Coordinator utilizing my endless experience from time served on the Academic Senate at SF State. [Robert’s Rules of Order will NOT be enforced at QGI meetings!]
Linda Pettus, who has lived on the block since the 1970s, has recommitted to her role as the organization’s Secretary. It is Linda we have to thank for the careful records she keeps of our meetings.
We all enjoy our gardens’ murals, and many neighbors have mentioned a desire to see more art in the gardens. This might include permanent installations and performances as well as using the garden as an environment to inspire art. Responding to this, Craig Cannon, formerly an artist with Pixar, volunteered to be the Creative Arts Coordinator, with support from neighbors Beth Johnson and bronze sculptor Rithy Chan.
Our neighbors up-the-block, Joel and Mary McClure, recommitted to their work as Project Leaders on our allied garden used for teaching and demonstration, the beautiful Bridgeview Garden on Newhall just above Quesada.
Other neighbors who attended the meeting and supported the decision to continue Quesada Gardens Initiative include Tai TrangMike McKevitt, and Craig Williams.
Hopefully, the rains – and our collective support – will also allow for our new leaders to become well established in their new roles.

Bayview Hunters Point: NEN Comeback Neighborhood-winner?

Jeffrey Betcher

Three years ago, I sat with Annette Smith in the City Hall Rotunda as she was about to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work with Quesada Gardens Initiative.  It was the Neighborhood Empowerment Network Awards which that year spotlighted the extraordinary changes underway in the Southeast part of the City, especially in Portola and Visitacion Valley. What a night!

More about NEN Awards in our area

This year, I nominated Bayview Hunters Point for the 2015 NEN Awards’ coveted “Comeback Neighborhood of the Year Award.” Reasons to win are everywhere.  Here are a few:

Bayview Hunters Point has always been one of San Francisco’s most unique neighborhoods, and still represents much of what is best about our City’s diversity and our people’s concern for the most vulnerable among us. For decades, the neighborhood received little attention as it fell on tough times in the wake of lost jobs and social problems that continually called on the community’s core strength. Now, as the neighborhood evolves with decades-long urban planning and resurging attention to the social landscape, Bayview Hunters Point is not only a full partner in the San Francisco family, but is anchoring some of the City’s most treasured values. Through a revived sense of neighborhood unity, and the hard work of scrappy residents and savvy policymakers, the neighborhood is better than ever.

Bayview Hunters Point’s population is doubling in short order, an explosion of growth that might shatter neighborhoods where community participation and multi-sector collaboration are less present. A unity of purpose has emerged as new and established businesses and community organizations, new arrivals and long-term residents, and governmental and neighborhood allies work together like never before to make Bayview Hunters Point an excellent candidate for the Comeback Neighborhood of the Year.

Improved access to food and the emergence of new food businesses have improved the quality of life and health for everyone in Bayview Hunters Point. Improvements to existing super markets such as Super Save and FoodsCo have been augmented with healthy upgrades to corner stores, the planned Doc Loi Supermarket, and the flourishing of new food-producing gardens in the neighborhood. In a major sign of economic health, new restaurants have opened along the Third Street Business Corridor, among them: Old Skool Café, Huli Huli’s, Frisco Fried, Radio Africa, All Good Pizza, Simply Delish and Limon. It’s just like San Francisco and Bayview, by the way, that Old Skool Café and Huli Huli’s hold social justice goals as central to their missions.

New construction and infrastructure development can be found everywhere. Important examples include the T-Line light rail on 3rd Street, mixed use hubs at 4800 and 5800 Third, new senior housing in several locations including the new George Davis Senior Center, a new San Francisco Branch Library names for beloved local Linda Brooks-Burton, a renovated YMCA facility, the recently-opened College Track location in what had been a shuttered storefront for decades, and a rebuilt Yosemite Plaza business hub. Major developments exploding on the horizon Hunters Point/SF Shipyard and an arts district there, Candlestick Point development that includes affordable housing and veterans services, and new public housing such as the nearly completed Hunters View Housing Project. The Bayview Opera House continues to develop both inside and out with significant public investment. India Basin and Heron’s Head Park and walking trail are vibrant infrastructure assets and are part of the City’s larger waterfront plan known as the Blue Greenway.

New and resurgent public gathering spaces in the neighborhood have created pockets of community strength, beauty, health and safety with mindfulness (unique to Bayview Hunters Point) about the delicate balance between grassroots community building and gentrifying economic investment. Examples include extensive makeovers of Youngblood Coleman, Adam Rogers, and Hilltop parks, projects fueled by powerful nonprofit organizations working closely with government and community. Grassroots resident-led projects also proliferate, direct expressions of the power and self-determination of a people in the center of massive urban change. Good examples include the landmark Quesada Gardens, including the Bridgeview Garden, many backyard gardens, and major public art and gathering spaces all clustered in the heart of Bayview. Since 2003, the Quesada Gardens’ group has brought thousands of people to the heart of Bayview for meaningful experiences. It won the 2012 GRO1000 Gardens and Green Spaces Award, the 2011 NEN Best Green Community Project Award for the Bridgeview Teaching and Learning Garden, a NEN Hall of Fame Award (the first inductee) for Co-Foundering Gardener Karl Paige, and a Lifetime Achievement Award for Co-Founding Gardener Annette Smith. Regular, informal and formal events happen in public spaces every day, including the much-loved annual Black Cuisine Festival and the Bayview Music Festival. Social networks such as the online newsletter Bayview Footprints Local News, and online discussion groups of all sorts help to create a more cohesive community.

A cleaner environment has resulted from massive public involvement, tough community advocacy, and investors who better understand the important role the environment plays not only to residents’ quality of life but to their own bottom lines. The demolition of a polluting electricity generating plant near the Shipyard remains a major victory for environmental justice advocates. India Basin and Hunters Point Shipyard waterfronts have been vastly improved by toxicity abatement, California native plant restoration, and improved visitor access. The EcoCenter at Heron’s Head Park is a symbol of positive environmental changes. Grassroots nonprofits such as Hunters Point Family and Literacy for Environmental Justice have advanced the neighborhood as a place where food production and environmental restoration can be connected to jobs and education.

New art and arts programming is building on a long tradition of local art, including what has been for decades the country’s largest urban artists’ colony at Hunters Point Shipyard. An arts district is part of the Shipyard development plan, and many artist studios have already been upgraded. Public art is being incorporated into new construction and formerly-blighted public spaces at an increasing rate. Examples include many murals along 3rd Street, art benches at the Shipyard and Bridgeview Garden, and a vibrant arts & culture center at the Bayview Opera House.

History and justice efforts are evolving in Bayview Hunters Point as long-term residents seek to preserve the cultural richness of the neighborhood and serve our most vulnerable neighbors, and as a new generation of activists and advocates build on the neighborhood’s storied history of social justice movement-building. Appreciation of diversity is a basic requirement for anyone who puts down roots here. Architectural asset-mapping, as part of redevelopment, and social history archive-building are strengthening the identity of the neighborhood as a place where marginalized groups have struggled for power and respect, and have succeeded. The neighborhood’s unique history … including the original Ohlone Tribes, early Chinese-American settlers, early-20th Century European immigrants, maritime workers and organized labor, Civil Rights Era victories and the important African American experience … is understood as foundational to the future of what is still a multicultural community that thrives on understanding and respect.

New and unique businesses have taken root in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood. Examples include cooperative kitchens, art galleries, fine crafts operations, mobile food businesses, artisan food enterprises, and under-one-roof style business hubs. Businesses in the neighborhood are often small, independent, locally-owned, and supported by a community of friends and allies. Businesses established elsewhere, such as Flora Grubb Gardens and Escheguren Slate, have relocated here, illustrating the rise in investor confidence in the neighborhood. The award-winning Yvonne’s Southern Sweets continues to win the hearts and taste buds of consumers. Speakeasy Brewery enjoys an expanding and enthusiastic customer base for their high quality products. The San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market, the major supplier of fruits and vegetables to businesses throughout the City, is undergoing a major expansion in the neighborhood. New associations of businesses and entrepreneurs seem to emerge every day, often with a focus such as the neighborhood’s food scene or gardening and landscaping.

Those are a few of my reasons, with apologies to anyone or anything left out.  Please comment with your own reasons why the great Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood should win the Comeback Neighborhood of the Year Award.

Footprints is changing

Jeffrey Betcher

When you get a serious illness, what should you say to people?

As I’ve been telling family and friends that I’ve been diagnosed with cancer, questions about how broad to go with the news have come up. Some folks think it’s weird to share such personal news about a topic uncomfortable to many. Others say that illness isn’t just about the person who is sick, but also about all the people who care about him or have a stake in his work.

It’s been just a couple weeks since the actual diagnosis, and I’m still adjusting to what I’m learning will be a “new normal.”  But the need to whittle back my commitments is already here. If you read Footprints, that affects you.

Bayview Footprints Local News will not publish as often as it has in the past, at least for now.  I believe that, if I am to be a responsible member of the Footprints community, and if I am to honor Quesada Gardens’ principle of complete transparency, you deserve to hear that from me.

The future is always uncertain.  For Bayview Footprints, that future could include occasional special editions, collaborators building on the Footprints foundation, or some other reinvention.  Whatever happens, I will remain deeply grateful to the Co-Founders and early member organizations in the Bayview Footprints Network of Community Building Groups, our thousands of loyal readers, the hundreds of change-makers who have contributed content since 2008, and the advertisers who have cover some of our costs.

Fortunately, Footprints’ content (over a thousand posts) lives on at where Bayview’s longest-running blog makes its home.  If you haven’t visited this community-generated portal website recently, be sure to check out the updated resource hubs.

I feel great about what Bayview Footprints has accomplished.  It started as an expose that should never have been necessary: a revelation that the much maligned Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood is actually a nice place where nice people live, work, study and play.  That word got out, both through Footprints and through the journalists and academics who culled our pages looking for story ideas and innovations in community building.

Footprints has been both a celebration of grassroots, place-based, community-emergent change-making, and a call for restraint when, in the name of community benefit, external powers duplicate what locals should be empowered to do for themselves.

Why “Community Building?” And what does that have to do with cancer?

I chose the phrase “community building” in 2006 as I did research about why Quesada Gardens had been able to create rapid change when nothing else seemed to work. (Traditional community-based strategies such as Safe Block/law enforcement and Broken Window Theory/beautification approaches had produced such disappointing results.) I was drawing from Jamie Kalven’s work in Chicago.

Around the same time, Esta Soler, my boss at the national violence prevention organization where I worked, handed me a summary of a study by Robert Sampson as evidence of a connection between “social cohesion” and “community strength.”

Both at Quesada Gardens and through Bayview Footprints, converts like me have been preaching in those terms ever since … messages that have seeded digital and traditional media locally, and traveled across the country and as far as Europe and Asia.

Now we see the language of “community building” and “social cohesion” showing up everywhere. There’s no way to know the extent to which we led that change, but I’m sure we contributed, and I believe it’s something all of us involved in Bayview Hunters Point change-making can be proud of.  Whatever you call it, “community building” is in our DNA here.

Since I moved to Bayview in 1998, my house at Quesada Gardens has been in constant motion on the magnitude of Dorothy’s house spinning toward Oz, first with construction to keep the thing standing, then with orienting it toward community center functionality, and more recently with the launch of a small community-based apparel business.

Now I’m reorganizing the place again, this time around the needs of a guy in cancer treatment and the community offering to help get him through it (which is to say everyone I’ve told and a half dozen people who have already been helping out in practical ways).

Organizing work makes you good at asking for help.

By the way: donations are always welcome at and Donations typically go to online costs, public space maintenance, and the purchasing of gardening tools and materials. Your donation implies faith in that Footprints and Quesada Gardens will go on, and will help out new leaders who are already plugging away at creating sustainable, socially-just grassroots change.

It’s still tough for a lot of folks in Bayview Hunters Point. But at least now Quesada Gardens and Bayview Footprints stand in evidence that change is possible. Now we know that strengthening the social fabric of our diverse community is as important as beautifying property, calling the police a million times, and signing off on every beautification and urban planning blueprint that external powers think is good for us.  (“As important,” if not a whole lot more so.)

Times are a little tough for me now, too, with this cancer thing. But I know I can turn to my neighbors any time I need help. And I believe there is a future for me, just as there is for the gardens, art projects and communications work I’ve been part of. I’ll get to that future along with the strong community I’m so blessed to be part of.


Jeffrey Betcher - headshot 160x160Jeffrey Betcher is an organizer, writer and entrepreneur.  After many years in the national violence prevention field, he co-founded the award-winning Quesada Gardens Initiative which builds community through art and gardens in the heart of San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood.  He is the editor and primary writer for Bayview Footprints Local News, serving the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood where he lives and works.  More recently, he co-founded PeopleWearSF, the region’s trade association for the apparel industry, and launched his own sustainable apparel business called YamStreet.  He believes that place-based change strategies that empower people and small businesses represent the surest path to a sustainable and socially-just world.  LinkedIn

Community responds to vandalism at St. Paul’s

Saint PaulsLast Sunday’s service at St. Paul’s Tabernacle Church in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood focused on the subject of “forgiveness.”  The service was the first of many positive responses to a negative incident that is helping define Bayview itself: a diverse neighborhood that insists on justice in the face of challenges and change.

Neighbors of the church on Oakdale Avenue, who had been anticipating the completion of a renovation to the building, saw police investigators gathered there on Friday after vandals broke in and caused extensive damage.

The vandals broke down doors, spray-painted epithets on the walls in the sanctuary and church office, poured bleach on each of the pews and on the carpet, punched holes into the walls, and shattered two large mirrors.

St. Paul’s Tabernacle is a predominantly black church, and part of a vibrant faith community in Bayview.  As nothing was stolen, police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

Supervisor Malia Cohen posted a statement on her Facebook page:

I am disappointed and saddened by the hateful act of vandalism perpetrated last Friday at St. Paul’s Tabernacle Baptist Church on Oakdale Avenue. Hatred and prejudice have no place in our communities and we will not tolerate this behavior.

Members of the local community and broader faith community are responding to the incident:

Tomorrow, a weekly event at Butchertown Gourmet will include a request for donations for the church.

A “work party” at the church is being organized for September 12th at 10am.

A national anti-racism organization has set up a donations campaign.

Police are asking that anyone with information about the incident call their anonymous tip line at 415.575.4444, text a tip to TIP411 with “SFPD” at the beginning of the message, or contact investigators directly at 415.553.1133.

The San Francisco Interfaith Council is collaborating with the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Islamic Network Group to offer support to St. Paul’s.

Creative change makers on every block

Marina Gorbis, Institute for the Future
Marina Gorbis, Institute for the Future

Marina Gorbis, Executive Director of Institute for the Future, posed a question in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, and cited Bayview’s own Quesada Gardens as an example of the answer.  Here’s an excerpt:

“Why do so many in the West who have all of their basic needs met still feel impoverished?”

To answer this question, we need to step away from economic and development orthodoxies, and bring non-economic words and levers such as awe, inspiration, magic, compassion, and human connectedness into the conversation. You can call this a post-development agenda and a post-development vocabulary.

Early efforts to shape this agenda are already emerging, albeit outside the confines of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, city halls, and many development agencies. These efforts are often hyper-local, emergent, and not easily planned or directed. They’re not necessarily permanent or institution-based. Instead, they’re scrappy, focused on getting things done with little or no money. They may not look like traditional development projects, as each one has a unique flavor, but they have one thing in common: They are changing people’s lives on a micro scale—block by block, person by person, community by community. And they’re not shy about using words like inspiration, awe, and love when they talk about how they came into being and what they’re trying to do. Examples include Freespace, which converted a vacant warehouse in the Central Market area of San Francisco into an experimental space for civic innovation, art, and learning.

Another example: Quesada Gardens Initiative, started more than 10 years ago in the Bayview neighborhood of San Francisco—one of the poorest and most crime-ridden areas of the city. A resident who was tired of watching drug dealing, prostitution, and other illegal activity on her block started planting a small strip of flowers in the weed-filled median. Soon others joined her, planting flowers and food in vacant lots, backyards, and community spaces. Since 2002, under the Quesada umbrella, a total of more than 35 such projects have appeared, including gardens, public art, and education projects. More

Marina would like Mishwa Lee, a resident-organizer at the Northridge Community Coop Housing Project.  Mishwa’s work is another example of the sort of grassroots magic that is changing the physical and social landscape of Bayview Hunters Point.  She is the driving force behind a lovely community garden project at Northridge, and is now working to send one of her neighbors on a potentially transformational journey.

Mishwa and Corvette, on a journey together
Mishwa and Corvette, on a journey together

Here’s Mishwa’s request:

I am asking for your help to raise funds to send our awesome apprentice, Corvette Moore, to Cuba for the Sustainable Agriculture, Rooted in Community conference the first two weeks of October. We still need to raise about $3,000 and must have $1,000 raised by Sept 4th to insure her participation. She has already received a scholarship from the conference organizers.

Our Northridge Community Garden is part of a low income housing community of 300 families in Hunters Point, San Francisco.  Last spring Corvette answered a call for a Northridge Coop Homes resident to join our Community Garden leadership team and stated that she would commit 2 years to our garden.  Since then she has stepped up, initiating careful experiments to try and eliminate or control one of our major gardening challenges: bermuda grass.  She has mentored and guided our youth team of 6 MYEEP youth and our own Northridge team of 8 youth.  She has gone to gardening workshops, and studied urban agriculture practices.

She has stayed with our team although the pay is very low, as you probably know about small scale agriculture work in the US. In the midst of all of this she is helping her father in his battle with cancer.  We hope you will be able to help us meet our financial goals for Corvette. She is committed to sharing what she learns in Cuba with the urban agriculture community here in SF and particularly in BVHP and with young people of color.   Here is the link to her Go Fund Me page.

Girls at Quesada Gardens say amazing things

The participants in this summer’s GirlFly at Quesada Gardens program had a lot to say about their experience dancing, video-making and learning about community building in the heart of Bayview.

I couldn’t believe there could be so many amazing people on one block. Hearing their stories and how they contributed to our community gave me hope.

In Their Own Words:

“GIRLFLY has made me more aware of the world outside my personal bubble.”

“This program has made me believe that I can achieve my goals.”

“When doing site work, your very presence can lighten a community.”

“It has given me the opportunity to meet activists who can become networks for my business/community goals.”

“I lost a sense of naivety on my beliefs of what the world is like. I’ve gained a sense of appreciation for building my community.”

“From the morning technique class I got a looser body, better control, cardio/stamina that I didn’t have before.”

“From the filmmaking I got a higher range of knowledge about cameras.”

“I will do a project for East Oakland or possibly look into becoming Mayor of Oakland. “

“I learned that you can’t just film willy nilly. Your film has to have a purpose.”

“I would not have been talking about cat calling and its impact. I would have just ignored it instead of addressing it. “

“I learned to extend and perfect my movements.”

“I have learned that any community, no matter how scary from the outside, can be changed if people join together. I am looking forward to doing some community organizing, as well as working to preserve the rich culture of the Bayview.“

“I learned how to dance as part of a group and to take instruction from a choreographer. “

“I learned to speak up and be heard or no one will.”

“I won’t go out with a boy who cat calls, instead of a nice respectable boy.”

“I have become more of a feminist. I got confidence from my own dance making.”

“This program has made me believe that I can achieve my goals.”

“From the guest activists I got great advice.”

“Dance means to me now that you can send a message and make connections with those around you.”

“I couldn’t believe there could be so many amazing people on one block (Quesada, 3rd to Bridgeview). Hearing their stories and how they contributed to our community gave me hope.“

“This program has reinforced my goal to become someone younger girls can look up to as a role model.”

“Before this program I loved dance because I love story telling.  But dance also brings out community. All these people who came up to us with smiling faces and enjoying our rehearsals made me feel like I was helping the community.“

“I didn’t think I was a risk taker before I started, but being kind of thrown in from Day One really helped that.”

“I learned how to make a story from scratch and tell it through my body.”

“learned that I don’t need to lead a worldwide revolution to make a difference. I can start in my own home, neighborhood, or school.“

“Before the program dance to me was just something fun to do. Now dance means change.”

“I fell in love with dance again.”

“You taught me how I can fight for what I believe in and make a change; GIRLFLY has made me want to speak up.”

“I learned to appreciate the small parts of my body that I didn’t even know existed.”

“From listening to the guest activists, I got that we are the change of the world.”

Supervisor, Police Capt caution: scammers may pose as PG&E reps

Supervisor Malia Cohen asks that we spread the word about possible scam artists posing as PG&E representatives.

A neighbor on Revere reported that, shortly after 8pm Saturday evening, a man rang her doorbell claiming to be from PG&E coming to “take a look at our bills.”  She described him as slender, maybe 5’10” or 6 feet tall, mid-twenties, tanned Caucasian or light-skinned Latino with short dark hair, wearing a yellow shirt and carrying a clipboard.

Bayview Station Police Captain Raj Vaswani responded saying PG&E is aware that there are posers who want our account information, or even to gain entry into our homes.  PG&E offered these tips:

  • You should always ask to see identification before allowing anyone claiming to be a PG&E representative inside their home. PG&E employees always carry their identification and are always willing to show it to you.
  • If a person claiming to be a PG&E employee has identification and you still feel uncomfortable, call PG&E’s customer service line at 1-800-PGE-5000 to verify an appointment and/or PG&E’s presence in the community.
  • If you have an appointment with PG&E, you will receive an automated call back within 48 hours prior to a scheduled visit, or a personal call from a PG&E service representative prior to a scheduled visit.
  • If you have concerns about the legitimacy of a call you have received about a past due bill, a service request or a request for personal information, call PG&E immediately at 1-800-743-5000.
  • PG&E’s Credit Department will never ask for personal information, a credit card number or a gift card number over the phone. If you have received such a phone call and provided credit card or checking account information should report it immediately to the credit card company or bank and law enforcement.

Contact Captain Raj Vaswani by email or call 415.671.2300.

Summer opportunities in Bayview

The Port of San Francisco, through the SF Arts Commission, is commissioning a new permanent sculpture to be installed at 3rd Street and Cargo Way, an area designated as the “Bayview Gateway.”  According to the Arts Commission’s website, the project’s goal “is to commission a large scale permanent signature artwork that will represent entry to the Bayview neighborhood.” An Arts Commission “Final Selection Panel” will make the decision this summer between proposals from an East Bay collective associated with Burning Man, a Los Angeles artist, and an artist with experience at universities in San Francisco and San Jose. Through June 15th, the public may comment on the proposals online, at the Bayview Linda Brooks-Burton Branch Library (where the proposals are displayed), or by email to Zoe Taleporos.

The Bayview Opera House will hold a Juneteenth 150th Anniversary event as part of the 3rd on the Third event series on Friday, June 19th beginning at 4pm.  In related news, Opera House staffers are still recruiting teens for this summer’s mural painting workshops. Workshops will be hosted June 8th, 15th, and 22nd at the Bayview Roots Garden (at 3rd and Palou) from 10 am to noon. Interns will be paid to help mural artist Camer1 paint a new mural about our environment and oil pollution. Contact Ivy by email or call 415.824.0386.

Bayview Health Connect, a service event from Project Homeless Connect, will be providing targeted services for those in the area who have a need on Friday, June 5th from 11am to 4pm at NOW_Hunters Point on Jennings Street near the intersection with Cargo Way. Bayview Health Connect’s list of services that will be provided at the event is extraordinary:  Acupuncture / Addiction Recovery / Dental (limited )/ DMV ID (limited )/ Food Stamps-GA-PAES / Groceries / Haircuts / Hearing Tests / HIV Testing / Massage / Medical/Mental Health Services / Needle Exchange / Pet Care / Prescription Glasses (limited) / Reading Glasses / Senior Services / SSI-SSDI & MediCal / Wheelchair-Walker Repair / Youth Services.

Bayview Hunters Point Community Legal is bringing together its community on Sunday, June 7th from 3 to 7 pm at All Good Pizza.  It doesn’t cost much to join in the fun, and you’ll get to hang out with folks who are expressing the values that made Bayview great by finding new ways to help some of our most vulnerable residents.

The Bayview Linda Brooks-Burton Branch Library is a hub of learning and community during the summer, as it is year-round.  Thank you to Branch Librarian Beverly Hayes for keeping us current on opportunities there.  On Tuesday, June 9th from 1:30 to 4:30, let your inner geek come out to play, and learn hot tech skills like JavaScript, HTML, iOS, WordPress and Ruby on Rails.  It’s free, and you’ll get to use an award-winning learning platform called Treehouse.

Attend RENCONNECT, a Renaissance Bayview networking event designed to help small businesses get off the ground, on Tuesday, June 16th at Radio Africa & Kitchen (where Tuesdays are all about “community”).  Pitch your business and display your marketing materials. RSVP online

Flowercraft Garden Center owners and those who love the 40-year-old business are objecting to the relocation of the Bayshore bus stop to the front of the Center.  They say it will eliminate customer parking and create dangerous conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists.  A petition requesting that SFMTA reconsider is online now.

Congratulations to all the local school graduates!  Footprints is inspired by your accomplishment.  Of course, learning doesn’t stop with the school year.  That’s where the online SF Curriculum Planning Resources and Summer Field Trip List from the SF Expanded Learning Collaborative can help out.  This important resource makes summer learning opportunities for children and youth, many of them in the neighborhood, easy to find.

Just as learning doesn’t go on vacation, neither does the need to eat a healthy lunch.  Our friends at BMAGIC understand that summers can be hard on families that rely on kids getting lunch at school.  Please share their list of free summer lunch programs for children and youth under age 18.

WHERE:/WHEN: All Hallows Garden: M-F 6/1/2015-7/24/15 Lunch 11:30am-1:00pm; Snack 3:00pm-4:00pm. Aimco Bayview: M-F 6/1/15- 7/24/15 Lunch 11:30am-1:00pm; Snack 3:00pm-4:00pm. Aimco La Salle: M-F 6/1/15-7/24/15 Lunch 11:30am-1:00pm; Snack 3:00pm-4:00pm. Aimco Shoreview: M-F 6/1/15-7/24/15 Lunch 11:00am-1:00pm. Alice Griffith: M-F 6/1/15-8/14/2015 Lunch 11:30am-1:30pm; Snack 10:30am-11:00am. APRI: M-F 6/16/15-8/14/15 Lunch 12:00pm-2:00pm. Bayview Hunters Point YMCA: M-F 6/1/15-8/7/15 Lunch 12:00pm-1:00pm; Snack 3:30pm-4:00pm. Building Bridges Foundation-Cornerstone Missionary: M-F 6/8/15-7/31/15 Lunch 12:00pm-1:30pm; Snack 3:00pm-4:00pm. BVHP YMCA at West Point: M-F 6/1/15-8/14/15 12:00pm-2:00pm; Snack 3:00pm-4:00pm. Gilman Playground Hunters Point Family: M-F 6/1/15-8/7/15 Lunch  11:30am- 1:00pm; Snack 3:00pm-4:00pm. Malcolm X Urban Services: M-F 6/3/15-7/17/25 Lunch 12:00pm-12:30pm; Snack 3:00pm-3:30pm. Northridge Cooperative Homes: M-F 6/1/15-7/31/15 Lunch 12:00pm-12:45pm. Providence Baptist Church: M-F 6/29/15-8/10/15 Lunch 12:00pm-1:00pm; Snack 10:00am-10:30am. RAD (1105 Oakdale): M-F 6/1/15-8/14/15 12:30pm-1:30pm; Snack 3:00pm-4:00pm. Safehaven: M-Th 6/1/15-8/14/15 Snack 3:30pm-4:30pm. SFPL-Bayview Branch: T-Th 6/1/15-8/6/15 Lunch 12:15pm-1:00pm. Vision Academy: M-F 6/8/15-7/24/15 Lunch 11:30am-1:00pm; Snack 2:30pm-3:00pm. Grace Tabernacle Community Church: M-F 6/15/15-8/14/15 Lunch 12:00pm-2:00pm.