Tag Archives: Founders Memorial

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.

Gardens hero, Jacob Watta

Jacob at Founders Memorial resized
Jacob Watta surveys Quesada Gardens from the Founders’ Memorial vista. Photo: Footprints

Jacob Watta‘s typically pensive expression and clear brown eyes come to life as he bends over to pull a fragrant leaf off of a plant festooned with flesh-colored flowers.

Watta found Quesada Gardens shortly after moving to Bayview from his home state of Pennsylvania. When walking to the library, he saw the median strip garden on the 1700 block of Quesada Avenue, and was so curious and excited about the discovery that he tracked down the resident leaders.

Watta began volunteering right away, and must have liked the experience. He became the group’s official Volunteer Coordinator and primary steward of the Founders Memorial vista.

“I feel much happier and more attuned when I am working with plants,” Watta explained when asked why he is so passionate about gardening. “It’s very grounding.”

Jacob has moved on since his work on Quesada, but is still honored as a teacher, group leader, and hard worker who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty. On most Saturdays, you can find neighbors and visitors working in the projects that lace Quesada Avenue from 3rd Street, up the hill to Bridgeview Drive at Newhall Avenue.

Quesada Gardens Initiative builds community in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood. www.quesadagardens.org

Quesada Gardens and Mayor honor founders this Saturday

At the Founders’ Memorial, Jeffrey Betcher tells a group of USF students the Quesada Gardens story. Photo: Footprints

USF freshman hear about the Founders’ Memorial, while the vista is under construction, as part of their orientation to community service.

This Saturday, October 18th at 2pm, the Bayview community will dedicate the Quesada Gardens Founders’ Memorial, a new community-generated public space at Newhall and Quesada which crowns a hill above the Quesada Gardens’ community mural.

A plaque, generously donated by Mayor Gavin Newsom, will be unveiled. The plaque acknowledges the community heroism of garden co-founders Karl Paige and Annette Smith, and recognizes the importance of community-building groups like the Quesada Gardens Initiative.

Volunteers and residents have been working hard for nearly a year to create what is an elegant sitting area overlooking the Quesada Garden, the Bayview neighborhood, and the San Francisco Bay. The Founders’ Memorial is a major component of the Quesada Gardens community’s vision of creating a destination point community gathering space, initially funded by the SF Community Challenge Grant program, that includes a large scale painted mural and staircase beautification project.

Bayview resident Steven Aiello provided pro bono design services for the project, and led construction with loads of help from other residents, including James Ross and Steve Jordan, and from Stanford University and University of San Francisco volunteers.  The vista includes a bench and planters donated by Flora Grubb Nursery, and a rock garden created with help from DPW.

This is a special moment in the life of the Bayview community as we remember Karl who passed away just over a year ago, and celebrate Annette’s ongoing contributions. Everyone is invited to share in the community spirit that has transformed a challenged area of Bayview, and generated massive attention for the strength and potential coursing through this unique neighborhood.

Initial project funding was provided by the SF Community Challenge Grant Program. Additional funding came from SF Department of the Environment, Kaiser Permanente, and California Pacific Medical Center

Quesada Gardens Initiative builds community in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood. www.quesadagardens.org

Honoring founders one stone at a time

There are many heroes in the story of how community was built on Quesada. Now, the Board of Directors and the members of the Quesada Gardens Initiative are acknowledging the folks who started it all – Karl Paige, Annette Smith and their neighbors who joined with them – with a vista already taking shape on the hilltop above the community mural

The vista will include a bench (compliments of Flora Grubb), planter boxes showcasing ornamental edibles, and a small rock garden…all above a short retaining wall made of broken concrete called “urbanite” dropped off by the SF Department of Public Works.

Pictured are Steven Aiello, a Bayview resident who designed the Founders’ Memorial, and QGI Co-Founder James Ross who worked from morning to night this past Saturday to lay in the last of the retaining wall. Also lending muscle to the effort were QGI faithfuls Tony Tarket, Steve Jordan, and Jeffrey Betcher.

Many others have helped over recent months, including our amazing Stanford University and University of San Francisco volunteers. Our sun hats are off to each and every one.

QGI especially salutes Steven, who volunteered to lend his professional design know-how to the project, but who ended up project leading and fitting each piece of “urbanite” into place himself. Steven met Karl Paige and other Quesada Gardens Initiative members at the home of Hydra Mendoza when Mayor Gavin Newsom stopped by for a meet-and-greet during the last election, and he offered to help that very night.

No one knew that Karl, who seemed the picture of health at that time, would pass away that very evening. The importance of honoring Karl and Annette, who still tends the Quesada Garden most every day, is deeply felt by Steven and everyone involved.

Mayor Newsom, on hearing about Karl’s passing, donated a plaque for the project, beginning a wave of giving that is making construction of the vista possible. The gifts include volunteerism from residents who want to ensure that Karl and Annette’s amazing example and the community-building organization that it ignited are remembered.

Quesada Gardens Initiative builds community in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood. www.quesadagardens.org

The Sunday gardener (times 100)

Stanford students pitch in on a hot afternoon. Photo: Footprints
Photo: Footprints
Community member, uber-volunteer and Founders’ Memorial designer Steven Aiello. Photo: Footprints

Once a year, Stanford men from Kappa Sigma, and Stanford women from Kappa Kappa Gamma adopt the Quesada Gardens for a day. This year, stalwart volunteers from University of San Francisco were part of the work and festivities.

A group of guys broke ground on Quesada Gardens’ new “Founders Memorial,” an elegant sitting space designed by Bayview resident-volunteer Steven Aiello (pictured in hat). James Ross worked with Steven and the others for hours, until the scent of a cookout at the mural site below became too attractive.

A group of the women joined QGI Horticulture Chair Tony Tarket to plant new street trees, and to repair others. Clusters of volunteers contributed more work to the new food production field in the middle of the main garden, while a weeding party formed near the top.

Above the Quesada Garden, more volunteers from both schools, including Professor Seth Wachtel (USF), joined resident leaders Joel and Mary McClure to complete the elaborate retaining wall system for the Bridgeview Garden, a teaching and learning space devoted to food production.

Many residents came out to work along side these amazing volunteers, and then to enjoy “community” with a plate of food in hand. Quesada Gardens organizers thank each and every person who participated in what was an inspiring example of dedication to strengthening this part of Bayview, a model of social transformation.

Quesada Gardens Initiative builds community in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood. www.quesadagardens.org