Tag Archives: Literacy for Environmental Justice

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.

Hell or high water? One is certain.

by Justin P. Clark and Literacy for Environmental Justice

Anthony Khalil at LEJ has two important reminders of why a healthy environment is important: his kids.  Photo: Footprints
Anthony Khalil at LEJ has two important reminders of why a healthy environment is important: his kids. Photo: Footprints

Stories of environmental issues having a negative impact on an individual’s life and home happen far too often in our community. Often we find hope and inspiration in the stories of others.

On Saturday, August 29, the EcoCenter at Heron’s Head Park is hosting a screening and discussion of Bay Area filmmaker Leah Mahan’s documentary, “Come Hell or High Water.” The film follows the journey of Derrick Evans, a man who leads a struggle for self-determination and environmental justice in his hometown on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Following the film there will be a discussion with Mahan and Bayview Hunters Point youth who work as local Eco-stewards with Literacy for Environmental Justice. Discussion will focus on how this story of environmental disaster and grassroots leadership speaks to challenges faced by Bay Area communities, and hopes for the future.

More information and tickets

Quesada Avenue extension may carve up open space

Jim Ansbro on Bayview Hill 6-16-2015
Local denizen, Jim Ansbro, at the Palou-Phelps Mini Park just below Quesada Hill where a street extension could eliminate a community-serving natural asset. Photo: Footprints

The steep, craggy hill that interrupts Quesada Avenue just west of the Quesada Gardens is the subject of debate.  While most of the hill’s land is public, at some point in history the City drew a “ghost” or “paper” street extending Quesada Avenue through the hill as access for four parcels of private land.

It seems that a private investor took a gamble that the City would build the street and install utilities.  RL&C Investment LLC purchased lots that are currently landlocked behind existing homes on the crest.  The owner wants to build two 3-story houses.

It’s unfortunate, either for the owner or the neighborhood depending on how all this turns out, that the hill is the best source for Bayview’s native plants.  Literacy for Environmental Justice propagates those plants for habitat restoration along the waterfront.

When you stand on the hill and think about its value to the natural environment, and then think about how rapidly the open space we all need to stay healthy and sane is dwindling, it’s disheartening to imagine bulldozers carving it all up.

– Jeffrey Betcher

Bayview’s natural heritage survives

Palou HillThere is a hill in Bayview that, although it is completely surrounded by people and houses, has inspired environmentalists from Literacy for Environmental Justice for years.  It’s the hill west of 3rd Street that interrupts Quesada Avenue between the Quesada Gardens side and where it picks up again heading toward Bayshore.

At a glance, the scraggly hill doesn’t look like much.  To most neighbors, it is an asset primarily because it is parkland and no one can build on it. But to LEJ’s Patrick Rump and Anthony Khalil, who have explored the plants there to discover what grew before invasive species obscured the City’s landscape, this hill is fascinating.  And that is a good thing for all of us.

Working with youth, Patrick and Anthony have been propagating plants they’ve found on the hill in their Native Plant Nursery, plants that are then used in habitat restoration along the waterfront.

On Tuesday, June 16th from 9 to 11 am, everyone can experience this touchstone of the area’s natural heritage when scientists, including weekend scientists, document every living thing that can be observed in this rare open space resource.  Meet at the Palou-Phelps Mini Park at the bottom of the hill.

Newcomb residents celebrate with participation

Newcomb work dayA community gathering to mark the completion of the Newcomb Model Block Project was held last week, and another is scheduled for June 28th between 10am and 2pm.

Literacy for Environmental Justice and local residents are providing food and drinks for anyone willing to lend a hand with gardening. What better way to recognize the neighbors who have been helping maintain the block over the past few years?

According to an email from LEJ, the work days are meant “to celebrate the success of the project by promoting greater community participation and awareness about green infrastructure.”

The project was funded by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and was completed in 2011.  The EPA has funded a study to better understand how the project is improving the environment by reducing storm water runoff. The study could help the City better understand how to design storm water infrastructure that beautifies the streetscape.

EcoCenter to be managed by The Aquarium of the Bay

Photo: Port of SF

The Aquarium of the Bay, headquartered at Pier 39, will operate the EcoCenter at Heron’s Head Park located at India Basin in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood. Officials from the Port of San Francisco asked the Port Commission for approval of a $1 a year, five year lease for the aquarium.

Heron’s Head Park is a 22-acres waterfront fixture that is home to restored habitat, a nature trail, dog run, and an off-the-grid EcoCenter that demonstrates a living roof, solar power generation, and rainwater collection.

According to a SF Chronicle report by John Wildermuth, The Aquarium of the Bay will operate the building with support from the A. Philip Randolph Institute and City College.

The aquarium’s parent group, the Bay Institute of Aquarium Foundation, plans to continue EcoCenter programming already underway for at least four days a week, including Saturdays. The aquarium organization could take control of the EcoCenter as early as next month.

The EcoCenter was built, beginning in 2009 by Literacy for Environmental Justice. That group ended its lease for the EcoCenter in December.

The waterfront land includes a salt marsh that attracts shorebirds, waterfowl, aquatic wildlife, as well as birdwatchers and hikers of the human variety.

LEJ grows next generation of environmentalists

Anthony Khalil works with youth and volunteers
at the LEJ nursery at Candlestick Park.  Photo: Footprints
Volunteerism is driving grassroots change in Bayview Hunters Point.  Literacy for Environmental Justice has shared that “over 1900 loyal volunteers and students collectively invested 10,000 hours to restoring local ecology….”

That’s important, not just because there’s work needing done (they’ve grown over 10,000 plants at the new wetlands at Yosemite Slough), but because the volunteers themselves can have meaningful, even transformative experiences.  Here’s what two LEJ youth have said:

“I liked how we had a chance to work with youth of the Bayview neighborhood and we all got the chance of working together to do something positive.”  – Renneka Jones LEJ Youth Intern

“I improved my communication skills, gardening skills, public speaking skills, and also my follow-through skills.” – Jose Jimenez LEJ Youth Intern

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

Eco-Stewards at Candlestick

Anthony Khalil welcomes visitors to the garden.

The Candlestick Point Eco-Stewards Project is a new project with some well-known leadership. It emerged from Literacy for Environmental Justice’s Bay Youth for the Environment Program last year.

Building on work with nearly 1,000 volunteers who grew and planted 10,000 plants in the new wetlands at Yosemite Slough Candlestick Point SRA, the organizers hope to expand their youth and volunteer programs at Candlestick Point this year.

Key program partners include California State Parks, California State Parks Foundation, the SF Department of Children, Youth and Their Families, the SF Department of the Environment, National Environmental Education Fund, National Audubon Society, Golden Gate Audubon Society, Donna Plunkett, Tom Phillips, Margo Bors, Vic Photo, Sun Ray Harvest, LLC, Save the Bay, Design Action and Inkworks Press, the Presidio Native Plant Nursery, Pamela Calvert, Eric Wright and Channel Lumber, and John Anderson.

The Eco-Stewards program needs individual volunteers and volunteer groups. For more information, call 415.282.6840, email Community Programs Manager Anthony Khalil or Director of Stewardship Program Patrick Rump, or go online.

Anthony Khalil
Patrick Rump
Garden and mural at Candlestick Point
Greenhouse at Candlestick.
Ted Fang (right) talks with Anthony about a new Asian-themed open space project.

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

Bayview Hunters Point is "Constructionville"

If you live in Bayview Hunters Point, you live in “Constructionville.”

Especially along the waterfront, at Hunters Point Shipyard and on Hunters Point Hill … where natural beauty competes with heavy machinery … life is driven as much by blueprints as the needs of people who live in those places.

Pictures taken in the area last week offer a glimpse of economic promise and current conditions: unpleasant for even the most development-friendly resident.

Love it or hate it, urban planning and large scale development are now reshaping the neighborhood, and creating complicated quality of life and health issues for residents. That is surprising to no one who understands that Bayview Hunters Point’s population will double in 20 years, and that the neighborhood is home to one of the largest swaths of urban development in the country.

A bicycle path with an unusually robust barrier from traffic waits to be biked as a truck drives by on Cargo Way.  The Blue Greenway project is incorporated into the plan.

The first Hunters View Housing was built in 1956, and in recent years became emblematic of public housing injustice as construction created health problems for residents and the structures themselves deteriorated dramatically.  It was torn down to make way for the more imposing structure, pictured, rising from the Northern slope of Hunters Point Hill.

The grain elevator and cranes near RE Resources are considered part of the northern gateway to Bayview Hunters Point, and will be the site of an arts installation under the jurisdiction of the Port of SF with facilitation from the SF Arts Commission.

This semi-circular concrete structure is one of two that will create a gateway and seating area for those entering Heron’s Head Park and the EcoCenter built by Literacy for Environmental Justice.
Quesada Gardens Initiative builds community in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood. www.quesadagardens.org

The Russians came…and helped out!

Photos: Bayview Footprints

On Sunday, Quesada Gardens hosted over fifty Stanford University students and Russian student delegates who were in the country to attend a conference at the University. After a brief orientation to community-building in Bayview, the students got their hands dirty in the Quesada Garden, Latona Community Garden, and Bridgeview Teaching & Learning Garden. Spring weeds were the only losers!

The day was Большое удовольствие (that’s “big fun,” if your Russian is a little rusty).

“I can’t believe those guys got the three stumps we’ve been wrestling with out of the ground!” – James

“Bayview is the most whimsical neighborhood in San Francisco.” – Jacob

“Some of us don’t understand the concept of American community service, and why people do this for free.” – Anda (Russian delegation organizer)

The EcoCenter at Heron’s Head, which Literacy for Environmental Justice says is the Bay Area’s first environmental justice education center, officially opened as part of “People’s Earth Day” environmental justice celebration.

The event included live entertainment with Jaye and Friends, food, interactive tours, raffle prizes, bird tours led by SF Nature, and the unveiling of a signature heron sculpture designed and created by metal artist Daniel Macchiarini.

Footprints congratulates everyone at LEJ for this achievement.

Photo: Footprints

On the same big Bayview day, the Bayview Opera House hosted kid-friendly activities that promoted health and creative expression. “Rock Extinction,” the sculpture garden created by Mexican artist, Porfirio Vazquez was on display.

Organizers at the City’s Sunday Streets program closed parts of Third Street on Sunday to make walking, jogging, skating or biking between activities safe and fun.

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