Archive for July, 2012

Summer Garden Gems


Amazing things are coming in at Kezar Gardens Ecology Center.  The community plot program has inspired so many San Franciscans to put their heart in the mud and and make some thing out of it.  Some of the organic veggies I find growing today are artichokes, red leaf lettuce, tomatoes, squash and beets.  The native San Francisco Gum Plant is showing its gummy goodness, too, appearing white and sticky before the yellow blooms pop out.  And, my husband’s pumpkin experiment in our plot is featured at the end of this post.  Look out for that fairy tale vine next time you come by.

Great work gardeners,  my tummy really looks forward to the upcoming harvests!  And be on the watch for new community gardeners, Beverly, Triveni and Finn, who are taking over untended plots.  Be sure to welcome them!


There is also a small but noticeable vine of young pumpkins growing in the community plots.  From spiny stems, to gorgeous yellow orange blooms, to an eventual gourd surrounded by spiraled tendrils, the patch is surely spreading around.  Check out the first fruits of this labor and stop by to see where this vine might climb as time goes on.

RETRO WEEK: Peter Jennings with Peter Raven circa 1988


Today we take a look back not just at the environmental movement but also its media coverage.  Peter Jennings, famed evening news anchorman, used to do a segment called “Person of the Week”.  This report featured people doing incredible things that you may not know about.  On October 14, 1988, the spotlight was turned on Peter Raven.  Raven is a well-known botanist who has won every award known to man on the subject.  After teaching at Stanford, he decided to pursue a career as the director of the Missouri Botanical Garden, dedicated to biodiversity and representing plants in context with culture.  He is a firm believer in saving endangered plants and outspoken about how we still don’t know enough about our ecosystems to live without certain species and the effect of their loss could prove devastating to us all.

Jennings was making a statement himself by discussing Raven.  He notes the incredible surge in mainstream American culture to learn more about the environment and conservation.  He also astutely addresses the reasons why people like Peter Raven are so important to our society.


Peter Raven is native to California and he got his education at UCLA before teaching at Stanford, in his early days.  He also responsible for discovering the last known Raven Manzanita plant in the Presidio of San Francisco.  The plant, over 100 years old, has never procreated and may be the last of its kind on earth.  It’s location is kept under wraps but keep your eyes and ears to the grindstone in SF and you may get some clues on how to find it.  Recently, when construction on Doyle Drive began, another rare Manzanita was discovered after much of the overgrown vegetation was removed from a road median.  The Franciscan Manzanita is also now a proud addition to the conservatory of rare plants at the Presidio.

Peter Raven and Peter Jennings were both pioneers in their respective fields.  They each dedicated their lives to the pressing issues of the world and never once looked back.  Capture some of that retro cool energy and continue the charge yourself by learning, conserving and connecting people of the world in the ongoing movement for a healthy and sustainable planet earth.  Who knows what you might discover!

RETRO WEEK: Richmond Environmental Action


May Pon and her friends got together to take action after the first Earth Day in 1970.  They wanted to do something for the planet and for their own community.   The REA or Richmond Environmental Action was a group of concerned citizens who formed 14 different recycling centers in garages across the district in the seventies.  They eventually were beneficiaries of the University of San Francisco and, with free land from USF, centered their efforts at Turk and Parker Streets near the lone mountain campus and along Anza Street on the north slope of Lone Mountain.

Through the adventure, she also met her husband, John Barry, who also became instrumental in the San Francisco environmental movement.  They worked in cooperation with the University and established the first recycling center in the city of SF.  In operation from 1970-1996, the REA created community and momentum for an ever growing group of environmentalists in the bay area.  Harvey Milk, among others, could be regularly found drumming up votes and pitching in at Turk and Parker in his day.

Today, you will find the USF Koret Health Center parking garage and USF teacher housing at the REA’s former USF sites.

Even the Haight Ashbury recycling center was initially funded and inspired by the REA.  They supplied cash, tools and advice to Ed Dunn Sr.  who founded that initiative in 1974 at Grattan School Yard.  May and John both recall how the Recreation and Parks Department would claim credit for having a recycling program in their park because they leased land to the center started by Ed Dunn Sr.  It made them proud and it helped keep the area clean, why wouldn’t they adore it?

Things have changed a lot since then.  The good work of REA was so profound, we now have mandatory recycling laws in our city, curbside pick-up and we fight over whether a recycling center should even be in a park or anywhere else.  Of course, if you ask May and John what the highest and best use of our parkland would be, they can think of nothing better than the way it is being used now.  Enjoy an excerpt of our interview with them and learn a bit more about the people behind the practice of recycling in San Francisco.


It was a great debacle when local community radio station, KUSF-90.3FM, was sold away to CPRN (Classic Public Radio Network) in 2011.  This abruptly ended the student and community endeavor of three decades to provide radio to San Franciscans that represented them culturally.  Self described as “your cultural oasis”, the radio station sparked a huge outcry when it was sold and taken off the air without a public process.  The CPRN is owned by the University of Southern California.

From the Save KUSF website:

“For 34 years, KUSF San Francisco defined free-form local radio that reflected the city’s unique heart and soul. Famous for featuring diverse cultural programs as well as new underground music, KUSF was one of the first radio stations in the U.S. to play punk rock, and also served a dozen different language groups. An irreplaceable source for community news, information, music and culture, KUSF reflected San Francisco’s diversity, earning the moniker “Your Cultural Oasis.””

Next Tuesday, Ellyn Shea, host of Green and Growing premiers her show on KUSF-in exile.  This means you can find the program online or on itunes but not on your radio.  She will be launching her program with our very own Greg Gaar in discussion over native plants, recycling and doing what’s right in our world.  The program will air on July 31st from 6:30-7:00pm at

To learn more about the fight to Save KUSF check out:  Though it took 16 months for the FCC to approve the sale, it has gone through.  The group created to fight the sale were left out of all negotiations.  An appeal was filed and rejected.

Be sure to check out Greg next Tuesday, July 31st from 6:30-7pm on radio in exile.

RETRO WEEK: Alvord Lake and Food not Bombs


In acts of defiance, members of FOOD not BOMBS led marches and held food giveaways around the city including Alvord Lake, starting in the late 1980’s.  The message was to provide the poor and homeless people with resources instead of marching orders.  People from the movement were regularly arrested and cited for these giveaways since, while it required a permit to sell food in Golden Gate Park, it was always illegal to give it away for free.

The Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council (HANC) was a backer of this movement.  They often provided logistical support to the food giveaways though many opponents chided their involvement.  Many in the HANC community also claim that local neighborhood group CVIA (Cole Valley Improvement Association) was actually formed in order to combat the progressive position HANC took on the FOOD not BOMBS movement.  CVIA still works tirelessly to oppose HANC initiatives at every turn.  The main difference is that HANC promotes an inclusive society which finds a way to help everyone in the community while CVIA would rather create an exclusive community, finding ways to eliminate people who are visibly needy or unsavory from the neighborhood.  This critical difference in philosophy has not lost steam in our time, rather it has been magnified and polarized this area, turning neighbor against neighbor in the war on poverty.

Greg Gaar, our native plant guru and former Haight Street fixture, used to spend his days photographing the people, culture and politics in the Haight in black and white film.  His unofficial archive captures many pivotal moments from the neighborhood and brings a close-up perspective to a movement for the poor and hungry most people have never seen.  A selection of his photos from a FOOD not BOMBS protest on September 5, 1988 is included below.   Above, find the adorable animation from the FOOD not BOMBS website illustrating their ideas.  For more information check out

Stay tuned for more retro themed stories this week on our blog.  We will be looking at the Mc Donald’s drive-thru debacle, the Cala/Whole Foods development, and the groundbreaking environmental work of John Barry and May Pon.  If you have a unique story about this neighborhood, please email, maybe we will feature you on our blog!



Thursday night the Massachusetts Legislature made a decisive move.  They added the expansion of the bottle bill to the Jobs Bill, linking recycling incentives to economic success in the state.  This has been an ongoing debate in Massachusetts for over a decade and now it may become a new reality.  The current bottle bill does not cover juice, ice tea or water bottles and the expansion seeks to make those beverages part of the 5 cent redemption program.  Opposition to plan comes largely from beverage companies who feel curbside service is enough to recycle.  So, in Massachusetts, if you’re against the expanded bottle bill, you are hanging out with big business.

The link below leads to an article from today’s Patriot Ledger that details this battle for the bottle bill.  The video link above lets you see the bottle bill advocates in action, making their cause to the people in June 2012 with hopes of what happened yesterday in the legislature.

Only 11 states in the US have bottle bill legislation currently in place.  California is poised to be the model of sustainability for the entire country, especially with such strong recycling rates as those in our city of San Francisco.  Hopefully we can  lead the charge to continue incentives that encourage more people to reduce, reuse and RECYCLE.   The more options, incentives and government support we have to make zero waste a national reality, the better off our country will be.  And, to think we can do that from the ground up, five cents at a time, with the help of each individual, big or small, rich or poor, is pretty inspiring.  Help keep the bottle bill in action by supporting unique initiatives like those at Kezar Gardens Ecology Center and know you are making a difference to environmental movements across this great country.

US or Them?


Community members gathered at the monthly HANC member meeting to discuss the future of Urban Agriculture in San Francisco and the impending eviction of Kezar Gardens Ecology Center.  Representatives from OCCUPY Gill Tract, Hayes Valley Farm and the Free Farm Stand presented information on their struggles and heard ours.   People spoke frankly about the NIMBY politics of shutting down our recycling center.   The overwhelming and unchecked power the Recreation and Parks Department is seeming to have an negative impact on many people in our city and it’s time to get the word out.