Archive for August, 2012

Once in a Blue Moon: Tosca Cafe, CW Nevius, and US


Not an entirely scientific occurrence, blue moons refer mostly to the second full moon that occurs within the same month.  The idea took hold when a journal misunderstood the initial meaning and reported the error so widely it was assumed true.  Originally, a blue moon referred to the third moon in a four moon growing cycle created by farmers in Maine.  It is also not usually blue.  Blue colored moons can occur if there is enough particulate matter in the atmosphere, like after a volcanic eruption.  The blue moon has also been romanticized via the king of rock and roll, Elvis Presley, and sentimentalized as a time for lost or estranged lovers to miss one another and pine away in film, literature and art.

The colloquial phrase refers to something one does not do very often, literally, about once every 2.7 years or so.  What  kinds of things do you do every 2.7  years, or so?   Smoke a cigarette, clean out your closet, get a family portrait?  How about making peace with an enemy?

Tim Redmond of the SF Bay Guardian appears to be suggesting just that.  In his regular blurb aptly titled, “WTF, Chuck?”, he takes to task one of San Francisco’s most notorious columnists, CW Nevius, and his often inciting pieces.  This week, Redmond gives Chuck a call to action to do something once-in-a-blue-moon style, and give the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Recycling Center the same benefit of history he has bestowed upon the little north beach bar, Tosca Cafe.   Famous for their hot chocolate brandy and regular patronage by the film community, the cafe was just served with a 30 day eviction notice for back rent owed.  Tosca Cafe is the third oldest saloon in the city; the Haight Ashbury Recycling Center is the second oldest of its kind, too.

Consider Chuck’s own comments on this sort of preservation when it comes to Tosca Cafe:

“People are reportedly warning Forbes not to mess with Tosca. Putting in a strip club is one thing. Evicting an institution is another. You’ll still get a nice sum in rent and you won’t incur the wrath of the city’s famously combative true believers.

That’s good advice.”  says Nevius in closing his latest article.

How about it Chuck?  Why not make peace with the recycling center and be the hero of this whole thing?  Then we can make a movie about it and toast at Tosca Cafe.   Stranger things have happened-once in a blue moon.

The link below will take you to the CW Nevius Article on the eviction of Tosca Cafe

The Remnants of Pyramid Top Recycling


Maybe you have seen some of the older trash cans around the city and certainly in the upper Haight, with triangular pyramid shaped tops that act as a basket for bottles and cans.  Do you know this trash can design was made to encourage casual street recycling?  What is now being labeled a threat, scavenging CRV recycling from innocent trash bins, was once encouraged.  In fact, our city and many others, invested in these designs in the hopes that initially separating recyclables from trash using the pyramid system would deter a leftover mess and make it easier for those who picked-to continue picking.



Another strange new urban manifestation in the world of recycling is Recology’s lost income from recycling theft.  Did you know that most recycling collected “illegally” ends up in Recology’s hands?  They operate the biggest buyback center in the city, too.  Here at our recycling center, we often sell our goods to Recology after collecting at our site.  Additionally, if you look at the energy costs of curbside service, you will find the expense approximately four times more to pick up a can than to have it brought in to their facility.  Empirically, Recology would make more money if everyone brought their recycling to buyback centers rather than had it collected through curbside-which is more of a luxurious option.




Mitch Reed is an eco friendly trash can designer.  His Moss Beach company, Eco-Pop, has been widely recognized for their ingenuity in designing recycling receptacles that are practical and reflect a pop culture aesthetic.  In 1995, his pyramid top trash can was on fire.  Berkeley invested in hundreds and so did San Francisco.  The thinking at that time was a little different.  People collectively thought that they couldn’t and did not want to invest in stopping scavengers from picking cans and bottles.  They did want to stop the messiness that could surround it when the recycling was hard to get to.  Reed’s design seemed to answer the call-initiating a sorting process from the top making it easy to pick and easy to keep recycling from contaminating the trash.  See the article from Waste and Recycling News at the end of the blog for some perspective on how this issue was viewed back then.  And next time you head over the City Hall-pay attention to all the pyramid top bins that line Van Ness Street.  To learn more about Mitch Reed’s company go to:




  • May 29, 1995
  • By Clare Goldsberry

BERKELEY, CALIF. – When it comes to recycling, the city of Berkeley is using the power of the pyramid as a means to save money and deal with scavengers. The city has doubled its order to 240 units of an easily accesible recycling container, the Pyramid-Top. The containers, costing about $300 each, plus installation, perch on top of public trash receptacles and allow scavengers to take the recyclables-a compromise solution to a standing problem.

Using the units can save the city as much as $200,000 in annual collection costs, said Jim Liljenwall, Berkeley’s former recycling program manager and now a principal of Planetera, a recycling consulting and marketing firm in Santa Fe, N.M.

He estimated the savings based on the cost of a crew and equipment servicing the city’s recycling containers during a 40-hour work week. Berkeley has about 500 containers.

Pyramid-Tops, made from post-consumer recycled aluminum, are easy to recognize, helping passersby to remember to throw in only recyclables, while discarding their trash in the main receptacle below.

Furthermore, the recyclables are easily accessible, allowing scavengers to take the items to redeem on their own. Previous attempts to prevent scavenging by locking trash containers only resulted in the containers being destroyed and trash littering the streets.

“People go through trash cans and scatter litter, and we didn’t want that,” said Nancy Skinner, a former Berkeley City Council member now serving on the Alameda County recycling board. “And we didn’t want to have to use police resources to ensure that didn’t happen.”

Mitch Reid, owner of Pyramid-Top maker Eco-Pop Designs of San Francisco, has been active in recycling for 10 years, designing trash containers that promote recycling.

San Francisco now is testing the Pyramid-Top in its Mission District, Reid said.

Plans are under way to market and sell the Pyramid-Tops to other cities, especially in states with bottle bills, Liljenwall said. “There’s more incentive to take the recyclables and redeem them in places that have a bottle bill.”


Hunka Hunka Burning Man Love

<p><a href=”″>Oh, the Places You’ll Go at Burning Man!</a> from <a href=””>Parker Howell</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>



If you are reading this blog, you are probably not at Burning Man this year.  Oh, the places you’ll go, do not include the vast Black Rock Desert village in Nevada that hosts the biggest, baddest, most imaginative gathering on planet earth.  Burning Man was not always a dry desert affair, the event actually started on San Francisco’s own Baker Beach.

As it grew in popularity and steam, it morphed and moved out to Nevada as well.  It got some rules and regulations and it got huge.  Back in the day, Burning Man was a free event, today tickets cost up to 400 bucks or more.  Speaking of stats, there were 20 crazy cats at the first Burning Man in 1986, while this year the cap was controversially set at 60,900 crazy cats.

So, if you’ve never been, you probably wonder what all goes on out there.  This year you can watch the festivities from the Burning Man live ustream cam and they made this cool video, in the calm before the storm, illuminating, among other things, oh, the places you’ll go…

Enjoy!  Safe travels and exotic adventures to each an every one of those 60,900 crazy cats out in Black Rock Desert this week.  I’ll be burning something this weekend, too, just for you.

These are the kinds of automotive vehicles you will find at BM-the rest are banned.

Vote for HANC on today!

Use this link above to vote for our center and let City Hall know that HANC recycling center and native plant nursery IS the FAVORITE thing in this neighborhood.

Voting Instructions

Go to

Set up an account using your Facebook ID or your email address and confirm it

Go back to and click the challenge “What’s your favorite thing in your neighborhood?”

Scroll down the list of ideas submitted and find HANC recycling center and native plant nursery

LIKE IT and add a story or comment, if you desire

This initiative is open for voting until September 11, 2012.  You can only vote once.  Thank you so very much for your support of HANC Recycling Center and Native Plant Nursery also known as Kezar Gardens.


TUESDAY, AUG 28, 7:30pm: “The Next Step In Sustainability” Community Talks by Found SF and co-presented by Planet Drum at 518 Valencia, near 16th Street, San Francisco.

SUNDAY, SEPT 2, 1PM: There will be NO GARDEN STEWARD at Kezar Community Garden this Sunday since it is Labor Day Weekend.  The Garden Stewards will return in October.

MONDAY, SEPT. 3, all day: Kezar Gardens and Recycling is CLOSED for LABOR DAY.

TUESDAY, SEPT 4, 6:30pm: “Green and Growing” on KUSF radio in exile host Ellyn Shea talks eviction story with Ed Dunn, Executive Director of HANC Recycling Center, Native Plant Nursery also known as Kezar Gardens.  Tune in online at

Dinner Rituals and Food Bank of America

A small anonymous group gathers once a week to make a communal dinner from scraps they collect.  The gorgeous leftovers from the Justin Herman Civic Center Farmer’s Market would normally end up in the trash but this group finds a way to keep that food revolution alive.  They gather the remnants from the market and other food businesses forced to throw away things due to health regulations and make a meal of it for about 30 people.

After eating to their hearts delight (see the yummy looking peach cobbler in the video), the new leftovers are saved.  This food is taken to the Bank of America where the group holds a free food stand every week, handing out free vegetables and dishes from the previous nights’ scavenged meal.  Inspired by the original Food Bank of America in NYC, this group tries to keep up the endless work of getting good, nutritious food to people who need it.

On my visit there were cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, white peaches, okra, potatoes, mint, celery, hot chilies, sesame seeds, daikon, and more from the market as well as paninis, salads, bear claws and other pastries from La Boulange.  What an incredible treat for me and what an amazing ritual for them.

Don’t forget, as you watch the video, 100% of the food you see was destined for trash.  With recent studies pointing out Americans throw away up to 40% of their food, this effort to reroute edible waste into hungry people’s tummies, seems well worth the effort.

Revolutionary Gardens are sweeping the nation

Mulching with Meaning

We are not the only ones fighting for some environmental space in San Francisco.  In NYC, the battles rage on as development starts to pick up and all those once empty lots are now hot spaces to erect housing, commercial ventures and more, but not gardens.  In the lands of plenty, the lands are still quite few, and quite reserved for the proverbial developer to wave their magic wand over.  The group trying to save a small piece of land in NYC has many similarities to the plight of our very own Hayes Valley Farm.

Hayes Valley Frm has occupied two plots of land slated for development until that development takes place.  Now, that one plot is moving forward, the city wants to use the other plot to store gear and kick out HVF for good.  The NYC group did not have a farm on the undeveloped land.  The plot, itself, is too small to build housing and was sighted to be an add-on to adjacent lots being developed.  When word got out, that this small parcel, not suitable for housing, was being taken over anyway, people got mad.  They got together and used their tools for sewing seeds to sew a mini-revolution-a garden.

Here’s to you New Yorkers who believe “obedience is not always the right thing to do”.  If growing a garden is wrong, who wants to be right?  Save public lands for environmental work like urban agriculture, recycling and habitat restoration.




Trespassing to Plant Flowers, and a Flag

Published: August 21, 2012
The gardeners entered the empty lot, pushing in the bottom of a metal gate on the Lower East Side, ducking under it and dragging their tools behind them.

Christopher Gregory/The New York Times

Community members seeking to preserve green space entered this Lower East Side lot on Sunday to replace trash with a garden.

John Marshall Mantel for The New York Times

Laura Williams, a gardener, speaking with a passer-by. A developer proposes building on the lot and two adjoining parcels.

There were rakes, shovels, a pitchfork — and a “No Trespassing” sign that was ignored by all. The goal, they said, was to turn the city-owned lot into a sanctioned community garden, and to somehow kill a proposal that seeks to merge the empty lot, on Stanton Street near Attorney Street, with two others, forming an L-shaped development parcel of about 4,000 square feet.

Soon about a dozen people were cleaning the lot, picking up pieces of lumber and piling them next to an ivy-covered brick wall. Although the visit flouted city rules, the group made little attempt to be covert: they invited passers-by to sign a petition supporting their efforts.

In some ways, the actions on Sunday harked back to an earlier era, when territorial battles on the Lower East Side involved lawsuits filed to prevent the sale of gardens to developers and barricades erected around city-owned plots by gardeners hoping to stave off takeover attempts. Symbolic annexation of that sort was used to create dozens of gardens in the 1970s and 1980s, when empty lots abounded and development on the Lower East Side seemed permanently stalled.

These days, though, with developers eager to build, the gardeners acknowledged that the odds of prevailing may not be in their favor. But Claire Costello, 38, said she and others had decided to organize the unsanctioned cleanup to promote the idea of a permanent garden.

“Obedience is not always the right thing to do,” she said, as people dug up bricks from the soil and planted flowers, including a leadwort with blue petals and a black-eyed Susan.

While the part of the lot abutting Stanton Street was strewed with debris, a 70-foot poplar, a wild rose bush and other flora grew in the rear of the lot and on parts of two adjoining lots, where some of the participants said that they had been gardening since the 1990s.

The city-owned lot, which runs south from Stanton Street, is 1,200 square feet and adjoins two perpendicular lots of 1,400 square feet, both running west from Attorney Street. One is owned by the city and the other by a private company, 139 Attorney Street L.L.C.

None of the lots are big enough to accommodate a building that would likely generate much revenue, said John Donahue, 53, who began gardening on parts of the lots about 15 years ago. He added that he saw the attempt to combine all three lots as a form of overreaching to “maximize profits” that would also remove a cherished patch of greenery.

Tending the garden, he said, “makes living in New York a lot more bearable, because we have this little bit of ground that we can take care of.”

During a meeting of Community Board 3 in April, architects for a developer identified as 137 Attorney Street L.L.C. presented plans for a five-story building of 14 apartments to be constructed on the lots.  The board approved the concept of combining the lots pending further reports and with the understanding that at least three apartments would be designated as affordable housing.

An official from the city Housing Preservation and Development Department said that a developer had expressed interest in combining the lots but had not submitted a formal proposal to do so.

Lawyers at a firm that was identified on papers submitted to the community board as representing the developer did not respond to a request for comment.

Among those who signed the petition on Sunday were some who began living nearby in the 1970s, like Santiago Baez, 54, as well as newer arrivals, like Georgina Koren, 28.

“It has been a wasted space,” Ms. Koren said. “It would be great to have a bit more green.”

Plastic Bag Bans Take Effect in October

SF has always taken pride in its sophisticated stance on the environment even boasting a recycling rate of over 70%.  And, while we often have a spot amongst the leaders of the pack, we are not Malibu, yet.  Malibu, following SF’s lead, banned ALL single use plastic bags years ago, in 2008.  No grocery stores, small shops, or even restaurants can distribute the putrid poison that is the single use plastic bag.  How cool are they?  Don’t we want to be just like them?
Well, this Fall, back-to-school takes on a whole new agenda.  San Fran’s expanded plastic bag ban, passed earlier this year, goes into full effect this October.  That means no more plastic bags at your mini-mart or small produce stand.  No more free bag offers from Walgreens or the Hardware store.  It’s time to get  that cute re-usable sack and make a thing out of it.  Think of it as your yoga mat…
And not a minute too soon.  While LA already has a ban, no date has been set for it to go into effect.  Berkeley (surprise, surprise) is already in full swing on this effort and other bag banners around the world include Australia’s Oyster Bay, Mexico City, Delhi, India, the entire country of Rwanda (cleanest in the world), and locally there is Portland, coastal North Carolina, San Jose, Long Beach, and just yesterday, West Hollywood.
Below find a photo essay introducing our reusable bags as well as recent articles on SF’s bag ban this year and the breaking news on West Hollywood that banned plastic bags just hours ago.

San Francisco Bans Plastic Bags


SAN FRANCISCO—The Golden Gate city is broadening its battle against bags.

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to make it illegal for any shop in the city to offer disposable plastic bags to customers. The law expands a 2007 bag ban that applied to large grocery stores and pharmacies, and also mandates stores charge customers 10 cents apiece for paper bags.

The legislation, meant to reduce litter and waste-processing costs, requires all retail outlets top stop distributing single-use plastic bags in October. Starting in 2013, the ban will apply to restaurants as well. Reusable bags will remain legal.

“These bags end up as litter on our streets, as trash on our bay [and are] a costly nuisance in our waste processing system,” said Christina Olague, a member of the Board of Supervisors..

The development comes as cities across the country move to minimize the use of disposable bags, both plastic and paper. San Francisco made waves in 2007 by barring big stores from providing plastic bags. In the years since, other cities including Washington, D.C., and San Jose, Calif., enacted even stricter bans.

By expanding the plastic-bag ban to smaller shops and restaurants—and imposing a paper-bag fee—San Francisco will go beyond other big cities.

Local merchants had mixed responses to the decision. At Canyon Market, the main grocery store in Mayor Ed Lee’s neighborhood of Glen Park, co-owner Janet Tarlov pointed out that her shop uses recycled bags that are considered environmentally friendly, but under the ban, even those sacks will be prohibited, leaving her customers with fewer options.

“On balance, I think it’s a bad idea,” she said.

At Church Produce, a tiny fruit-and-vegetable seller in the residential Noe Valley neighborhood, owner George Sepetis welcomed the change and said he planned to pass out about 1,000 reusable bags to help customers get used to the change.

“Probably I’m going to save money and save some plastic from the environment,” he said.

Write to Vauhini Vara at

Aug 21 – West Hollywood Adopts Latest Plastic Bag Ban

Submitted by Recycling News on August 21, 2012 – 13:16.

Yesterday evening, the West Hollywood City Council adopted the latest plastic bag ban…bringing the total number of CA cities and counties that have taken a stand against plastic bag pollution to 52.

According to the LA Times, Mayor Jeffrey Prang said,

“Local governments have been charged, I think rightfully so, to reduce the amount of waste we put in the waste system. [Plastic bags] are costing us money and filling up landfills.”

CAW’s estimate is that plastic bags cost at least $343 million statewide each year in cleanups, nuisance management, and higher grocery prices. This cost can be easily avoided.

Under the West Hollywood ordinance, paper bags made with 40% postconsumer content can be distributed for 10 cents each. The ban goes into effect in six months for large grocery stores, and in one year for all other retail stores.