Archive for November, 2012

Keep Calm and Recycle On


We are still in the heat of battle against the eviction notice delivered to the ecology center on Thursday.  The leaders of HANC met today and people are working hard to spread the word about this terrible injustice that is in direct opposition to the mandates of the Bottle Bill, Zero Waste and this year’s newly passed Urban Agriculture Ordinance.  We have enlisted the support of our Supervisor in DIstrict 5, Christina Olague as well as Eric Mar from District 1 to help get us all back on track.

We ask that our supporters keep spreading the word via email lists, blogs and social networks.  If you can use the hashtag #StopKezarEviction, we can locate your work out there, too.  We also ask that you take a moment to call your local Supervisor and the Mayor to express your concern over these recent events.  It really seems the only civilized way to resolve great difference is through compromise and that is all we are asking for.  There are many, many users and supporters of recycling, gardening and native plant restoration that will be impacted if this center is not relocated.  Currently, the Recreation and Park Department has no plan to let the innocent gardeners keep their plots.  The Rec Park plan only has about 40 plots-so whenever they finish with all the wasteful construction-they will house far fewer gardeners than are currently there.

As we strive to right this wrong, please do the same.  Don’t throw in the towel just yet-from great need comes great invention and there may be a way to turn this into a win-win for everyone if we put our minds to it.  And, continue to recycle.  Bring in your bottles and cans and leftover cardboard as a revolutionary act!  Leave behind some used cooking oil and old shoes for the free table in the spirit of this good cause.

Keep calm and recycle on!

You can reach the Mayor at

Take a picture of yourself and your revolutionary act of recycling or gardening at Kezar Gardens Ecology Center and send it him as soon as you can!  Together we can demand that our city lives up to its promises of zero waste and more urban agriculture.

Onwards and Upwards!

And check out this great piece on the chaos by Jonathan Farrell:

SF evicts one garden to put in another making vulnerable Green Workers unemployed at X-mas


Despite talks with the Mayor and assurances that a true discussion would take place to relocate the ecology center at 780 Frederick Street in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, an eviction notice was served to a manager at the site today, November 29, 2012.  The eviction of this ecology center is obscene and will cause 10 vulnerable GREEN workers to be unemployed at X-mas in one of the worst economies we have seen in our country.  The city that supposedly knows how is demonstrating exactly what they ‘know how’ to do.  Despite the state mandate to provide recycling, despite the need for more recycling centers in SF, despite the laws passed to support Urban Agriculture in the city, despite the 1000’s of letters and postcards sent to the city in support of this vital public service; they have still served an eviction notice while giving the impression to the public, the media and the ecology center that they were working on a relocation plan.

Kezar Gardens is a nonprofit, state mandated, recycling center, native plant nursery, and 51 plot community garden used by hundreds of San Francisco residents, small business owners, and especially the Asian community.  It started as a community effort in the 70’s when there was no place to recycle in San Fran.  Today, despite their obvious benefit and contribution to the community, they are being evicted at the behest of a few loud and privileged people.  The city is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to halt this green work that clearly contributes to the zero waste mandate.  This is an obscene act that clearly and openly defies the laws of the land that say a vital public service that cannot be located elsewhere can be housed in a park, that recycling must be provided within a certain distance of grocery stores and businesses selling beverage containers, and that everyone rich and poor has the right to participate in the system in a legal and safe way.

The nation needs to know that San Francisco is not living up to its reputation.  Moreover, when the time comes, embattled Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, recently victorious against an effort by the Mayor to oust him from his post, will be tasked with carrying out the orders.  Will Ross do the right thing?  Will anyone?

Along with the people and services that are set to be evicted from 780 Frederick, there are also the ravens, butterflies, beetles and bees that will also be disrupted.


“This Land Is Too Valuable To Let Poor People Park On It”

Justin Herman, Executive Director of the SF Redevelopment Agency, said this in 1977 to give credibility to the “urban renewal” project in SF that sought to buy up buildings and evict people who were poor, old, black and brown.  In the Fillmore, it was known as the “negro removal” plan and in downtown San Francisco, the International Hotel, of Manila Town, became the center of the movement against ideologies like those of Justin Herman.  The longest eviction battle to date, on the books, for the city, was one result of this movement. The commitment to low-income housing and the fire for social justice in the Asian community was another.  The story of the I-hotel is one of great significance as we enter a more modern era of gentrification in the city.

Even our honorable Mayor Edwin Lee was involved with the fight to save the I-Hotel-anyone who was any kind of an activist was.  It was an obscene and rash approach to try to evict dozens of elderly asian men and women who had called that place their home for so many decades.  Students from SFSU and UC Berkeley protested regularly on behalf of the tenants.  Jim Jones of the People’s Temple brought over 300 of his followers to help build a human blockade against the police on one occasion.  Human fences 7 to 8 people deep were formed every time the Sheriff’s office posted a notice for eviction.

The I-hotel was originally built in 1907 after the great earthquake.  It was part of a neighborhood near Chinatown housing mostly Filipino but also other Asian merchant mariner workers.  For many decades, Asians were prohibited from many normal activities due to their racial difference.  They were not allowed to intermarry with white people or even work at certain jobs.  Asian women were prevented from immigrating before 1965 to discourage breeding in the population. It was quite fine for the Asians to have a place to live together where they weren’t in the way of others.  But, when development took off, as it is always wont to do, the once deemed ghettos of Chinatown, Manila Town and The Fillmore, became hot real estate commodities.  Buildings were sold off and mass evictions were approved in order to tear down existing structures and put high rises and high income property in their place.

From 1968 to 1977, tenants, activists, regular people, politicians, cult leaders, students, teachers and many many others battled Milton Meyer and Company led by business mogul Walter Shorenstein who bought the building in ’68 and immediately began evictions in order to demolish the site and erect a parking structure in its place.  On several occasions eviction notices were posted and the immediate response was massive protest by the activist community.  This type of stand-off garnered a few stays of eviction and solidified a strong commitment to social justice among the Asian American community that still thrives today.  Shorenstein eventually sold the building in a clandestine fashion and the new owner, Four Seas Investment Company, carried on the fight to evict the I-hotel.  Sheriff Richard Hongisto was charged with carrying out the order each time an eviction was imminent.  On one occasion, he refused to and was sent to jail for 5 days.  His noble efforts were usurped by his eventual submission to evict the tenants and the horrendous way in which he eventually did it.  The eviction, caught on film by Curtis Choy, sent a brutal message to the nation about San Francisco and how it treats its most vulnerable citizens.  Choy eventually made a feature film about the struggle: The Fall of the I-Hotel (1983).

The link leads to the trailer for Curtis Choy’s film on the I-Hotel.  He describes the film as an act of witnessing.  Witness for yourself what the look and feel of the people and times were in Manila Town around the I-Hotel.

As the fight continues today to remove peoples of color and those who are economically disadvantaged from our fair city, remember the struggle of the I-Hotel.  Remember the thousands of folks who were activated into the political sphere to help those who could not help themselves.  Remember that no matter what your politics-moderate or progressive or other-it is never a sound idea to make violent and rash actions against those who are only trying to pursue a decent life, a decent amount of liberty and some happiness to go along with it.  And the next time you think the “ghetto” is a bad place to live, remember that some of the strongest community families  and bonds come from places like that.  You would never find thousands of people from across the land linking arms and fighting cops to protect a high-rise or a parking structure.  You would also never find the kind of culture, heritage and community in places like those, as you would in a place like the I-Hotel.  Let’s continue to make room for everyone making a contribution to this city big or small.

And next time you traverse Justin Herman Plaza, remember the kind guy he really was.

Counting Two by Two

When the lights go out in the city.

The recycling guys can’t weigh the goods.

Like last Wednesday down at Market Street.

They were counting cans, two by two.

It took some time and some deep zen focus

But it was still far faster than any Reverse Vending Machine could do for you!

Counting Cans Video by Charlie Lamar at Market Street recycling center.

Love thy Turkey! Happy Thanksgiving!





Prohibition and Recycling have common themes and memes

When Americans tried to control society with a ban on alcohol sales and production, the results were controversial and telling.  We can look back on that effort and learn a lot about what happens when ill-guided morality gets in the way of personal choice and the ability to earn money and survive in a country where opportunity is supposed to be rampant.  People want to be able to choose for themselves whether or not they will drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes or marijuana; they want the right to earn money doing things other people may consider egregious or appalling like stripping, selling beer or even recycling.

When folks are stopped from doing things that are morally ambiguous and are easily accomplished in a clandestine way, they will turn to the dark side of the law.  Since people are not often moved by laws anyway, rather by their own personal beliefs, if some mother of five wants a glass of wine at the end of a really long day, she will probably find a way to make that happen.  See the vile of booze tucked into the high heels above!  And, if a community of people understand that desire, they can form whole networks in order to meet the need-laws be damned.

Gangsters, in fact, did take up the cause when Prohibition took effect in the States.  From Al Capone to Bugsy Siegal, there were multi-milliom dollar industries built on black market alcohol production and sales.  Capone’s influence was so massive in Chicago, he had entire townships under his political control and wielded far more power than any law.  Recycling and waster management could easily turn into the same kind of affair.  There are many cities (big and small) across the planet that speak in hushed tones about their garbage collectors.  There’s  a lot of money in trash-it is a billion dollar industry no matter what-but the question is-who gets to take part in this economy?  If we take away legitimate and safe ways to recycle, like state certified recycling centers, the black market will soon ooze in.  The waste won’t go away, the people who try to earn a little income from it won’t go away, someone will try to serve them-and will try to exploit them.

Down at Civic Center, there have already been several reports of a burgeoning black market for recycling.  KTVU and other local news agencies have covered the story.  A small nonprofit had its window smashed overnight just weeks ago; they feel they were attacked for speaking up against black market recycling.  Without a handle on the market value and real incentives for keeping this a regulated, fair, and legitimate system, violence, exploitation and harm may become the norm when it comes to recycling in SF as it has in other towns.  When nonprofits like the Haight Ashbury Council and other organizations for public benefit like Green Streets take the responsibility to help the community handle their waste in a civilized way that improves the health and safety of an area, this work should be recognized so more people can do it.  At HANC, we know most of our customers.  On the black market, they don’t.  At HANC we have rules for conduct, behavior and abide by the state laws for payments on recycled materials-at the black market, they don’t.

No matter what, people will recycle.  Should we cover our eyes and let them sort it out themselves or participate in the process?  Don’t ban recycling from Golden Gate Park or any other place in SF.  The CA Bottle Bill is the single most successful piece of legislature to date that has inspired people to bring back their bottles and cans for a deposit return.  This bill was not written for the garbage companies or the gangsters or the homeowners with the blue bins, this bill was written to hold beverage makers accountable for the waste they create by selling drinks in disposable containers.  That waste is offset through recycling and that recycling happens because there is a deposit on the container.  Uphold the laws that work for all, not for some.  Encourage legal and fair recycling in San Francisco and all over the world.

SF Doc Fest opens this weekend: 780 Frederick sneak peek Saturday

The 11th annual SF Doc Fest kicks off this weekend and runs through Nov 21st.  We are happy to be a part of the fest this year.  Come by the Roxie Theater, Saturday Nov 10th at 12:30pm and take a look at our docu-noir in the making called 780 Frederick.  We will present exclusive clips and host a panel discussion with stakeholders about the process of gentrification in the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood and the battle against the eviction of the only recycling center located in Golden Gate Park.  Take part in the discussion and take part in the history of San Francisco as it happens.  We hope to see you there.


more details are available at the link below.