Report on the Third Community Meeting -- March 13, 2014

Thanks to those of you who attended the third in our series of Community Meetings.  These meetings were originally intended to fulfill a requirement of San Francisco Recreation and Park Department’s Community Opportunity Fund Program.  However, as we explained during the meeting, we have decided to put our grant application on hold until the next round, which begins later this year.  We are deeply appreciative of your support for our decision and hope to have your continued support as we move toward the goal of making Alta Plaza Park the best it can be.

Here's a re-cap of the meeting:

Water Conservation Project

We reviewed what we learned about the north side Water Conservation Project during the last combined Rec and Park/Public Utilities Commission meeting on February 4, 2014.  During that meeting, community members expressed a desire to keep the park much the same, with as much lawn as possible. People were concerned about making the same mistakes as were made on the south side of the park – i.e., the weed-infested no-mow grasses, excessive irrigation, poor drainage, deteriorated pathways and lack of a cohesive look to the landscaping.  Rec and Park’s Marvin Yee and Lizzy Hirsch headed a park walk-through on February 20, during which people cited changes they would like to see -- upgrades/clean up/cohesiveness and areas they wanted to remain the same....generally open green space.  

Marvin Yee promised there would be a different type of lawn from that planted for the south side water conservation project.  Detailed landscape plans are to be presented at the next meeting: Tuesday, March 18, 2014; 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., Town School for Boys, 2750 Jackson Street.  Please show up for this meeting!  The future of our park depends on it.  You can find out more about the water conservation project on the Rec and Park website.

After the meeting on March 18, we will also create a new page on this site to keep you informed about the project.

Drainage and Pathways

There wasn’t much to report on the drainage and pathways issues….six or seven holes are being drilled by hydrologists at various points in the park to investigate the sources of the water that flows onto pathways and sidewalks around the park, even when there’s no irrigation turned on and no rain.  As we mentioned at our last meeting, Marvin Yee hopes to have proposals by mid-April for a solution to the drainage problems.  (As an aside, a community member commented that he wondered why the problem has been allowed to exist for more than 25 years and is just now getting attention.)

Repairs actually have been made to the pathways in the past few weeks.  But after ten months of our repeatedly making known to Rec and Park and to Supervisor Farrell’s office that conditions on the pathways were dangerous and unsightly, we now have two small asphalt patches.  Neither of these patches covers areas that we photographed and sent to Rec and Park, nor are they on high-traffic routes, so we wonder how they were selected for repair.  We’re guessing that these repairs comprise about .01% of what’s needed…….after ten months…….(sigh)

Asphalt repair #1.....about 18" long x 20" wide.....

Asphalt repair #1.....about 18" long x 20" wide.....

Asphalt repair #2.....From atop the hill, you can see how small this repair is.....

Asphalt repair #2.....From atop the hill, you can see how small this repair is.....

Weed Infestation of No-mow Grasses

Friend of Alta Plaza Park Kathryn Kenna took this photo showing weeds growing as high as her waist.

Friend of Alta Plaza Park Kathryn Kenna took this photo showing weeds growing as high as her waist.

At our last meeting, the question was raised as to why the original contractor who installed the no-mow grasses isn’t being held accountable for the weed infestation.  We now have a committee to investigate the answer to this question:  Kathryn Kenna heads the committee that will begin requesting a review of the original contract and inquiring whether there is recourse to the contractor.  Although Marvin Yee has told us that there is the prospect of Rec and Park’s signing a $10,000 contract for weed removal, we’ve heard nothing further about it.   We do, however, continue to see Gardener Marvin Moulton out and about pulling weeds and working with a crew to fill in the large, gaping pits that are created when the weeds are removed.  So far, we’d say we’re at the same .01% of what needs to be done with the weeds…...  Meanwhile, the weeds grow higher and higher….  If you have legal expertise or other experience relevant to this type of investigation, and would like to volunteer, please E-mail us.

Registering Your Observations of Park Problems

If you're so inclined, you may want to register your observations of deteriorating, unsafe, and problematic areas of the park by sending an E-mail and illustrative photos to:  (Supervisor Mark Farrell's office)  (Mr. Ginsburg is the General Manager of Rec and Park)

No matter how frustrated you may feel, please be courteous and respectful when writing.  We've found it's always more effective to help people to see your point of view, if you can do so with a positive, calm approach.

Community Opportunity Fund Program (COF)

We reviewed our decision to wait until the next COF grant period to apply for funding.  We realized, after the last meeting, that we had not made enough progress to submit a workable plan that would be competitive against other parks’ plans, nor did we have enough community consensus.  This decision has given us the time we will need to both develop a creative concept plan and to incorporate all the elements we’ve identified as being important to the community during our park surveys and Community Meetings, i.e., lighting, benches, green refuse area enclosure, entries, seating/picnic area, dog wastebag stations, signage.

We have already begun meeting with several landscape architects and will be exploring ideas with the goal of formalizing a conceptual plan.  We will continue to work with the relevant city agencies to ensure we are following guidelines and requirements and that we can coordinate, where possible, with other work scheduled for the park.  For example, the north side water conservation project will require excavation that will present an opportunity for trenching for electrical lines to feed new lighting the community would like to see in the park.  After our conceptual plan has been developed, we’ll begin to figure out the best, most efficient, and most cost-effective way to pay for the work. 

Green Benefit District (GBD)

Following a look at some slides that clearly exposed the widespread deterioration of the park, we raised the new topic of creating a Green Benefit District for the ongoing maintenance and improvement of the park.  As was noted earlier during the meeting, ten months of effort have produced little work by Rec and Park to correct the vast problems of the park.  Many American cities are following the “benefit district” model.  The model allows for concerned citizens to agree to tax themselves to pay for added benefits such as better maintenance of their parks, more security, more timely improvements, etc.  A contract is signed between the city agency that has responsibility for certain basic levels of maintenance (i.e., Rec and Park) and the entity that the community establishes for the added benefits.  There is no cutback in services from the city, as provided in the contract.  An example of a GBD currently in formation in San Francisco is the one for Dogpatch-Potrero Hill.  For more information, please see the Dogpatch website.  We have formed a committee to investigate the feasibility of creating a GBD for Alta Plaza Park.  We are looking for more members of this committee; if you’re inclined to volunteer, please E-mail us.

 San Francisco Parks Alliance

The San Francisco Parks Alliance states: 

“The mission of the San Francisco Parks Alliance (SFPA) is to inspire and promote civic engagement and philanthropy to protect, sustain, and enrich San Francisco parks, recreation, and green open spaces.”

The organization has certainly helped our community become engaged!  Representatives of the organization were the ones to tell us about the COF Program and to help us navigate through the various city agencies. Thank you, San Francisco Parks Alliance!

Many parks in the city are in the same as or worse shape than Alta Plaza.  In neighborhoods where local residents don’t have the resources we have in Pacific Heights, the Parks Alliance steps up to help fund needed improvements.  To learn more about the Alliance and to show your support by becoming a member, please go to the organization’s website.

 Clean-up Days and the Emergency Siren

 Friend of Alta Plaza Park Anita Denz continues to organize our “clean and green” days in the park.  There was a great turn-out for the last one on Saturday, March 8.  Please see the schedule for upcoming dates on the Events page.

Anita also continues to pursue the installation of an emergency siren to be placed in the park, which would provide a warning in case of an emergency. 


Again, our thanks for your continued support and involvement!