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San Francisco | Environment & Forest Defense

The Battle To Keep Kezar Gardens and the New Golden Gate Ecology Center Alive
by carol harvey
Sunday Dec 30th, 2012 3:40 PM
A new group calling itself 'The Space Transformers" faces a January 1st, 2013 visit from the Sheriff as they battle to keep alive their new sustainable Golden Gate Ecology Center. Reborn from the ashes of the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council's officially evicted Recycling Center, the new environmentally creative group offers free plant 'Starts," a Tool-Share, a greenhouse with special edible perennials, medicinal herbs, a seed library, and a library of books on permaculture, organic gardening, sustainable living and Cities --- plus free food to the neighborhood. The goal is to teach neighbors the ease of sustainable gardening. A New years Day eviction defense party happen at 780 Frederick Street. All are welcome to enjoy music, films, and workshops.
Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 was the last day for buy-backs to the The Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council's Recycling Center at Kezar Gardens, 780 Fredrick Street..

For years, HANC has fought eviction by the City. Finally it lost. Said Golden Gate Ecology Center's Ryan Rising, “They've taken it to the Courts. They have done everything they can. They are complying with the eviction.” They are moving their shipping containers and leaving the space.

Ryan insisted his group, 'The Space Transformers,' inhabits part of the site in order to prevent the City's attempted eviction of The Kezar Gardens, a neighborhood space for over thirty years. The proposed shutdown area includes a 50-bed community garden, the Recycling Center, and a Native Plant Nursery that has existed for two years. “The City wants the space to be a Rec and Park-controlled community garden,” he said. The move is heavily supported by HAIA, the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Improvement Association, a conservative business improvement district organization.

Ryan believes this Recycling Center eviction is an attempt to gentrify the neighborhood by erasing its “homeless-people-with-shopping-carts” image.

Some neighbors have joined them in resisting. “We had someone here today we got pictures of. He introduced himself as a home owner in the neighborhood. He pushed a shopping cart full of bottles here to show that it's not just homeless people pushing shopping carts.”

His group, said Ryan, is not just trying to stop an eviction. “We are creating a lot of things.” For a few months” they've worked to carve out a new space they call 'The Golden Gate Ecology Center.'

Together, Ryan and Dee showed me the greenhouse their group constructed on the site. “We built this structure completely out of recycled and re-purposed materials. All of these windows and doors and all the wood have been discarded, and we re-purposed it to build the greenhouse.”

Glass panes set into a cleanly styled wood frame keep the structure warm and open to light.

“We have some plants in it now,” said Ryan. “We want it to be a green house where we house and start a lot of edible plants --- special edible perennials and other permaculture type plants that are sustainable --- as well as medicinal herbs and other useful and beneficial species of plants to give away to people for free.

“We have a seed library --- a collection of seeds that people can come and take from to plant gardens throughout the City. Then, when those plants go to seed, people can collect seed from those plants, and bring it back to the seed library. That's how it acts as a library. You come and get free seed, and when you have free seed to offer, you bring it to the library so others can access that free seed. And then everyone's sharing it.

“Seed is amazing like that because the more you propagate seed, the more seed there is. So it's kind of like an ever-increasing resource.”

They also built a library of books on ecology, permaculture, organic gardening, sustainable living, and sustainable Cities.

They organized a 'Tool-Share' --- a space where neighbors can borrow wheelbarrows, shovels, rakes --- “things that are useful for planting gardens throughout the City or at their home.” People can use them and then bring them back. Since everyone shares the tools, the community gets more access to these implements than they otherwise would.

“We're trying to hold this space, [and] open it up to be an ecology center for San Francisco and the Haight Ashbury neighborhood.” Ryan envisions it as a place, “where people can access free soil, free compost, free mulch, free tools to share, free seeds, free edible and medicinal plants, and garden beds in which to plant if they don't have their own space.”

Dee noted,“the fight against the eviction has been going on for years. Now Space Transformers comes creating new space, transforming the space that is already here.”

He reported that The Golden Gate Ecology Center came out of the late summer 2012 Human Be-In, a “direct action introduction” to “the intention of actually gardening a space in Golden Gate Park.” Right after the Be-In, his group started working in the Kezar Gardens “because [HANC] offered this space to us. They allowed us to build the green house, the tool sharing, and the seed library while they've been here.”

“A number of different things have helped to keep the garden here this long,” said Dee. “Right now it's pretty much down to the final straw. You have pressure from the State trying to force the Sheriff to get rid of everyone here. A lot of that comes from gentrification and oppression from those who are wealthy and are trying to get rid of the visual eyesores of homelessness.”

Dee reported that on December 5, 2012, the group threw an eviction defense party. The group remains. They believe “Mirkarimi doesn't really want to evict the place, but it's his job to.” They will try to beat back the eviction as long as possible.

HANC shares the Recycling Center's eviction deadline --- midnight January 2nd. On January 1st, Ryan's group will hold another eviction defense party.

Ryan reported that for the next two days “good people” will enjoy “really good food.” There will be live music and a film screening about impacts on Kezar Gardens and the HANC Recycling Center. Sustainable skills and organic gardening workshops will be held. “We have a rainwater collection system we built here that we can demonstrate to people.”

“We just welcome people to come starting January 1st to be here with us through the eviction so we can turn the Sheriff away and let the City know they are not welcome to usurp this neighborhood space.

“The more people here celebrating this space, the more it shows this is a community-oriented space valued by the city and the neighborhood. If the Sheriff sees that and how vibrant it is, we think he'll walk away.”