When Hayes Valley Farm officially exited its interim home on a former freeway entrance Friday to make way for a 185-unit development, a group called Free the Land quietly occupied the property.
"This is a land-liberation concept," an activist identified only as Ayr said Tuesday during a tour of the former experiment in public urban farming. "We're calling it Free the Land, or Liberate the Land."
Large organic garden plots and twisty permaculture-based water cachements still transform the site; rows of sprouts peek through the dark soil. The encampment consisted of about three tents, plus a free store, food stand and greeting table with information. About 20 people were tending the plots or food stand.
Although the encampment's aim is to preserve one of The City's few urban farms from an upscale housing development boom, Ayr said the action also is in solidarity with the current street protests in Turkey.
"We've renamed this space Gezi Gardens, because it started with trying to protect a green space," Ayr said.
"Build Inc. and Avalon Bay Communities plan to replace the farm with housing, parking, and retail," a Free the Land news release stated. "Meanwhile, the San Francisco Tenants Union reports that over 30,000 housing units are vacant in San Francisco. We believe that the city should develop housing units in existing vacant buildings instead of places like this beautiful farm and green space."
Construction on the housing development at Laguna Street between Fell and Oak streets is expected to begin later this spring.