When the idea of a sunny Hayes Valley blossomed from the demolition of a tattered portion of the Central Freeway in 2003, The City expected developers to bite on 21 vacant plots.
With nine of those sites still unoccupied, The City is seizing the opportunity to make some money by beautifying the neighborhood with community gardens and possibly a flea market until more permanent solutions emerge.
“Obviously the housing market’s tough right now,” said project director Rich Hillis of the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development. “We don’t expect to be able to fill them for at least a couple years.”
The tired economic story, however, unwrapped a blessing for people in the neighborhood who are working on filling their communal spaces, Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association President Frances Neagley said.
She said, in particular, two 125-square-foot plots at Octavia Boulevard and Oak Street have been turning heads because Project Homeless Connect has residents and homeless people working together, starting their own harvest.
The Department of Public Works has donated granite, design and technical advice, and equipment for the dirt that sits on the burial ground of an old freeway ramp.
“At first, we had such promise at the time we got our wonderful Octavia Boulevard and our wonderful park, and we were thinking ‘This is going to be so wonderful,’ and now we’ve got these empty lots,” Neagley said. “But this is bringing more positive activity to the street. People walking around and see that the neighborhood cares.”
The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake damaged an elevated highway that crossed Market Street at what is now Octavia Boulevard, with a ramp at Gough, Franklin, Fell and Oak streets. Then, after a long battle about how to fix it, Caltrans in 2002 demolished the impeding concrete and The City rebuilt the community.
There is at least one other community garden, a parking lot and the possibility of a flea market, Hillis said.
The City has about 500 acres of empty street parks, according to Public Works.
Project Homeless Connect is considering a combination of ways to decorate its garden, including creating a rainbow theme with different colored produce or sectioning the space to make specific foods.
HERE’S A LIST OF PLANTS ON THE MENU:
Trees: Apple, avocado, fig, guava, lemon, lime
Vines: Blackberries, grapes, kiwis, passion fruit, beans, cucumber, herbs
Greens and other stuff: Lettuce, kale, spinach,
medicinal herbs, tomatoes, peppers
Source: Project Homeless Connect