A proposal by Mayor Gavin Newsom’s administration to evict a long-running recycling collection center from Golden Gate Park requires no formal approval from commissioners who oversee city parks, the city attorney’s office found.
The administration plans to replace the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council (HANC)-run collection center, which employs 10 workers and has operated in its current location since 1981, with at least 40 community garden plots.
“The HANC center served an important purpose at the beginning of the recycling movement,” Newsom wrote in a Nov. 18 letter to staff, directing them to pursue the proposal. “It is with great excitement that I ask you to pursue implementation of the garden assistance center plan while safe-guarding our extraordinary accomplishments regarding landfill diversion.”
The San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission is scheduled on Thursday to approve preliminary designs for the new community garden facility.
“The Department believes the community garden use meets a more compelling recreational need and will positively impact unhealthy and illicit behavior in Golden Gate Park’s eastern end,” department staff wrote in a memo for commissioners.
But the commission will not be asked to approve the controversial proposal to free up 30,000 square feet of needed land by evicting HANC's recycling center, which operates on a month-to-month lease, from its location near Kezar Stadium.
“According to the City Attorney and pursuant to state law, the Department may issue a notice to vacate with thirty-day written advance notice. Specific Commission action is not required," the memo states.
That means Newsom’s administration could evict HANC's center without seeking approval during a commission meeting, which would likely be laden with controversy.
The city and some community groups say the recycling collection center encourages the noisy theft of empty bottles and cans from neighbors’ recycling bins and financially supports people camping out in the park. They also argue that the facility is unneeded given the city's curbside collection program.
The Council, however, says the pending evictions is politically motivated revenge for its role in opposing the recently approved sit-lie ballot measure, objecting to plans for condos overlooking the park at 690 Stanyan Street and for siding with progressives instead of moderates on other issues in recent years.
“It’s really ugly politics,” HANC Executive Director Ed Dunn said. “They’re blaming us for murders in the park.”
The proposal surfaced earlier this year but it did not advance during the election season. Newsom’s press office said the delay was the result of legal deliberations.
“The whole effort went to ground for the duration of the election campaign because it was kind of too hot,” Dunn said. “We were hoping it would go away, but now they’re talking about putting 10 people out of work right in time for Christmas.”
It is supported by a long list of neighborhood groups and park tenants, including concert promoters, as well as developers who dumped plans to build condos at 690 Stanyan Street and will instead open a stand-alone Whole Foods supermarket, the memo shows.
Inner Sunset Park Neighbors is among the neighborhood groups calling on members to support the conversion of HANC’s space into a community garden facility.
“We are not advocating for putting HANC out of business and we're respectful of the work they do in the community,” group organizer Andrea Jadwin said in an e-mail. “Of course, we share the concern that jobs may be at risk. The option to relocate the recycling transfer station to a more appropriate location has always been on the table.”
A shortage of available community garden plots in San Francisco, particularly in its foggy and sandy western neighborhoods, is often cited as a reason for evicting HANC's recycling center.
"There is currently a list of over 500 people waiting for plots in the existing gardens," Newsom wrote in his letter to staff.
The community garden facility closest to HANC is the White Crane Springs Community Garden, which operates near Seventh Avenue at the base of Mount Sutro.
“Our wait time for plots has been reduced from approximately one year to several months,” White Crane Springs Community Garden membership coordinator Robert MacKimmie said in an e-mail. “I have four people on the wait list and those should all have plots within a month. I know that other gardens have severely long wait times, such as Fort Mason Community Garden, but we are a hidden little spot that is often overlooked. We insist that people actively garden.”
An emergency meeting of HANC supporters is planned near the facility at 7 p.m. Tuesday at St. John Of God Church at 5th Avenue & Irving Street, according to Dunn.