Our Parks

We are borrowing our Parks from our children.  I want to return them to them in better condition than I got them.  If I have to get a job at City Hall to do that, I will.  Some awful decisions are being made there and that needs to change.

I teach ecoliteracy in an after-school enrichment program.  The program is a model of democratic education.   I start my afternoons helping to get snacks together.  Sometimes we make the food together using ingredients from my gardens–the good stuff.  I help with homework and engage with students in ways that challenge them to use their native intelligence.  They ask me questions that challenge me to communicate not just the answers but the rationale and context for those answers.  After the homework is done, we work on projects that interest them.  These projects are meant to help us come to understand that it is nature that sustains us.  We think about how we should live with that knowledge.  We connect by talking and working with natural elements–flora and fauna, earth, air, water, fire–and our spirits are uplifted.  We unpack our mental backpacks of references, share them, and find correspondence.  We learn from one another.

I tell you this because the free exchange I’m talking about is a matter of no small importance.  In the past few months, I’ve talked to hundreds of people about the toxic Astro Field Turf / lighted soccer stadium project proposed for 7+ acres of Golden Gate Park, a stone’s throw from where the ocean meets the land.  At this point, it’s wearing on me, the cognitive dissonance that happens to me when I think about talking with my young students about wants and needs and what get used and what gets thrown away and wasted and why I should even have to talk about my preference for a well-maintained grass field (very like a meadow) over a plastic mat thrown down over poisonous chopped-up tires.  Then, I think about what my students would think if, in their mid to late teens, they had to look at that toxic waste dump covered with faded fuzzy plastic and the lights on all night.  They would think–what a waste, there are toxins in our drinking water or in the ocean because of that, what a dumb-assed idea.  If I were there while they looked at the wreckage, hopefully we’d recognize one another.  In that sad moment in the future we’d have the memory of our correspondence, and one question they would not ask me would be, “How could you let this happen?”

I won’t.  Let us resolve that it won’t happen. Let’s make sure that the Beach Chalet Astroturf Soccer Stadium project gets canned.

Instead, let’s have really nice grass fields, and more of them.  Right here.  In the City.  San Francisco.  Where there’s no grass fields, let’s grow stuff–food crops, flowers, medicinal herbs, trees, fruit trees.  I am and so are many others.  Let’s tear up pavement and make dirt…

The Millennial generation that I know is smarter.  These are not radical ideas to them.  I can’t take much of the credit but I have proof.  Here’s some…



This week I received a formal endorsement from Take Back Our Parks.  Take Back Our Parks is a coalition of groups and individuals committed to keeping our parks open and accessible to all.  TBOP is opposed to privatization and profiteering in the parks.  They also advocate for retaining the naturalistic character of our parks (are opposed to toxic Field Turf installations), and for reform of our Rec and Park department to include more public input into decisions to be made about our public spaces.  I applaud the efforts of Take Back Our Parks.  Their endorsement is very meaningful to me.  They are a grassroots community-based organization which is worthy of our respect and commendation.

This endorsement came on very nice letterhead.  I put it up on the old Norge fridge (yes, it still works; icebox, check; needs to be defrosted) in my kitchen.

I have received a formal endorsement from SF Ocean Edge.

Volunteer grassroots activists from this organization have worked diligently to maintain the character and integrity of Golden Gate Park.  For many of us in the Western Neighborhoods, Golden Gate Park is our big backyard, the lungs of the City, a place that gives us a deep rooted sense of place, peace, and solace in the context of our densely populated urban surround.

Golden Gate Park should truly be the People’s Park.  Faced with the ill-advised decisions of City Managers working to forge private-public partnerships, some of which are good for the private players and bad for the public, members of SF Ocean Edge have fought to maintain the character of the Park.  With good stewardship, the Park is a natural refuge from the stresses of city life, and a place where all who seek might find some connection with Nature and thus find themselves renewed, restored, and present in our San Francisco–one of the most scenic cities in the world.

In recent years, the San Francisco’s Park system has suffered from neglect as money has been siphoned from maintenance and programs to feed capital projects which have received 1/2 billion dollars in bond money in the last 2 decades.  When a toxic artificial turf soccer complex was proposed for the Beach Chalet meadow which would pave over and replace over 7 acres of living grass and illuminate it with high powered lights 365 days a year until 10pm, members of SF Ocean Edge spoke out and hit the streets to inform the public about the proposal.  Over 4000 individuals signed petitions opposing the industrial soccer stadium, the fight continued through the Planning Commission, an appeal, another appeal to the Board of Supervisors, to the Coastal Commission with a record number of appellants, and now as a CEQA suit in Superior Court.

The proposed Field Turf project at the Beach Chalet meadow has become an embarrassment for the City.  Millions spent on a faulty Environmental Impact Report and legal fees to prop up a bad project that would make a landfill of the Western end of the Park–chopped up tires and plastic–and daylight it well into the night.  Millions spent championing hazmats over our aquifer (which will soon be tapped for irrigation and drinking water to meet the needs of residents). Millions spent in partnership with a private foundation–City Fields–which picks the field materials, the contractors, the specialized equipment required for maintenance, and, as the fields wear out, the contractors, the materials…

I have researched this bad partnership well.  The members of SF Ocean Edge know it far better.  Some have fought the good fight against the destruction and closure of Golden Gate Park by Parks Inc. for 5 years.  They have given of themselves, their time, and their resources, to help make our City a better place by keeping it a place where ecological wisdom, grassroots activism, and uncommon common sense can still flourish.  I am humbled and honored to receive their endorsement for District 4 Supervisor.

As Supervisor, I will attempt to bring legislation to the table to place a moratorium on all Field Turf installations and to divert much needed money from capital projects to maintenance.