Controversial Gardens to Replace Obsolete Recycling Center

By Matt Baume
|  Friday, Dec 3, 2010  |  Updated 3:00 PM PDT
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Controversial Gardens to Replace Obsolete Recycling Center

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A truck drops off a load of recyclables.

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Nothing lasts forever, even in San Francisco, the city where you can't sharpen a pencil without conducting an environmental impact report.

For decades, the Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Council Recycling Center has served as one of the many bright spots in Golden Gate Park, providing recycling services and native plants to the locals.

But times are changing. San Francisco now has curbside recycling pickup, and the city is ready to shutter old HANC. After 36 years, the Recreation and Park commission unanimously voted to hand it an eviction notice this week.

In its place will come a pedestrian plaza and community gardens, sorely needed throughout the city.  It'll cost a quarter million dollars to make the change, and will offer 40 plots and an outdoor classroom. For years, the city has considered the recycling center to be "non-conforming" to appropriate public park uses.

Fans of the recycling center fondly recalled its heyday, when it introduced early adopters to landfill alternatives like recycling and composting. Some wanted the recycling center to remain, echoing similar fights over park stewardship at Dolores Park and by Stow Lake.

Opponents point out that the meager cash incentives offered by recycling centers can attract homeless people, giving them unproductive busywork that can be accomplished more efficiently by large-scale recycling companies. Dozens of better alternatives exist for providing homeless people with employment.

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