Bay Area Proud

Bay Area Proud

Inspiring stories of people making a difference

San Francisco's Guerrilla Gardener Beautifies Potrero Hill

Annie Shaw believes it is better to ask forgiveness than permission. One San Francisco neighborhood is prettier because of it

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Annie Shaw believes it is better to ask forgiveness than permission. One San Francisco neighborhood is certainly prettier because of it.

    Annie Shaw says she worked so hard because she was lazy. 

    She knows that doesn’t make much sense, but swears it is true.
    Here’s the story: Shaw says five years ago she was living in an apartment on Pennsylvania Street in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood with her boyfriend (now husband). She loved the place. 
    Shaw’s boyfriend, though, wanted to move. He longed for a place with a garden.
    Shaw says this is where the laziness comes in. She had no desire to go through the hassle of packing up and moving out of a place she didn’t really want to leave in the first place.
    That is when Shaw looked out her window and her eyes fell upon a barren patch of land across the street. It was a little less than an acre of, as Shaw describes it, “wood chips and fennel and dog poo, basically.”
    Shaw decided that could be their “garden.” The next morning Shaw bought some flowers and planted them.  If she had asked at the time, Shaw would have learned that the plot of land, surrounded mostly by the Mariposa off ramp from 280, was owned by Caltrans. But she didn’t ask.
    And she didn’t stop planting flowers either.
    The more she did, though, the more it seemed she needed to do. Annie says if she had known how much work it all would have been, she never would have started. But now that she had, Shaw says, “I didn’t want to give up all the blood, sweat, and tears I had put into it, so I kept going.”
    It is now five years later and she hasn’t stopped. That patch of land has now been transformed into the Pennsylvania Street Garden, a flourishing oasis in the middle of the city. Annie, and now a team of volunteers, have planted hundreds of flowers, trees, and shrubs. They gather one Saturday morning a month to maintain their creation.
    Shaw, by the way, eventually got the blessing from Caltrans to do her garden (she called for “permission” to plant flowers there months after she actually started).
    In the end, Shaw says it wasn’t just the ground that was transformed. It was her too.
    “I think that being able to understand the community I live in and accept that is something that is very important to me, “Shaw says,”which is something that was completely asleep in me before this. That’s really heartwarming.”