San Francisco

Urban Garden Sparks Mixed Reaction Among SF's Mission Residents, Workers

NBC Universal, Inc.

A handful of urban planters are sparking a new debate in San Francisco. It centers around a mission district lot that some neighbors use for parking.

But now a group of so-called guerilla gardeners said it should be green space, adding to the debate, it's not totally clear who owns the space.

The lot is pretty unique in the city, it's a diagonal strip of land that used to be a path for the rail road.

A group called "Green Space" cut the lock on one of the fences and set them up in the empty lot over the weekend.

“You know, it's radical in the sense of going down to the root of what is effective?” said Green Space Group member Elizabeth Creely. “And if what we need to be access to the space to shape it's future, then, cutting the chain was the next step.”

Creely is part of the "Green Space" group and they've been holding meetings about access to the lot for years. But they decided to take action and along with installing planting boxes, they've also put up signs on the fence asking people not to park there anymore.

At least one neighbor, who didn't want to be shown on camera, supports the group's effort.

“Other people, I don't think they have more right to the space than I do. They just park their cars, and it doesn't really get used, it gets locked at night,” he said.

The people who have access include residents, whose homes border the lot and teachers at the Mission Kids Co-Op.

The co-director said they drive in from Oakland and other parts of the Bay and teach primarily Spanish and English speaking kids in the neighborhood.

The Co-Op is not opposed to a green space in the area, but they gave their thoughts.

“I think that there are a few members of the community that have an idea of what should happen with the space. And we would like to see broader community input,” said Mission Kid’s Co-Director Christina Maluenda Marchiel.

According to the city of San Francisco, the lot is actually three different parcels. Someone or someone's representative has been paying taxes on one of them, which is in the middle of the stretch of land. That makes this all a little more complicated.

“We have all kinds of things that go back to the 1800's. Claims that go back to the 1800's, fake deeds,” said Santiago Lerma, legislative aide with the District 9 Supervisor's Office. “We have lawsuits that were won and lost and still we have no owner for at least two of the parcels.”

The two unknown parcels are where the chain link fences were set up and if the city doesn't know who owns the land, it cannot declare who has the right to access the land. While other portions of the rail corridor, like the park across Treat Street have already been turned into green spaces.

But if there's no clear owner, it's also nearly impossible for the city to turn the lot into anything else.

So for now, the debate goes on.

A handful of urban planters are sparking a new debate in San Francisco. It centers around a mission district lot that some neighbors use for parking. Raj Mathai speaks with Elizabeth Creely with Green Space on this.
Contact Us