Friday, January 27, 2012

How do you "improve" a landmark?

Neighbors and allies of Quesada Gardens Initiative gathered to discuss possible changes to the landmark public space on the 1700 block of Quesada Avenue in the heart of Bayview, on Saturday February 18th, following the weekly Every Saturday Volunteer Day.  Ideas about one of the City's most beloved public spaces flowed.

The Quesada Gardens Initiative, the organization that started when Annette Smith and Karl Paige first planted a garden on the median strip on the 1700 block of Quesada Avenue, invited all those who care about this lovely place to participate.  Like most Quesada Gardens Initiative events it was an informal and fun gathering that aimed to accomplish important things:
  • Protect the spirit and history of the project, especially the many special parts of the current median strip developed by Annette, Karl and others who joined in with them during the early days of the project.
  • Hear from newer neighbors about their experience on the block, and about how the median strip can reflect it.
  • Present new ideas that project groups focused on specific sections of the median strip have come up with.
For more, here are the notes (thank you, Sonia-Lynn!) from this community gathering:

Quesada Gardens Community Consensus Gathering (at 1747 Quesada)
February 18, 2012
Residents who live near the garden, others with deep roots in the neighborhood or 1700 block of Quesada Avenue, and USF design volunteers provided input at the gathering and in various ways in the days leading up to it.  Participants included:

Kathy Looper
Craig Cannon
Chris Waddling
Annette Smith
Rita Collins
Shane King
Liz Skow
Seth Wachtel
Elliott Wachtel
Oliver Wachtel
Mariano Tabios
Diego Sanchez
Marcus Harvey
Mary McClure
Joel McClure
Scott Ying
Kevin Ying
Tai Trang
Alan Savervia
Mike Aisenfeld
Theo Ellington
Jeffrey Betcher
Linda Pettus
Tom Galante
Tony Tarket
Sudeep Motupalli Rao
Carla Eagleton
Sonia-Lynn R. Abenojar
Sasha Doo
Albert Toh, Palou
Elaine Toh, Palou
Jon Chester
Steve Jordan
Judith de Vera
Dolores Williams
Cody Reynolds

A gathering at 1747 Quesada had been publicized via Bayview Footprints, door-to-door flyers, posters, and personal contacts.  The gathering took place following our Every Saturday Volunteer Day and lunch.  Other feedback came via email and notations on flyers.  A dinner was held on the Thursday preceding the gathering for several people unable to make it on the 18th.  Another smaller consensus gathering was held at the Palou Community Project site earlier on the 18th to orient new design students and project leaders to that project.

Project Leaders from the 1700 block of Quesada had had numerous conversations with individuals in their project groups, and other advisers that generated many ideas.  Carla Eagleton made a full presentation of a new concept for the 3rd street end of the median strip.  Jacob Watta, Tony Tarket, with Jeffrey Betcher reviewed ideas about the Founders’ Memorial and the center section of the median strip.

Presentation ideas, Q&A, participant feedback
Principles of QGI – Forming community around interests: food, gardening, social space, increasing racial diversity, sustainable systems, designing the changes, and empowering residence.

Presentation #1 3rd Street  & Quesada Entrance
Carla Eagleton + Team Members 
Background: 2009 Carla project leader of entrance of garden – 25 years in design business – painter / plasterer
·         Consensus meetings with community members – drawing was made by USF students – feedback was taken from over a year. Positive feedback about the design.
·         Charm of garden doesn’t want to be lost. Homemade quality. Not fabricated. Asymmetrical, organic, magical, 99% of plants planted by Annette (community member). Plants are becoming outdated, no irrigation system.
·         Notes about proposed design by USF: people did not like the “plaza type “
- Community members didn’t like the pavement/pavers.
- The arch seemed like a “Disneyland arch”
·         For the proposed design by Carla: Doesn’t cost any money – only handwork for neighbors and maybe the planter boxes.
·         Only Expense – art piece
- Body level art piece – made of mosaic – butterfly at eye level not a grand
- Butterfly means : transformation – freedom
- Mosaic work done by an artist – bead work  referencing African Amercian relevance
- “made from Broken and found things” organic shape form  - not friendly to sit on (done purposely)
·         Crowning jewel of neighborhood: palm trees natural landscape
·         Concern: garbage - need for trashcans
·         The culture of Bayview allows creative local artists to participate in the local setting
·         The stylistic design of old proposed design – will promote loittering  - it’s made for a space to hang out. Will invite negative activity.
·         Estimated cost of the proposed design: 12 grand + labor   
·         Inspiration for proposed design: 18th and Rhode Island Garden
·         Conversation with Annette: Sadness because they want a garden and they cannot have them because of bureaucracy. People just want to garden. Design is to promote gardening by community members. “Be a part of the earth” gathering spaces – but not flat paved opened spaces. A sign will still exist, but not grand sign that will take over.
·         Balance of what residents see in front of their house and what the community members are hoping to do in areas the span more than one home. Honoring both sides.
·         Carla reached out to residents – notes are included in the handout from Carla.
·         #1 Referring to pathway – what is “fine pathway” on drawings?
Response: “fine pathway” – also called golden fine (Samples is from Broadmore) decomposed granite. They are different colors of granite.         
·         #2 Budget- Have you taken consideration of the things that we can get for free?
E.i. - urbanite, topsoil, compost, mulch – free from city. Zero cost.
Response: Carla bid high on purpose for the things that could possibly go over budget. Handicap access not included in budget. We will revisit the budget.
·         #3 Concerned – speeding of cars on street, people getting hit, children, talk of getting speed bumps.
Response. Accommodate people who are there, working to get speed bumps from city. They have brought this up at city meetings, it is in the plan to get them.
·         #4 Question: Do you plan on putting benches all over the front entrance?
Response: 3 benches – mud color discrete, we don’t want to publicize seating
·         #5 Question: Will you put trashcans?
Response: Yes, great idea.
·         #6 Comment: Compliments of the wonderful design, excited for the updated design.
·         #7 Concern: “No Through” sign – is that addressed in the design? New signage?
Response: It hasn’t gotten to the city level yet – we don’t want eye sores. Working on it, there must be someway to accommodate the signage problem. It’s getting a lot of attention.
Disabled sign – disabled access.
·         #8 Referring to artists- expertise and areas. How connected are the artists specified in handout with the block?  Is diversity of neighborhood taken into the account in the design process?
Response: The artists are members of the community and have lived in the neighborhood. One artist came to a QGI meeting.
·         #9 Commenting on the efforts spent
-       potential pathway through the median for people/children       
-       liked the organic elements – adobe benches
-       Aesthetic could set a tone for rest of the garden.

Presentation #2 & #3 Founder’s Memorial and Center Section
Current ideas were reviewed by Jeffrey with comments from Jacob and Tony
Background: A plaque was donated by Mayor Newsome to celebrate Karl, Annette and the first co-founders of the project. Steve Aiello, a resident and landscape designer, worked with James Ross and community members to create the community-based design for the Founders’ Memorial, and to build the project with volunteers.
·         Center section has not received a lot of attention. Plants have overgrown.
·         Cut back, thin it, get it back to what it used to be.
·         Major issues: safety – drop off above mural. Dig down or make railing higher.
·         Interest in moving blue pots
·         Integrate drought tolerant plants
·         Put in another bench – there was pushback on the bench in the past because of unwanted activities take would occur. Now people want a bench because they have been used in a good manner.
·         Wind chime - artful
·         Get rid of planters
·         Traffic comments – add mirrors at corner
·         Herb garden – build capacity around behavior
·         More aromatic plants – scented plants.
·         Area school children mural project on steps – city killed project. Tiles still exist. Wanting to incorporate them into the site.
·         More palm trees, some are getting older. Need to replant.
·         Tie the top of the hill to the front of the block. Some people give away palm trees
·         Idea to sell palm trees.
·         Safety first – railing – soil next to railing – dig a trench next to railing so that there’s no debris that falls into the cul de sac. There is netting on the railing now.  New work could better protect people and cars below.
·         3rd street & Newhall ends of block have blind spots and need mirrors and safety measures
·         No accidents
·         Sensory or aromatic plants are good. Scent is a powerful trigger- creating a sensational experience
·         Keep in mind the height restriction of plants because of the utility companies
·         Be mindful of blocking views
·         Tony – master gardener & horticulture has taken care of center section – cleans up as it’s a full time job
·         Traffic calming – crosswalk, signage, flashing lights.
·         We need designated places for plant starts and mulch drop off’s.
·         We need a storage container for the things necessary for public events in cul de sac. Attractive structure built into the hillside, possibly with Habitat for Humanity.
·         Cut-through’s on median
·         Poop bags and dispensers
·         More terracing and retaining walls for slope
·         Food swap area- not well used or attractive, could be moved, changed. Need for a space that’s aesthetically pleasing
·         Plant ideas for vegetable patch include collard greens and pumpkins
·         Growing edible things are questioned because of car’s carbon emissions.
·         Neighbor wants a fig tree.
·         Lavender patch requested.
·         We could define other zones in the garden as neighbors step forward to lead projects or work in front of their homes.
·         Annette suggests that vining plants could make sense towards the top of the hill along with collard greens & corn at top of the hill.  The original gardening section is not a good place for vining plants.
·         Top of hill coming down to fence, by railing – space in between - define a bed of space
·         Concerns: Pathway through median could be nice but would be hard to construct going up the hill.  The irrigation lines will need to be protected.  Utility lines at the top of hill limit plant height, though burying of utility lines is supposed to happen.
·         Comment: Kathy Looper – resident and community leader – likes the community building approach to what QGI is doing.  She and her husband LeRoy have been doing similar things for a long time, and love seeing more happen.
·         Comment: Theo Ellington – youth community – admires the work we’ve done, and is happy to see a good process which seems so much easier than others he’s been part of.  Theo grew up in the community, and remembers riding his bike at the top of the hill.  He is amazed at all the progress.
·         Comment: Mariano Tabios – whose family has been in the neighborhood for generations – has enjoyed being part of the Palou Community Project.  He supports our work.
·         Comment: Community member “Greg” – wonderful to see neighbors developing our community.   
·         Request: check in with project leaders before starting to work on sites, so they can direct you. Community coordination is key.
·         Suggestion: Use Sloat Gardens extra plants.  Maybe they will give us a cash donation.
·         Comment: Heartening to witness the gardening and transformation of the neighborhood.
·         Suggestion: “Bulges” (instead of speed bumps) to slow down traffic.
·         Suggestion: Incorporate bricks from the art piece from the old library that was torn down into new landscaping.
Next steps:
·         Project Development Committee will review everything before the next board meeting.  (The board meeting is scheduled for 3/13, but may need to be rescheduled because 3/13 is also the date of our big event with the mayor and Scotts Miracle Gro.
·         As we will get a delivery of $10,000 dollars worth of mulch from Miracle Gro soon, we will need to move quickly so we know where to put it all.
·         We expect phase one to be done by fall.
·         Project groups should think about what they want volunteers on 3/13 to do, and project leaders should be ready to lead teams to ensure what they want to happen happens.
·         We want to have plans and renderings of new projects available for viewing at the event.
·         We will move forward with the identification and labeling of important plants so we can be sure they are protected. Signage of plants with backstory/history should be incorporated into all our plans. 
Enjoy a freshly potted pineapple sage plant as a gift from Jacob.  Smells nice. Great for cooking.

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