Collingwood park: past, present, and a better future?

Although officially known as the Eureka Valley Recreation Center (EVRC) which includes the indoor facilities, dog run, playground, baseball diamond, and tennis court, many longtime residents and visitors still refer to the outdoor area Between Collingwood and Diamond along 19th street as Collingwood Park.  A quick web search (and a conversation with anyone who has lived in the neighborhood more than a few years) will tell you that Collingwood Park has been a prime cruising destination for years.  While Corona Park, Kite Hill, and Dolores Park are each about ½ mile walk from the Eureka Valley Rec Center, the proximity of the EVRC to the commercial corridor on Castro makes it the most accessible green space for local residents and visitors alike.  The mixed history of the park and oversized fences surrounding it have made the park more of an afterthought than a central gathering and recreation space for Castro residents. The playground/children’s indoor playroom and the dog run are undoubtedly the most heavily used portions of the complex in recent years - let’s look into the history of the park and how it came to be the way it is today.

Collingwood Park was purchased by the City of San Francisco in the early 1950s.  A recent historic context statement detailing the past of Eureka Valley/Castro neighborhood reveals how the park came to be: “In 1939, the city began planning for a park in the center of the Eureka Valley district for the first time, authorizing purchases of property on the south end of the block bounded by 18th, Collingwood,  Diamond, and 19th streets, though World War II and lack of funds and materials delayed action for more than a decade. In 1947, San Francisco voters passed a $12 million bond measure for new playgrounds and recreation spaces. With these funds, Eureka Valley finally got its own recreation area: the Eureka Valley Playground. The city acquired the last necessary property on the block in 1950 and broke ground  on the new playground facility in June 1951. . . . The original building, designed by the architecture firm Appleton & Wolford, contained a gymnasium, auditorium, and activity rooms. The city completed a $4 million renovation and addition project on the recreation center in 2006 that included a new 1,000‐square‐foot building and 2,100 square foot expansion, new playground area, and new fencing.”

The very first Hunky Jesus Contest and Children’s Easter egg roll hosted by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were held in the early nineties in the park. The last major renovation of the park was over 13 years ago according to the SF Parks Alliance website. Over the years many bushes and trees surrounding the park have been removed to deter cruising and unwanted activity from people using the park overnight.  Residents have complained that the park does not contain anywhere to sit on a sunny day, and the baseball field and tennis court are often sitting empty. The dog run is in need of major renovation, despite consistent efforts from Collingwood Dog Park Friends, an organization that hosts cleanup and maintenance days for the dog run.  In October 2018, EVNA activated the space by hosting the first Movie Night in the Park on the baseball diamond.

An informal survey of neighbors who live on Collingwood Street or use the children’s playground reveals that on windy days the urine-soaked dust from the dog park blows into their homes and onto the playground where children are playing.  There is no way to enter any part of the park from 19th street, and in order to access the grassy field one must walk through a gate on Diamond or Collingwood street and then another gate to enter the park itself which often appears locked.  The concrete bleachers along Diamond street are the only place to sit that are not a part of the playground or dog run, and are often littered with used syringes, discarded clothing, and food waste.

Six years ago, longtime Castro resident and EVNA board member Rob Anderson wrote in the Eureka “The redesign that occurred ten years ago was a decent attempt to allocate space and placate the needs of interested groups, however as you walk around the outside, the result is more reminiscent of a prison yard than an inviting green space. The densely fenced in areas create a feeling of restriction and barriers in a city and neighborhood that tries so hard to be welcoming and inclusive.”  I would argue not much has changed since that time aside from another six years of aging and wear-and-tear.

Efforts have been proposed to reimagine the public space.  In 2012, the group Friends of Collingwood Park formed and drafted a proposal to decrease the scale of fencing as well as add additional entrances to the park.  In 2017 an EVNA member submitted a participatory budgeting proposal to improve the dog run and replant missing trees from the perimeter of the park, which was not funded by the City.

Inspired by other nearby parks that have had substantial improvements in recent years, renewed efforts are underway to make Collingwood Park an accessible and user-friendly community recreation space in line with the SF Recreation and Park Department’s mission “to provide enriching recreational activities, maintain beautiful parks and preserve the environment for the well-being of everyone in our diverse community.”

Some neighbors have suggested removing or lowering fences, constructing a perimeter walking/running path around the park, adding trees and picnic tables in or near the grassy area, and redesigning the dog run with improved furniture, materials, and greenscaping.  Looking at the history of parks around the city that have seen major improvements - most notably Dolores Park and Duboce Park - those changes were prompted by neighbors and residents who advocated for change, working with the City and the Parks Alliance to gather community input and obtain funding for the changes they sought.

Any change to the park must be carefully considered in the context of current quality-of-life issues that confront the Castro today.  How do we create a welcoming space that doesn’t encourage people to leave trash, camp out, or cruise for sex in our newly redesigned public space?  How can we provide a place for a retiree to eat a sandwich or read a newspaper on a sunny afternoon without encroaching on the little league teams that battle it out on Saturday mornings?  Where will our canine friends be allowed to roam free if not in a safe, fenced area? If you have ideas for how we can answer these questions, or think you know how we can improve Collingwood Park/Eureka Valley Rec Center for our human and canine friends and neighbors, we look forward to hearing from you at our next meeting!

Housing Conservatorships Program


Alex Lemberg, EVNA Vice-President

District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, together with Mayor London Breed and Supervisors Vallie Brown and Catherine Stefani, introduced an ordinancein November 2018 to implement the new Housing Conservatorship program passed by the California Legislature in last year’s Senate Bill 1045 by Senator Scott Wiener. This controversial measure faces opposition from civil rights proponents such as the Coalition on Homelessness because of its potential impingement on human rights and civil liberties. I sought to analyze the potential impacts of this ordinance.

As a housing rights and eviction defense attorney in the Bayview/Hunters Point neighborhood, I work with clients who have mental illnesses and addiction problems every day. Years ago, I, too, experienced homelessness and drug addiction in San Francisco. Between these experiences, I am very sensitive to laws, regulations, and law enforcement that may cause constitutional or human rights violations. I admit that I was highly reticent to increase conservatorships in any way.

Conservatorships are one of the touchiest areas of the law. The U.S. and California Constitutions guarantee all people that their life, liberty, and property may not be abridged by the government without due process of law. Adults in this country are presumed capable of making major life decisions regarding their health, finances, and familial autonomy. Because the concept of conservatorship touches all three of these constitutional guarantees, extreme scrutiny must be applied to any law that alters these rights.

The new Housing Conservatorship program that would be implemented and operated by Supervisor Mandelman’s ordinance essentially adds two major components to the set of tools available to social workers, city housing staff, and other networks that provide support to homeless people. First, it expands the City of San Francisco’s ability to treat people who suffer from severe drug addiction and mental health disorders. Possibly the only identifiable code section number that has made an impact on popular culture, Section 5150 of the California Welfare & Institutions Code, curiously permits the conservatorship of individuals with mental health disorders co-occurring with alcoholism, but not drug addiction. Supervisor Mandelman’s ordinance permits services providers with the ability to conserve people with drug addiction, fixing an odd loophole. Second, for the very few individuals this new type of conservatorship would affect, the new ordinance adds a new requirement: providing permanent supportive housing.

My biggest concern with this ordinance was the potential for abuse. I imagined scenarios in which police targeted the autonomy of homeless people who exhibited criminal behaviors. I imagined sweeps of homeless encampments resulting in serious human rights violations. While San Francisco is not free from these abuses, this ordinance neither encourages nor permits these types of untenable situations. For example, the new ordinance adopts S.B. 1045’s requirement that a person must be put under a 72-hour psychiatric hold eight times in a twelve-month period in order to be eligible for a Housing Conservatorship. This high bar ensures that only people who really need these conservatorships will receive them. Additionally, the ordinance creates a governing working group to oversee the Housing Conservatorship program that includes disability rights advocates, homeless services providers, members of the Department of Public Health, and addiction experts, among many others. This ensures public accountability.

Supervisor Mandelman’s ordinance is thoughtfully crafted, considerate of the dignity of homeless individuals, and would create an avenue for some of the neediest and most vulnerable people in our City to obtain supportive housing, which is proven to be the best model for housing longevity of homeless people who have serious mental illnesses. I fully expected that given my beliefs I would be fully against this measure, but even a skeptic such as I cannot find any grave flaws with this ordinance.

In its current iteration, this ordinance would create a smart, thoughtful program that I believe may significantly increase the housing and health outcomes for some of San Francisco’s most troubled residents. Please consider supporting this ordinance so it can become law and begin helping people.

Join us for our Next mixer @ Canela!

Join your neighbors for a little fun and frivolity! Sarah Palin once said, "I can taste Spain from Eureka Valley!" as she enjoyed an array of tapas prepared by our own local wonder, Chef Mat Schuster! And this time, she was RIGHT!

EVNA is hosting Happy Hour(s) for it's members and admirers on Sunday, April 28 from 3-5pm with a variety of tapas and a cash bar!

Eat, drink and be neighborly, and you too will be saying "Buen Provecho!"

Castro Welcome Pack delivery starts in April

Ever think about what it would be like to actually meet your neighbors and spend some time talking with them and getting to know them (and not just typing at them on Facebook or NextDoor)?

We're inviting you to get out of the house and be a part of welcoming our newest neighbors to the Castro/Eureka Valley. Every quarter, starting in April.

EVNA (your neighborhood group) is launching the Castro Welcome Pack... think "welcome wagon"... we've committed to welcoming every new neighbor in the hood with a little gift and a human "hello"... would you be interested in joining us?

Share some of our history, tell 'em your fave restaurants, point to the library, the museum, show 'em the flag...share with them some of the excitement and passion for why we love our neighborhood so much!

We're going to have our first volunteer orientation meeting on March 30th at 10:00am- location tbd. We'll introduce you to our cool new Welcome Pack, go over the contents, review talking points and nail down logistics. This is an authentic and genuine welcome, and not a sales pitch.

(The Welcome Pack is a Castro branded wine tote with coupons and discounts from local Castro Merchants to encourage residents to support, shop, and dine locally).


It's a great way to welcome new residents, help them feel connected and engaged from the get-go, and for you to make some lasting friendships!


Who's in? Email me: mark.mchale@evna.org

President’s update: March 2019

It’s spring again, and there’s lots to keep us busy! With the new year, we are taking focus on issues and matters important to us as a neighborhood- and we are raising the stakes and calling membership into action.

The newsletter committee is publishing its second edition in digital format later this month. Not only is the committee hard at work pulling together March’s content, but they’re adapting their work processes, figuring out best practices for content collection and distribution systems, and also getting our advertisers renewed and making calls to bring in new advertisers. These guys don’t know the meaning of “stop” because they go till it’s done…hat’s off to Psyche, Rob, Mary Edna and Steve! Look for the next edition coming out around March 20, 2019. If you’d like to advertise your business or cause, click here- Advertise in the Eureka, and submit your payment and artwork! Be sure to support out advertisers and all the businesses in the Castro. Look for the one page "teaser" newsletter on doorsteps around central Castro, or sign up for the digital version at evna.org

We’ve reserved the March issue of the Eureka! to cover topics important to EVNA’s Planning and Land Use Committee. You’ll find fascinating articles on the basics of planning and land use terminology, one explaining the process used to interact with developers and the planning department for balanced outcomes. Another article covers who’s on the committee and how you can attend or join. You can read about Collingwood Park- ever wonder when that dirty old dog park is going to get some much needed attention, or how the park got surrounded by those super high fences (I do!)? Lastly, you may have heard about SF’s Board of Supervisors Aaron Peskin’s proposed ordinance SFBOS 181216, which is his attempt to reign in developers/ builders/ speculators who sometimes abuse the city’s demolition and renovation rules and regulations to unfair advantage. We do need to safeguard our rich architectural history while doing whatever is in our power to build more units, but does the ordinance go too far? Read up- you’re going to be asked to weigh in when it comes to public hearings later in March or April.

Who decides what gets built where?
SF Parks Alliance helps communities and parks raise funds to ensure the health and well-being of these vital assets.

Ever wonder how to bring a community dream into reality? Think back recently to the efforts you may have participated in regarding a potential redesign of the Harvey Milk Plaza, or when we widened the sidewalks- those are examples of a community improvements process, and wow, that was a lot of organizing, talking, listening, hand holding, etc. Well, EVNA sent several delegates to attend the SF Parks Alliance’s Partner Conference 2019 to learn more about the process to bring community projects into reality. It was a full day workshop with guest speakers and locals experienced in the process. We’ll have an update posted for you in the Eureka! Who knows, we may even think of a worthy community project to get behind at some point.

The Mission Dolores Green Benefit District (MD-GBD) is a great example of a community improvement project- this group of dedicated and passionate residents are working to create a “green benefit district” around Dolores Park, two of the edges are west of Castro and south of Market Street (where it would dovetail into the Castro Community Benefits District). Conan McHugh has been EVNA’s liaison, and is now inviting EVNA members and local residents to a Focus Group to provide their input on the project. Are you curious? What are your thoughts? Contact Conan McHugh, 650.722.6347 or conanmchugh@hotmail.com

The City of San Francisco is considering a 5 year pilot program to expand conservatorship in an effort to get some of many individuals who experience extreme mental and drug related illnesses, into care and off the streets.

On another important front, you’ll be hearing more about SB-1045, written by Scott Weiner and passed into law by Governor Brown, it’s scheduled soon to be considered by our own Board of Supervisors. The law creates a five-year pilot program allowing for strengthened conservatorship laws that focus on providing housing and wraparound services for people suffering from mental health and substance use issues. There are many questions we should be asking to ensure humane and well monitored support systems to those suffering the most, and it’s one of the few tools we have to actually try to help some to get stable enough to actually change their circumstances. We’re asking our members to read up on this pilot program and support it however possible- send an email or letter to SF Supervisors, attend the hearings coming up, and get involved. The word is there will be a lot of push-back by the Coalition on Homelessness and other civil liberties groups. What’s your position?

Reach WAAAAY back, and try to recall anything you may have heard about the Welcome Wagon? I’m not old enough, but I have been told, neighbors used to make a big effort to welcome new neighbors when they moved in. Why can’t we do that again? I’m really excited to announce the Castro Welcome Pack! With grant funds from the city, and coordination with the Castro CBD, the Castro Merchants, and Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association, we are going to bring the tradition back to life! EVNA volunteers will visit new neighbors every quarter and deliver a Castro-branded wine tote full of information about the EVNA, our neighborhood history, and including lots of coupons and special offerings from Castro area Merchants! It’s all an attempt to build community, make new friends and promote our shopping district. It’s going to be a blast. I’ll be knocking on doors myself- would love to have you join me.

As a final mention- I’m sad to hear that Lion Barrett has passed in December 2018. He lived on 17th Street, and served as a past president of the EVNA from 1998-2001 (then called the EVPA). We don’t have many details, and if you can share pictures or memories, we’ll be sure to include them in the March newsletter.

As you can see, there’s a lot going on in Eureka Valley, and I’m looking forward to seeing you around the neighborhood, be sure to say “hello”.

Our next general meeting is:

Wednesday, March 27th

7:00pm to 8:30

Doors open about 6:45pm

Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy on 19th at Collingwood in the Cafeteria

EVNA Meet & Greet A fun afternoon

We had over 50 neighbors in attendance over the course of the afternoon. Poesia created a delicious buffet paid for by EVNA.

Below are a few photos from the event. Check back here for our next neighborhood Meet & Greet!

On Saturday, February 9th, EVNA hosted a neighborhood Meet & Greet at Poesia Restaurant on 18th Street.

The neighbors mingle at Poesia
Neighbors gather at Poesia for the EVNA Meet and Greet on February 9th.

January 2019 Meeting Update

Joe Applebaum and Stu Maddux present on the epidemic of loneliness hitting our culture.

Here's What You May Have Missed...

Many thanks to those who made our January 2019 general meeting quite fun and informative.

Stu Maddux and Joe Applebaum are documentarians working on their newest project: The Minister of Loneliness. They're making a film about the increasing phenomenon of loneliness in our ever more connected culture- an epidemic found in nearly every country and on most continents. Young adults and seniors are two of the most susceptible groups to experience a growing sense of disconnect. The symptoms are sometimes hard to identify, but often are related to feelings of despondency, physical lethargy, isolation and depression. Our audience came up with some easy steps to safeguard our well-being: take a walk around the block and say "hello" to those you meet. Call someone you trust and ask for help. Create boundaries for healthy use of social media. Join a local group like EVNA, a church, a bowling league- anything to get out of your house and engaged with others.

Click here to learn how you can support the project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wllvgf9Cu_U

The Castro Mission Medical Facility is going to get an upgrade.

We also learned about the proposed upgrades to the Castro-Mission Medical Facility on 18th Street. The interior floor plan is going to flip allowing for bigger exam rooms, a staff break room, and better offices, and on the outside, there will seismic fittings and a makeover to freshen the building look, including a reconfiguration of the landscaping removing the overgrown eucalyptus trees and planting more Mexican Fan Palm trees.

Supervisor Mandelman made a cameo appearance, giving us an update on his on-going work to address homelessness and improve street conditions in our neighborhood, District 8 and the city at large. Especially important to deal with the most severe cases of mental distress that we see daily, is our support of SB1045. Rafael anticipates there will be well organized resistance to SB1045 by the Coalition on the Homeless and other civil liberties groups when the proposal is presented at the Board of Supervisors meeting, and has asked that we show up to weigh in as residents. EVNA will let members and residents know when the meeting is scheduled.

We also presented the Castro Welcome Packet- this project is result of months of collaboration by the neighborhood groups: DTNA, EVNA, Castro Merchants and the CDB, working together as the Castro Retail Strategy group. The idea is welcome new residents moving into the area, promote the neighborhood association, and encouraging them to shop our Castro businesses. We've designed a cool looking wine tote with Castro branding on it, and it will contain information on the local neighborhood group and as many discount and special offer to Castro businesses as possible. EVNA is looking forward to welcoming our new neighbors, and we are looking for volunteers to get them delivered!

Don't Forget:
Neighborhood Meet & Greet!

Saturday, Feb 9th from 3-5pm
Poesia Osteria Italiana

4072 18th Street between Castro and Hartford Streets
Passed hors d'oeuvres and cash bar

Next General Meeting is:
Wednesday, March 27th, 7pm-8:30pm
Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy
19th at Collingwood Streets

Working to Improve Life in Eureka Valley Since 1881