The follow-up community meeting regarding Upper Market retail vacancies with Veritas has been scheduled for Monday, April 29th at 6pm. The meeting will be held at 693 14th Street.
Many of our EVNA members who live on the East side of Castro street but not within the boundaries of the Castro/Upper market Community Benefit District (Castro CBD) will have an opportunity to participate in the process for the formation of a new proposed Mission Dolores Green Benefit District (MDGBD).
Conan McHugh and Tom Shaub of the MDGBD formation committee briefed the EVNA Board of Directors about proposed GBD and the general concepts involved in making the GBD a reality. The Board concurred with the GBD Formation Committee on the process of engaging neighbors to evaluate the needs and benefits a GBD could bring to the neighborhood. The EVNA Board has taken no position on the property owner election to establish the GBD and is eager to provide a forum for our members to engage in meaningful discussion on the pros and cons of a GBD as proposed.
For more information about the proposed GBD, you can visit the MDGBD website at http://www.doloresgbd.org
EVNA Members are invited to join a meaningful discussion below. You must be a member in good standing (i.e., dues up to date) to participate. Being a subscriber to our newsletter is not membership. If you live within the boundaries of the ENVA, please join us to join the conversation.
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!
Mark D McHale
Have you ever walked down your street, strolled through the Castro, or taken a hike over to Tank Hill and caught yourself falling in love again with where you live? Simple sights like a spray of spring cherry blossoms, the coffee clutch gathered in front of Spikes Coffee every morning, or the sun coming up near the Mission High School tower- how wonderful a surprise. A smile comes over my face, recalling how lucky I am to live here, in this wonderful neighborhood we call home.
That’s why I’m excited to serve as president of the EVNA; it’s all about bringing people together and making a stronger community. The board members and committee heads are spinning up their own plans to bring our mission to life. I am so proud to tell you that we know have 6 fully staffed committees: Quality of Life, Social, Newsletter, Training and Education, Membership and Planning), and we’re floating the idea of a new one: Transit- this committee will engage with other stakeholders to engage and educate us on topics ranging from bike lanes, pedestrian safety, infrastructure updates, and more. If you are interested in transit planning, raise your hand and volunteer!
Since our last public meeting, we have about a dozen new members who’ve joined. We’ve also had 5 volunteers join a committee. We’re growing fast!
The board is working on some exciting projects that I can’t wait to share with you. The big event this spring is the Mayoral Debate scheduled for March 19th at the Castro Theater. We’re working with the sponsors to provide EVNA volunteers to help with ushering and crowd control- no better way to experience the event first hand- what an event to see all those candidates in one place: Alioto, Breed, Bravo, Greenberg, Kim, Leno, Weiss, and Zhou.
We’re also leading the conversation on vacancies in the Castro. In the spotlight is Veritas, the company that bought the buildings at 2099 and 2103 Market Street. You may have noticed many of the businesses have closed or moved over the last year, and we’re in contact with Veritas to keep the sidewalks out front clean and safe and get viable businesses in those spaces quickly.
Staying on the subject of politics, at our next public meeting, Rafael Mendelman, candidate for District 8 Supervisor, will present his positions on issues that affect our neighborhood. He’s got some interesting ideas to address serious homelessness and chronic addiction on our streets, the high rate of vacancies, and on other important issues. Come see him at our next public meeting on March 28th, at 7pm at Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy.
Behind the scenes, the board is working on our own infrastructures and systems. We’re reviewing our governance documents, migrating our records to G-Suite for archiving and document sharing, and working on getting the website pages updated with the new leadership photos and bios. Never a wasted moment for this gang. So fortunate to work with such passionate people.
See you at the next EVNA meeting;
Wednesday, March 28th
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm (come early, stay late)
Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy Cafeteria
19th Street at Collingwood