October 2012

Dogpatch Neighborhood Association Works to Maintain Historic Industrial Area

By Sasha Lekach

Dogpatch residents tend to be well aware of their neighborhood’s industrial roots. For the past decade and a half the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association (DNA) has advocated to maintain the area’s historical legacy, while fostering a family-oriented, community-friendly vibe.

At last month’s bi-monthly DNA meeting, held at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) offices on Minnesota and 19th streets, in the heart of the “Dogpatch Historical District” — a 2005 designation that was one of the association’s major achievements — the group tackled land use issues, voted on how to spend association funds, and collected a few new paying members who were attending their first gathering.

According to the group’s president, Dogpatch resident and web designer Janet Carpinelli, DNA emerged from the Lower Potrero Hill Neighborhood Association, which had initially formed in the 1970s in response to a proposed Muni facility, now the Woods Division operations building, at 22nd and Indiana streets. That group continued until the mid-1990s, when it folded into the Potrero Boosters Neighborhood Association. “People down here wanted their own group,” said Carpinelli. By 1998 DNA was established.

Carpinelli has served as DNA’s president for four years. Previously she was vice president. She noted that she can’t lead the group forever, but “we don’t have people banging down the door to become board members.” Carpinelli arrived in Dogpatch in 1981 as a renter, and bought a home on Minnesota Street in 1983. Before helping to start DNA she was involved with the Potrero Hill League of Active Neighbors, which also focused on planning and quality of neighborhood life issues, but went defunct in the early-1990s.

DNA offers different membership levels, starting at $25 a year for an individual resident and $35 for a household or business. Members must live, work or own property in Dogpatch, defined as the area bound by the Bay to the east, Cesar Chavez to the south, Interstate Highway 280 to the west and Mariposa to the north. “We try to encourage as many people to join, pay dues and donate,” Carpinelli said. DNA’s five member board includes overlapping members of GreenTrust San Francisco — which pushes for greening of the Central Waterfront, and is also led by Carpinelli — and its members include large numbers of Booster participants, something Carpinelli encourages. “We work together with the Boosters,” she said. DNA board member David Siegel also serves on GreenTrust’s board.

DNA board member Jared Doumani, who has served as treasurer for the last three years, has lived on Tennessee Street, just blocks from the Hells Angels San Francisco chapter clubhouse on Tennessee and 23rd streets, for the past 11 years. Doumani, who owns Persnickety Painters on Tennessee and 20th streets, said he joined DNA more than a decade ago for the benefit of “knowing what was going on in the neighborhood.” He noted that the association is membership-driven, with no major fundraisers or other money sources, and just $8,000 in its reserves.

Membership coordinator and San Francisco native Vanessa Aquino has lived on Tennessee Street since 2003, and became a board member in 2009. She initially joined because she “wanted to voice an opinion for the people who live here.” According to Aquino, the wide-ranging issues the group covers demand a quick learning curve, but she’s catching on and meeting lots of neighbors in the process. Aquino live-blogs DNA meetings for those attending online, and has ramped-up the group’s social media, tweeting group updates and maintaining a Facebook page. The Latina young professional — who works as a graduate school adviser at the Academy of Art— observed that members tend to be older, European-American, long-time Dogpatch residents, but slowly younger families and professionals new to the neighborhood are joining.

Last month’s meeting agenda was mapped out to the minute, with no breaks scheduled, and little room for chatter or idle comment. The gathering, led by Carpinelli, with members seated around a large boardroom table in a top floor conference space, felt something like a high-powered executive discussion. Compared to other community group meetings, which feature snacks and social time, DNA is all business once the 7 p.m. start time commences. “It’s always a heavy agenda, so it’s hard to fool around,” Carpinelli said, noting that members felt that monthly meetings were too frequent, making the bi-monthly gatherings meatier.

Attendees of the two-hour-plus meeting included Dogpatch resident and City Attorney Dennis Herrera, members of the motorcycle club Hells Angels, and representatives of Local 104, the Sheet Metal Workers union, with roughly 60 people packing the room. A large portion of the gathering was devoted to discussing Walden Development’s plans to construct Kaiser Permanente medical offices and connected housing on 16th and Missouri streets. According to Kaiser representative Randy Wittrop, “San Francisco is not an easy city to find land that is developable.” Plans for the outpatient facility include three floors of underground parking and a 68-foot tall building. The next door residential building would have 185 residential units, stand 48 feet tall, with four floors, and more underground parking. In response to questions about the proposal, Wittrop said that the building wouldn’t likely be approved and constructed for at least three more years. Doumani noted that the neighborhood was still “reeling” from the suburban feel of the UCSF-Mission Bay campus, and “this would not help with that.”

Lev Berezncycky then explained his plans to renovate an industrially-zoned building located at 2538 Third Street into a residential unit. Various attendees voiced their support for the development, and touted the proposed design as a creative use of space that doesn’t expand the existing building’s size and incorporates green outdoor spaces. Others vowed to write letters of support to the Planning Department. DNA voted unanimously to back the development, which includes cutting out sections of the warehouse to create negative space.

Things got heated as the night wore on, and preliminary plans for a residential complex at 1201 Tennessee Street were introduced. The concept of the 300-unit project is rough, but the design firm and architects had opted to engage in a community conversation early in the process, showing a draft of a large mass that would cover a desolate, warehouse-heavy area at the neighborhood’s outskirts. Although just a massing to show the maximum amount of space that could be legally built, the drawing spurred negative comments. Some members yelled out “This is horrible” or “This is scary,” while others said, “You don’t want to show this to us; it couldn’t be any worse.” Carpinelli commented that the design team would have to trim down the building, while other attendees pointed out potential problems with noise and traffic. Herrera, who had been a quiet spectator at the meeting, told the presenters that the proposal had to be refined, and encouraged the project sponsor, AGI Capital, to reach out to neighbors as the design process continued, but only when more specifics had been pinpointed.

Discussion of the controversial Opera Warehouse residential building proposal, at 800 Indiana Street, was differed to a special follow-up meeting scheduled for October, usually a non-meeting month for the group, which typically meets only on odd-numbered months.

Carpinelli noted that conflicts with residential developments often arise because of the neighborhood’s mixed zoning, which supports both housing and heavy industry. Residential projects often take advantage of the oversized plots originally set aside for industrial uses and “max out the volume” of their projects, something DNA keeps a close eye on.

As the meeting wound down members unanimously voted to spend a total of $1,500: $500 for a booth at this month’s Potrero Hill Festival, and $1,000 to design a mini-park landscaped with California native plants at the Woods Muni facility. GreenTrust SF will invest $1,300 in the garden project, with local landscape design firm Madroño donating $500.

The association’s website, mydogpatch.org, serves as a community forum, and the medium through which Carpinelli can quickly reach members. Almost 700 people have registered on the site, though not all of those have paid dues. In addition to taking on development issues, the group gets involved in neighborhood events, including last month’s annual coastal cleanup day. Along with GreenTrust, DNA has adopted Warm Water Cove, helping to steward the small shoreline park at the end of 24th Street. Carpinelli highlighted the annual Christmas party the association hosts for members, residents, and businesses. This year’s party will be held on December 11, at 7 p.m., at a yet-to-be-determined location.

At a recent walk organized by nonprofit Walk SF and the San Francisco Park Alliance, Carpinelli, representing DNA and GreenTrust, spoke about a proposed 22nd and Missouri street project on land on which a storage facility is located. “Part of our dream for 22nd Street is to be connected to the rest of the Hill,” she said. When the walk ended at Warm Water Cove, Carpinelli reiterated the importance of having green, undeveloped spaces in the City’s Southside neighborhoods, which feature expansive views of the Bay and East Bay. “We encourage people to come here,” she said. “The DNA didn’t realize we could have this in our Dogpatch neighborhood.”

DNA meets on the second Tuesday of odd-numbered months. For more information: mydogpatch.org.


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