Residents Advocate for New Dogpatch Center for Arts and Culture

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In an effort to increase arts and community-related offerings in Dogpatch, a group of residents are working to create the Dogpatch Center for Arts and Culture, or “D Center.” Last month, the D Center held a tea tasting during the Dogpatch Block Party and offered an all-ages flowers and books workshop at the Potrero Hill branch of Umpqua Bank, where participants learned how to create flower arrangements.

The D Center emerged alongside another citizen endeavor to turn a long derelict police station, located on the southwest corner of Third and 20th streets, into a community center, or “Hub.”  The push to create the Hub has been led by Katherine Doumani, a Dogpatch Neighborhood Association member. Last spring, the University of California, San Francisco agreed to aside roughly $4.2 million to rehabilitate the structure and turn it into a civic facility, as part of the university’s “cushioning” agreement with the neighborhood. Community speculation is that UCSF is providing the gift so that advocacy groups won’t legally oppose its planned developments.

Even with the influx of cash, those involved in the Hub acknowledge that it’ll likely be years before the old police station is transformed into a gathering place. In an effort to strengthen community programming sooner, last year Mark Dwight, Rickshaw Bagworks owner and founder – who has been involved in Hub planning efforts – advocated separating public programming from the events space.

“I suggested that we uncouple the idea of community programming from the physical space itself, because there is demand for community programming now, and tying it to a development project means that we won’t get it until that development project is completed, and that will be years away under the most aggressive circumstance,” Dwight said. “So, the D Center was born as a separate project.”

Third Street resident Emily Gogol, who helped found the Pennsylvania Street Gardens, is now spearheading efforts to create the D Center.  “There is a huge need for a community center,” Gogol said. “Our neighborhood has no cultural institution.” She noted that the Potrero Recreation Center doesn’t offer shorter, one-time programs that’re accessible and affordable. “People are so excited about the mission,” she said. “We want to be responsible to the needs of the community.”

According to Vanessa Aquino, DNA membership coordinator, while the Minnesota Street Project and Museum of Craft and Design offer classes, neither spaces belong to the community. She pointed to the Dogpatch Block Party as an example of the types of additional activities that are needed.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” said Potrero Boosters president J.R. Eppler. “I think that it can help complement a lot of other community-building activities that are going on in Dogpatch, and I think that it capitalizes on the expansion of the arts in Dogpatch and is respectful to the history and the artistic community in Dogpatch. I think it will be a great resource for both Dogpatch and Potrero Hill.”

Gogol said the D Center is hoping to collaborate with Forest City – the developer of Pier 70 – Imprint:City –a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization that wants to develop arts and culture programs as a means to encourage economic development in underserved communities and industrial spaces – and utilize the soon to be open Dogpatch Arts Plaza.  Gogol wants the D Center to serve as an umbrella organization for others providing arts and community programming in and around Dogpatch.

District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen’s office has received comments from people who say that the D Center isn’t needed because it’ll offer redundant programming that’s already provided by existing neighborhood organizations. Cohen said she was “cautiously optimistic” about the effort, and liked that it was being spearheaded by Dogpatch community members, although she said she didn’t know much about the project.

Gogol acknowledged that it’d be preferable to serve the community from a physical location.  However, she said that many entities have welcomed the D Center, including Umpqua Bank.  With the police station renovation likely years away, Gogol is looking into Pier 70 and the American Industrial Center, among other locations, as potential homes for the facility.

Gogol is working to secure funding to launch the D Center. Many residents have been generous with their time and resources, she said, and “people are coming out of the woodwork to work with us.” Gogol wants the D Center “to be responsible to the needs of the community,” and has been soliciting feedback from residents on the types of arts and community programming they’d like to see. Options being considered include printing presses, music classes, film screenings, displays and talks on neighborhood history, youth programming and cooking demonstrations.

Aquino and Gogol believe that as the neighborhood grows – some estimates predict Dogpatch to double or triple its current population within a few years – there’ll be greater demand for the kind of programming the D Center hopes to provide. 

“As Dogpatch shapes up as one of the new arts districts in the City, and as it shapes up as one of the most family-friendly neighborhoods in the City, this is a nexus, a no-brainer,” Dwight said. “Family-friendly arts and culture activities, what’s not to like about that? That’s almost as good as free ice cream.”