Activist Works to Improve Dogpatch

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Donovan Lacy has lived in lots of places. Hailing from Lexington, Kentucky, he found Montreal too cold, Florida too warm.  San Francisco was just right.  He can’t imagine residing anywhere else. And he’s mystified by growing rhetoric about the City’s decline. 

“From my perspective, our neighborhoods feel more vibrant than ever,” he remarked. 

Lacy has leaned into his Dogpatch community. He serves as vice president of the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association, is Potrero Boosters Neighborhood Association’s secretary and an elected board member of the Dogpatch & NW Potrero Hill Green Benefit District. 

“What happens in your neighborhood affects everything,” he explained. “A healthy community makes you happier and healthier.” 

Lacy’s civic engagement began with the City’s Slow Streets program. He led “MinneSLOWta,” a successful campaign to codify Minnesota Street, where he, his wife, and daughter call home, as a permanent slow street.  Along the way he became aware of a plethora of improvement opportunities right outside his front door. 

“We don’t have a library, we technically don’t have a school, we don’t even have an indoor community space,” he said. 

The neighborhood also lacks a covered bus stop. When Lacy noticed one of his neighbors, a senior citizen, using a fire hydrant as a makeshift seat while waiting for the bus, he built her – and the community – a bench to rest on. 

“I think there’s a real opportunity for the City to work with us on things like this,” he said. 

Lacy and other volunteers meet monthly to pick up trash. Boxed lunches are provided by University of California, San Francisco; trash pickers and bags by Public Works. 

“The thing I’m always struck by when you reach out to the community is that there are a lot of people that want to help,” he remarked. “This neighborhood is an incredible mishmash of new and long-term residents.” 

Through his nearly 15-year tenure in the area, Lacy has seen a once industrial neighborhood emerge as a diverse residential node. He acknowledges that the transition to working from home caused by the pandemic has shifted San Francisco’s culture, creating a greater reliance on local merchants, strengthening the neighborhood identities for which the City is known.