Neighborhood Organizations Advocate for Residents; Local Businesses

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A handful of civic organizations track land use changes in Dogpatch and Potrero Hill, and advocate on behalf of residents at City Hall.  Among the most prominent of these are the Potrero Boosters, Potrero Dogpatch Merchants Association (PDMA), and Dogpatch Neighborhood Association (DNA).

The Boosters focus on issues that impact Hill residents.  “What makes the Boosters so interesting is that we listen to a broad range of viewpoints and try to develop a workable consensus on what is good for the neighborhood based on what we hear.,” said J.R Eppler, Boosters president.  “For example, we have younger folks with less history in the neighborhood who are more receptive to rapid development sitting alongside longtime residents of the Hill who moved in thinking their lives would be very different than what they have seen in the past five years.”

The Boosters believe that the Hill’s history as a mixed-use, diverse, neighborhood should inform its future, with modern industrial facilities located alongside homes and shops.  It’s actively engaged in ongoing discussions related to Rebuild Potrero, a long-term initiative to redevelop the Potrero Annex-Terrace housing complex. 

“The key issue is how are we able to integrate, not segregate, the different populations that will be living on the south side of the Hill” said Eppler.

At a typical Boosters meeting, community members, property owners, and government agencies pitch their ideas related to expanding open space, development, transit, and traffic calming.  Last fall discussion focused on further improving the area under the 18th Street bridge, creation of a view terrace at Carolina between 22nd and 23rd streets, and beautifying the 17th Street-Highway 101 overpass.  

“Our transportation chair took one of Supervisor Shamann Walton’s legislative aides to the corner of 18th and Missouri so they could see for themselves the amount of drivers that disobey traffic laws there,” said Eppler.  “As traffic increases in the neighborhood, drivers get impatient, and impatient drivers tend to break laws.  We’re identifying problems and working with the city to create solutions.”  

The Boosters, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, are currently canvassing for support to expand residential parking permit zones.  Once a sufficient number of signatures is collected the group will petition the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) to impose new parking restrictions on previously unprotected Potrero Hill streets.  

“We want to make sure that parking in the neighborhood is dedicated to people who live, shop, and work here.” Eppler said.  

PDMA has represented Potrero Hill business for more than 25 years.  Keith Goldstein, PDMA president for the past 14 years, has lived on the Hill since the 1970s.  “While most merchants associations are primarily business-focused, the PDMA is different because we consider ourselves a community minded-business association” said Goldstein.  “We don’t consider the interests of the businesses separate from the interests of the community, and many of our board members live here on Potrero Hill”. 

PDMA has 110 members, many of whom gather monthly to learn about changes coming to the neighborhood through presentations by private or public sector entities, such as SFMTA.  The meetings provide local businesses with an opportunity to network with peers.  PDMA compiles a business directory that’s mailed to roughly 10,000 people in the 94107-zip code and hosts an annual party for its members.  

Hill businesses are unique because they’re typically small and clustered in a somewhat anemic neighborhood commercial (NC) district.  “Places like 24th Street or West Portal are examples of a strong NC district.  It’s a place people go to shop.” said Goldstein.  “Potrero Hill’s businesses are not concentrated in this way, but the merchants’ association helps make it easier for these micro-businesses to be successful.”  

PDMA also offers its members assistance with applications for curbside seating or a parklet, or City Hall advocacy.  

Although Dogpatch is indisputably a neighborhood in its own right it lacks a community center, library, or grocery store, forcing Dogpatch residents to travel to other locations to access these necessities.  While DNA currently meets in a University of California, San Francisco-Mission Bay facility, one of its goals is to create a neighborhood community center.  According to Katherine Doumani, DNA president, the association has raised $9 million to develop “The Hub” at the Kneass building adjacent to Crane Cove Park, which it hopes to open by 2023. 

Doumani wants Dogpatch to keep its character while welcoming new residents. “We are trying to maintain a mixed-use neighborhood,” Doumani said. “People who live here can’t expect it to be quiet at all times.  The Dogpatch has a gritty, industrial quality, it’s not meant to be perfect and pretty and corporate or monolithic and antiseptic.”

DNA advocates to improve T-Muni service, road conditions, street lighting, and public safety, as well as stop illegal dumping.  Dogpatch residents are used to doing things themselves, as evidenced by the proliferation of such do-it-yourself green spaces as Angel Alley and Minnesota Grove, homegrown, community-driven projects.