New Board Members of Green Benefits District Excited for 2016

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After winning the approval of voters and electing a board of directors, the Green Benefits District, which covers the Dogpatch and northwest Potrero Hill neighborhoods, is set to beautify the area over the course of 2016.

The process has been long – the original concept for the GBD was formulated back in 2012 – but the years of effort have paid off. In July 2015, property owners and residents approved the district and agreed to pay an annual assessment amounting to $0.095 per square foot for residential buildings.

The assessment will go directly towards the building and managing of public green spaces. This includes parks, gardens and playgrounds. The funds don’t replace those coming from the City’s Parks and Recreation Department.

In November, on the heels of the GBD’s establishment, voters of the district chose a board. The freshly elected members of the board have a wide variety of experiences: from guerilla gardeners to landscape contractors to restaurant owners. Some are longtime residents, some own property in the area but don’t live there full-time, some are tenants and some are green space advocates.

The length of each board member’s term is also varied. Those that have been elected for a three year term are: Susan Eslick, Janet Carpinelli, Jean Bogiages and Philip Pierce. James Naylor, Michele Davis, Robert Broucaret, Lisa Jacobs and Michael Yarne will serve for two years. The tenures of Alison Sullivan, Jesse Herzog, Adam Mendelson and Kat Sawyer will end after one year.

“I am really excited and honored to be on the GBD Board, as I have been watching its progress and formation for some time,” Pierce said. “In San Francisco, there is a severe lack of funding for public greening, long-term tree maintenance and the upkeep of our parks.”

Philip Pierce was voted onto the board because of his expertise as a green space advocate. He is the director of policy and outreach for Friends of the Urban Forest, a nonprofit known for planting trees around the city. Since 1981, the group has planted more than 50,000 trees in San Francisco.

He is especially excited about the GBD’s innovative funding approaches.

“The GBD provides a new model to help create safer, cleaner and more beautiful public spaces that is directly accountable to the people that live in the area,” Pierce adds. “I am happy to add my experience in policy and community-based, public realm green infrastructure projects to make the GBD a real success.”

Susan Eslick, a longtime Dogpatch resident and business owner, has previously served as the president of the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association. She also served on the formation committee and the interim board of the GBD. Winning 114 votes from property owners, she is excited to get started on the GBD’s board.

“We have much to accomplish in the first year of the GBD as outlined in the Management Plan,” she says. “The interim board, which I have also served, has worked diligently to make the transition to the newly elected board as seamless as possible.”

Much of the nitty-gritty work slated for the year involves setting up the nonprofit organization that will govern the GBD. 

“This is really a type of local democracy that neighborhoods are not accustomed to,” Jean Bogiages said. Bogiages was a co-chair of the GBD’s formation committee (along with Tony Kelly and Bruce Huie) and won with 132 property owner votes — the most of any candidate.

“It brings the decisions on how to spend the assessments directly to the district,” Bogiages said. “With all the new developments in the district, which are really not controlled by the neighborhood, I’d like to see how much we can do to improve parks and open spaces, make the neighborhood cleaner and greener and add some sustainable projects.”

Janet Carpinelli, who will also be on the board for a three year term, is a local Dogpatch resident, designer, and green space advocate. She recently led development of sidewalk gardens for 22 Dogpatch homes and Scott School.

In terms of specific greening projects, Eslick wants the district to take over some gardens that have been created, maintained and funded by residents.

“I am personally most interested in seeing the maintenance of Progress Park and Minnesota Grove taken over by the GBD since these parks have been maintained and paid for by property owners adjacent to these ‘public open spaces’,” she said. “If the GBD hadn’t passed, these parks would have gone into disrepair since private funds had dried up.”

The GBD will receive its funds from the City in early 2016. While the exact number earned from assessments is not yet known, so far the budget amounts to $514,852, with $492,859 coming from property assessments and the rest coming from grants and donations. With more than half a million dollars in the bank, the GBD will be set to do some serious greening.