During almost two months of sheltering-in-place parks and open spaces have become central to maintaining people’s health and sanity. Many of the largely community-created commons in Dogpatch and Potrero Hill are kept up, in part, by the NW Potrero Hill/Dogpatch Green Benefit District (GBD).
The GBD provides “…additional maintenance and capital improvements to parks, sidewalks and open spaces within a designated area, in addition to the City’s existing level of baseline services,” according to the San Francisco Department of Public Works’ website.
There are 18 Community Benefit Districts (CBD) in the City, which differ from San Francisco’s sole GBD in that they concentrate “on the creation of economically viable neighborhood business districts”, according to the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development, which administers the CBD program. The GBD’s website states that it’s the first and only of its kind “…to focus primarily on parks, greening, and public realm improvements in a residential neighborhood”.
The GBD is a nonprofit organization run by an elected 15-person board of directors composed of residential and commercial property owners, tenants, and greenspace advocates. The district encompasses the area between 19th and 16th streets to the South and North, Potrero and Vermont streets to the West and East; as well as within Mariposa and Cesar Chavez streets to the North and East, and Interstate-280 and Illinois Street to the West and East.
The GBD is principally funded by a bi-annual assessment charged to property owners within the district, based on property size and use. According to the GBD’s annual report, the organization collected $592,246 in 2019. Per property charges range from $23 to $39,000. The GBD supplements these monies with grants and donations.
According to Julie Christensen, NW Potrero Hill/Dogpatch GBD executive director, the GBD raised more than $130,000 in March; $101,000 from a municipal Community Challenge, $30,000 from a private donation. Challenge grant funds will be used to establish electrical service and run lights the length of Angel Alley, enhancing the pathway as a pedestrian connector between North and South Dogpatch.
The GBD has particularly focused on addressing what it calls in its annual report “the freeway plague”. Both the Hill and Dogpatch have expressways running through them. While driving on top of these roads affords nice views, walking under them can be unpleasant. Respondents to GBD’s annual survey have consistently ranked “conditions around freeways” as their number one concern. In response, the GBD has helped maintain Progress Park, at Indiana and Iowa and 23rd and 25th streets, and made landscaping and transit-oriented improvements to the 22nd street Caltrain station
Board of directors have three-year terms, which are staggered, with five seats up for election annually. “The seats are divided proportionally between Dogpatch and NW Potrero Hill based on the proportion of assessment dollars, with a minimum of three seats for Potrero Hill,” said Christensen. “The seats are also designated for property owners, tenants and greenspace advocates. We make an additional effort to have representation from both residential and commercial property owners and tenants. In short, we try to make the board as diverse and as representative of the District as we can…by issuing open invitations each year for candidates and reaching out to constituents and to neighborhood organizations for suggestions. Our board members conduct personal searches and we try to be as representative of the community as possible. We also seek out people with professional and other talents that can augment the GBD’s capabilities.”
Four new board members were elected last March, and one incumbent was re-elected. Two appointments were made to fill vacancies created by resignations or individuals made ineligible because they moved or changed jobs.
“My objective as a GBD board member is to leverage technology to further our sustainability efforts,” said newly elected member Kim Tercero, a Dogpatch property owner. “I would also like to use my urban planning background to ensure our efforts are inclusive and reflective of our diverse Dogpatch and NW Potrero Hill community.”
“I’m excited to help bring the Potrero Gateway Park project from the drawing board to reality,” said appointee Kanwar Kelley, a Hill property owner. “Joining the board is an amazing opportunity to work with a dedicated group of people to make our neighborhood streets, parks, and sidewalks cleaner, greener, and safer.”
“I work as chief operations officer at No More Dirt, a Bay Area commercial building services company,” said Cori Chipman, an elected Dogpatch property owner. “I have been involved with the Hidden Garden Steps project for three years, am an active member and host for Quilt, a woman’s collective, and am a member of Walk San Francisco.”
“In the years I’ve lived – 23 – and worked – 44 – in Dogpatch I’ve been fortunate to meet many inspired and passionate neighborhood advocates,” George Slack, a Dogpatch property owner and re-elected incumbent on the board. “With our rapid population growth, we have a vital need to create new green spaces and maintain existing ones. I would like to continue my board service, working on biodiversity habitat and water reclamation.”
“Helping my community and being of service to such an influential benefit district would be rewarding,” said Monique Wallace, a Dogpatch tenant recently elected. “I would greatly enjoy volunteering my expertise in event planning and project management to aid with the enhancement of the public realm.”
“My first two years on the Board was spent helping to implement our Jumpstart projects and getting GBD landscape maintenance and janitorial services in place,” said Kat Sawyer, a greenspace advocate who ran as an incumbent and was reelected. “I’m aiming to have a water workshop for GBD residents in the fall to teach people about residential scale rainwater catchment and greywater re-use.”
Piccino, a restaurant located at the corner of Minnesota and 22nd streets, recently installed a GBD-inspired rain garden that manages runoff from the building’s roof.
“I have seen firsthand what a difference green spaces can make in a neighborhood,” said Kristel Craven, a Dogpatch property owner, who has previously served on the board and was appointed to fill a vacancy. “I have solid organizational and operational experience, have led diverse teams, met huge expectations, am a persistent problem solver, and I’m passionate about the environment and my community.”
According to its annual report, GBD’s 2020 priorities include “assisting the renovation of Esprit Park, by managing $835,000 of UCSF’s $5.2 million contribution towards the park’s renovation” as well as working with neighbors to create a greenspace on California Department of Transportation property at 17th Street between Vermont and San Bruno streets.