In a city where many lament that every square foot is seen as an opportunity to profit, Jean Bogiages recognizes that it takes hard work to fight for community spaces. A lover of Petanque ball and a frequenter of parks, Bogiages believes in the need for open public spaces for both mental and physical reasons and actively fights for them. Originally from Long Island, New York, she moved to the Bay Area in 1972 to teach math in the San Francisco Unified School District. She has since become a leading community member. “Protecting and understanding the effect we have on the environment so we can make intelligent decisions that will protect humans, as well as all other forms of life, is extremely important to me,” Bogiages said.
Throughout her 40 years in Potrero Hill, Bogiages began to notice neighborhood niches changing for the worse. Parks, that had once been safe areas for everyone in the neighborhood, were decaying at rapid speeds. She has since zoned in on those areas and helped turn them into public spaces, tackling the long and convoluted processes of funding and rehabilitation.
Over the course of this work, Bogiages realized the larger problem that comes after the successes of securing funding and building plans: the issue of how to maintain the spaces. With this problem in mind she helped establish what is now the Dogpatch and Northwest Potrero Hill Green Benefit District (GBD), a community benefit nonprofit that aims to provide maintenance funds for parks and open spaces.
Bogiages, a recently-elected board member of the GBD, describes it as, “an exciting new way for neighborhoods to have local control over a property assessment that must be used to support parks, open spaces and environmentally sustainable green projects.”
Fallen Bridge Park, located at the corner of Utah and 18th streets, led to the creation of the GBD. Built in 1969 and decrepit by 2003, it was the first park that Bogiages attempted to rejuvenate. Park maintenance was difficult, as there was never a way to plan for repairs. All that was ever discussed was the removal of what was decaying or broken (such as old slides and bouncing horses, benches and retaining walls). Then, in 2013, an attempted rape occured near the 18th Street overpass, and the community was prompted to address the deteriorated park. Bogiages promptly responded by starting a sub committee of San Francisco’s Safety Awareness for Everyone (SF SAFE) to reactivate the area. Armed with a talent and willingness to work within the community, it wasn’t hard for Bogiages to rally people together to help find funding. Despite the many obstacles, she was able to improve the park section by section.
Throughout her 40 years in San Francisco, Bogiages has taken the initiative to recognize that decaying public spaces do not have to stay in decay. More than just creating open spaces for the community, Bogiages expresses that she, “also cares about people working together to have a positive effect on their environment. I am motivated by seeing people work together for positive change. I am as motivated by the process of making a change as I am by the result of the change.”
Seeing her community working together motivates Bogiages to accomplish something that benefits everyone. With other community members and the desire to transform and utilize her neighborhood in the best way possible, she has helped create an organization that allows and encourages residents to have a say in how their neighborhoods are used. This kind of environmentalism emphasizes the important connections between people and their environments, which enables us all to be conscious about where we live.