Next time you walk or drive around Potrero Hill, take a detour to the west side of Starr King Elementary School, to the open space bounded by 23rd, Carolina, 24th and De Haro streets. Starr King Open Space, SKOS for short, is a 3.5 acre expanse of hilltop grassland, with gentle slopes, rocky outcrops, meandering trails and stunning views. In spring SKOS is lush, green, brimming with wild flowers; in summer it’s a dry, grassland habitat.
The open space prompted one Hill resident to write a poem: ‘It’s a place for kids and imaginative play, for walking dogs at the end of the day, for views that inspire and for minds that inquire about the many things an open space can be to you, me and everybody.’
Open space can be defined as an ‘urban counterpart to development, protected area that is publically accessible, populated by a hybrid of native and non-native species, and without permanent structures.’ SKOS is a private 501C3 not for profit foundation. All Hill residents are members and owners of SKOS, which is managed by an elected board of directors.
Before it was reclaimed, SKOS was used as pasture land, wartime dwellings for shipbuilders, and public housing. In the 1980s Barrett Corporation built Park View Heights on the Hill’s southern slope. The new neighborhood’s high density was mitigated by Barrett, which deeded the open space and $60,000 to an impromptu SKOS board. When the effort to save the Potrero Commons Open Space, located on the north slope, from development failed, one of its chief backers donated the proceeds from fundraising for the Commons, $60,000, to SKOS.
An earlier board’s one active member squandered those donations. A new board took control, and established governance rules, an organizational structure and the fiduciary controls necessary for financial solvency.
The current board is passionate about protecting open space natives, like the Golden Poppy – State Flower – Purple Needle Bunchgrass – State Grass – Serpentine – State Rock – and 17 other species that live in SKOS. But the board also realizes that the pristine past is long gone, and the open space is home to non-natives as well.
The board successfully stopped construction of an oversized condominium on the property, and is now engaged in a capital campaign, so far securing funds from the San Francisco Carbon Fund, Community Challenge Grant Program, and University of California, San Francisco Green Parking, to be dedicated to reclaiming additional open space by removing what remains of Coral Loop Road.
The SKOS board is working to turn the open space foundation into a conservatorship. Until then, it must fundraise to pay for insurance, upkeep and outreach activities.
There’ll be a SKOS Sunset Piano Block Party on September 25, 2016, noon to 5 p.m. To serve on the SKOS board or one of its subcommittees, volunteer for stewardship days, or stroll around the grounds on a spring wildflower walk, contact Erik Hansen at email@example.com.