A community empowering and defining itself
The “Bayview Is…” Mural, an interactive public art project conceived by community builder Jeffrey Betcher, and designed by artists Malik Seneferu and Heidi Hardin, was dedicated on Martin Luther King Day in 2009. The mural is part of the “Bayview Is…” Campaign, a community-generated, inclusive arts and communications strategy of the Bayview Footprints Network of Community-Building Groups. The mural boasts large swaths of color, like patches in an ever-expanding quilt, and a series of doves rising toward Bayview's future. Quesada Gardens resident and artist Craig Cannon has taken a lead on adding text to the mural as way of reflecting the neighborhood's diversity.
The Quesada Gardens Community Mural & Gathering Space emerged with leadership from QGI Co-Founders Sharon Bliss and Mike Aisenfeld. Neighbors wanted to express the magic of the garden and spirit of community. In the end, a gritty urban space was transformed when community-based artist Deirdre DeFranceaux, with fellow artist Santie Huckaby, breathed life into a potent symbol of hope and unity. The mural was dedicated in 2007. In 2015, the installation of a tiled staircase featuring tiles created by Bayview Hunters Point school children completed this destination point project.
Gathering Spaces & Gardens
Informal groups from all over the neighborhood have created community-building projects, strengthened the social fabric of the place they live, and transformed corners of Bayview Hunters Point's environment others gave up on.
The Quesada Garden on the 1700 block of Quesada Avenue between 3rd Street and Newhall is what first got the community building movement going. In 2002, Karl Paige and Annette Smith got busy planting and sharing hugs and handshakes. The series of garden and art projects on the block is still the heart of everything Quesada Gardens Initiative does, and Karl and Annette's example still guides us. Many neighbors and friends have been leaders over the years. In the center section of the garden, Patrick Rhodes (pictured) and John Davila have led recent enhancements. Carla Eagleton and friends have been tending a large swath of the median strip garden, from the center section to the tree just shy of the 3rd Street end of the median. Shane King, a QGI Co-Founder (sometimes known as "Mr. Retaining Wall" for his heavy-lifting in the garden), is now our Board Co-Chair with the task of keeping gardeners and other QGI Members connected.
The Bridgeview Community Teaching and Learning Garden is an elaborate project that stopped the dumping of waste, slowed traffic, and became one of Bayview's most productive generators of healthy fruits and vegetables. QGI Board Members Joel and Mary McClure (pictured, left), who live next to the garden, have been the heroic leaders from the beginning. Seth Wachtel (who received the Karl Paige and Annette Smith Community Service Award) and students from his Architecture and Community Design class at University of San Francisco contributed to the design and building of the garden. A team of University of California, Stanford volunteers, in their 5th year of volunteerism with QGI, pitched in with some “heavy lifting.” A 2010 consensus-building process expanded the project to include an accessible public gathering space and garden gateway that connected community artists such as Herb Dang and Mark Baugh-Sasaki to the work. Community organizations and small businesses such as Public Glass and Vidal Perez Contractors have also been in the mix. More recent leadership includes John Kosich, Rika Kruze, Sherry Scott, and Serenity Williams who accepted the National Gardening Association Youth Award from Mayor Edward Lee in 2012. Other involved neighbors include Magaly Fernandez, Alejandro Murguia, the Tyner Family, and Josh Rogan. The Bridgeview Community Teaching and Learning Garden won Best Green Community Project of 2012 from the Neighborhood Empowerment Network.
The Latona Community Garden site, on Latona Avenue at Thornton, was a notorious dumping ground for decades. Now it’s a beloved community space for children and families. Neighbors decided on a mixed use of the lot: food production, children’s play space, and a seating area where folks can visit with one another. Tension between residents, the City, and the site’s property owners disappeared, and the chronic dumping stopped. Rhonda Winter and Peter Haas took the lead with a lot of help from their neighbors such as Jim Ansbro, Shelby Gardella, Juliana Mojica, Brian Sabado and Lucinda Toy. Pictured are neighbors Irene Molinari, (swinging), Bob Grover, (talking), Frenchy Foster (with umbrella), and Latona children (showing their love for the garden’s walnut tree). More recent leadership has included Marcus Harvey, Elizabeth Kopp, Jordan Morrison, Audrey Roderick, Meadow Sylvester, and Angelique Tompkins. SF Chronicle photos by Eric Luse. Latona children photo by Rhonda Winter.
One project that Quesada Gardens Initiative helped "grow," turned into a partnership that helped everyone in the network. A Krispy Korner Garden project leader donated the use of his Cushman vehicle with a hydraulic-lift bed to QGI, and solved a huge transportation problem. James Ross (pictured), QGI Co-founder and Organizer, took the vehicle to SF City College where he did mechanical work and complete refinishing. For years, the vehicle was the energy efficient mover of tools and mulch, and a familiar sight in the heart of Bayview.
The Founders’ Memorial Vista showcases “ornamental edibles” and a sweeping view. Residents and civic leaders gathered in October of 2008 to dedicate the gathering space and share healthy foods and moving testimonials. Mayor Gavin Newsom donated a bronze plaque. Hydra Mendoza (Board of Education & Mayor’s Office), Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, and DPW leaders Mohammed Nuru and Liz Lerma spoke. Project leader Steven Aiello won the Karl Paige and Annette Smith Community Service Award for his effort. In recent years, Jacob Watta and Patrick Rhodes have cared for this portion of the Quesada Garden. Pictured is QGI Co-Founding Gardener and Board Chair Annette Smith speaking at the dedication.
The Vegetable Patch at the Quesada Garden has produced many seasons of homegrown greens. Edward Allen (pictured, left), one of Quesada’s heroes, adopted the patch from Tony Tarket. Since then, other neighbors including John Davila and Tai Trang, have kept it productive. New fruit and vegetable production has been added throughout the Quesada Garden.
BAYBLOOM Bayview Backyard Gardens, a unique partnership with University of San Francisco, created a network of food-producing backyard gardens that were installed for free for low-income and long-term residents of Bayview Hunters Point as part of a primary prevention strategy targeting health disparities. 18 gardens were installed. One of them, at Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church, is an elaborate food-producing garden that still serves a faith community. Neighbors pictured (right) celebrate a first harvest.
Organizing & Communications
Community organizing and communications continues to be a core pursuit for Quesada Gardens Initiative. Our blog, It's What Community Looks Like, is Bayview's longest-running blog since January of 2007. In 2004, we co-founded the Bayview Footprints Network of Community-Building Groups. Initially a collaboration of several informal groups that were getting little support elsewhere, Footprints grew into a large network of small groups seated at Bayview’s branch public library and fostered by Linda Brooks-Burton who was the Managing Librarian at the time. Founding leaders included Linda, Jeffrey Betcher, Heidi Hardin, Thomas Kennedy, and James Ross. Bayview Footprints' mission is to support community building groups through sharing of resources, and to tell a positive story about a maligned place. In addition to Quesada Gardens Initiative, founding organizations included Bayview History Preservation Project, Blue Dolphin Youth Swim Team, and Children's Mural Program (now Think Round, Inc.).
Co-Founding community groups and organizations, those that joined the network early-on, include Art94124, Arthur Coleman Clinic, Bayview Renaissance, Bayview YMCA, BetterBayview Group, BVHP Foundation for Community Improvement, Hunters Point Family, India Basin Neighborhood Association, Literacy for Environmental Justice, Old Skool Café, Public Glass, Reachout Rainbow, Renaissance Parents of Success, Safe Haven, Shipyard Trust for the Arts, and the Third Street Youth Center and Clinic.
Today, Bayview Footprints serves the neighborhood as its source of information about community building activity in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood. Quesada Gardens Initiative's Board of Directors serves as the community advisory committee for Bayview Footprints Local News, the free, bi-weekly community building newsletter that has been publishing regularly since 2008.
Four annual outdoor film festivals attracted hundreds of residents and friends to the heart of Bayview - at night! The 2009 Bayview Outdoor Film Festival at the Quesada Gardens included Chef Alice Wilson, Old Skool Café and USF youth who prepared and served free, healthy foods. Live performances from Golden Gate Chorus, Skutt Brothers Band, and Not Your Grammy's Theater group accompanied the dinner, and preceded a selection of films with a Bayview Hunters Point emphasis.
The “Bayview Is…” mural celebration and MLK Day of Service in the gardens were covered by KGO local ABC News. The Latona Community Garden “Fiesta” celebrated the Latona community’s achievements with an interactive healthy food “Fiesta,” with Craig Gold leading an interactive healthy food preparation demonstration from his new mobile, solar-powered kitchen. Gardening and other volunteer days, organizing meetings in residents’ homes, and daily informal interactions at all of the public gathering space projects is what the Quesada Gardens Initiative is all about.
In the summers of 2013 and 2015, Flyaway Productions partnered with Quesada Gardens Initiative to bring GirlFly at the Quesada Gardens to Bayview. Groups of teenage girls under the direction of Jo Kreiter and other choreographers created dances that the girls performed for hundreds of spectators, audiences that moved with the dance between the Bridgeview Garden and 3rd Street. Quesada Gardens Initiative neighbors and allies led discussion groups about social justice issues that face residents of Bayview Hunters Point.