Mission Greenbelt Project: Building New Gardens

September 2009
Mission Greenbelt Project: Building New Gardens

The Mission Greenbelt Project is an ongoing public artwork inspired by the Sidewalk Landscaping Permit made available in 2006. The Mission Greenbelt Project encourages landowners to replace portions of the sidewalk concrete adjacent to their properties with gardens containing native and other drought-tolerant plants that create habitat and forage for resident and migrating birds, bees and butterflies. The original Mission Greenbelt route was selected to connect Mission District parks, sidewalk gardens, vacant lots, and backyards between Dolores Park (19th & Dolores) and Franklin Square Park (16th & Bryant).

The Project cultivates public participation through volunteer opportunities including garden building and maintenance, architectural design and artistic participation via music and/or performance art. Just as important, replacing concrete with garden soil creates a permeable membrane through which rainwater passes and absorbs into the soil, to recharge San Francisco’s underground water supplies, and relieve the overburdened water treatment system. The Project also aims to efficiently leverage the resources available through San Francisco’s governmental and non-governmental agencies via donated plants, educational opportunities, landscaping materials, transportation and other services & publicity.

The Mission Greenbelt Project works with landscape architect / artist Lauri Twitchell of UC Berkeley Blake Garden and Deepa Preeti Natarajan of UC Berkeley Botanical Garden to design sidewalk gardens. We are working on sidewalk garden kits with plant selections for Mission Greenbelt sidewalk gardens. Our kits include: a ‘Garden for Birds’ a ‘Bee Garden’ a ‘Butterfly Garden’ a ‘Garden for Shade’ a ‘Grassland Garden’ and a ‘Dry Rock Garden.’

With this proposal, the Mission Greenbelt Project plans to expand the first garden that was built at Mission Playground Pool in May 2008 with a sidewalk garden nearby at (3523-25 19th Street / 3517-3519-3521 19th Street) with Ivan Abeshaus as the main contact person. This will be a ‘Garden for Shade’ designed for heavy foot traffic. The sidewalk will be left wide, and the planted beds will be protected with heavy iron or brick fencing. The Mission Greenbelt Project is working with Ivan (15 yr. resident) and his neighbors to design a garden that fits the needs of the residents and existing / potential wildlife at this location.

The Project plans to expand bird and butterfly habitat nearby Bernal Hill with Nina Rosenberg (3235 Folsom) and Saul Rosenfield (128-130 Precita). At 3235 Folsom, we will install a ‘Garden for Shade’ for underneath the 35’ tall Chinese Elms. This garden will expand bird habitat down from Bernal Hill by attracting birds with fruiting California wild grapes and strawberries. This garden design includes permeable materials for additional water absorption: decomposed granite near the curb and permeable paving ‘Turfstone’ near the entry and garage. At 128-130 Precita, Saul has designed ‘Grassland Garden’ that will attract butterflies and birds with ceanothus, sticky monkey flower, native bunch grasses and douglas iris. The tree at 128-130 Precita, a Maytens boaria, has begun to lift the surrounding concrete.

This proposal also includes designs for a windy, sunny and dry corridor along 26th & Fair Oaks in Noe Valley. Here, the Mission Greenbelt Project is working with Elizabeth Quinn (3737-3739 26th) on a ‘Butterfly Garden’ that will extend to two neighboring properties (496-498 Fair Oaks / 3735 26th) at the intersection. At 3737-3739 Fair Oaks, we will work with preschool age children and their parents to complete a mosaic cement bench, and we will build a wall protecting the gardens by layering reserved sidewalk concrete with mortar.

The long-term goal of the Mission Greenbelt Project is to continue to be flexible about where gardens are built, while at the same time working to connect and expand upon existing parks, vacant lots and front & back yards.

The Project looks forward to building new sidewalk gardens at locations where residents receive a citation to repair the sidewalks. The Project plans to use some of the funding to work with Nina Rosenberg (3235 Folsom) to design and with Steven Leiber (longtime associate) to print community outreach door tags that notify residents that building Mission Greenbelt gardens is an alternative to replacing aging concrete or concrete that tree roots have uplifted.
Additionally, a portion of the funds from the Community Challenge Grant will be used to purchase new plants volunteers can add to existing Mission Greenbelt gardens located at Sangati Center (22nd & Shotwell), Mission Branch Children’s Library (24th & Bartlett – raised garden bed project currently in progress) and at Mission Playground Pool (19th & Linda).

The Mission Greenbelt Project will also use a portion of the funds to make ten bronze plaques, which will be installed permanently in all new and existing gardens. The plaques will include simple text and design that will briefly explain the project and make mention of key project partners and collaborators.
To keep momentum, the project will work with volunteer event planner Katherine Scherbel to organize a ‘Garden for Bees’ fundraiser that will raise funds to install a garden in the rainy season of 2010 in partnership with Pirate Cat Radio (21st & Florida).

The Mission Greenbelt Project does not work alone and wishes to acknowledge the following groups and individuals: Lauri Twitchell and Peter Suchecki, PlantSF, Mission Roots, Sangati Center, Guerrero Street Greening, Livable City and the San Francisco Department of Public Works Bureau of Urban Forestry, who are working together to transform the city by replacing cement with gardens. This project receives support from hundreds of volunteers, Nature in the City and Sunset Scavenger Co.

Project Maintenance Plan
For each of the four new segments of the Mission Greenbelt established, the Mission Greenbelt Project will coordinate one to three garden maintenance days, where volunteers living near the gardens can join in the maintenance activities. These maintenance days will double as workshops to focus on creative reuse of materials, problem solving in public spaces, bird & insect relationships in the garden as well as seasonal garden care.
The Mission Greenbelt Project will also organize three volunteer work days to add new plants and repair fencing etc … in the already established Mission Greenbelt gardens at Sangati Center, Mission Branch Children’s Library and at Mission Playground Pool.
Thereafter, the gardens will be maintained by nearby residents with additional help as needed from the Mission Greenbelt Project.