Dec 12, 2012

Capital project: Construction phase is fast out of the gates

It took a while to get started, but the capital project to refurbish the central area of the Panhandle near the restrooms started construction November 26 and is moving quickly. Peek around the fence, and you'll see that turf islands have been regraded and a cement seatwall has been built. At this rate, we are on track to be ready for community planting in the rain garden at the community workday on Saturday, January 12. We even have a banner with the important details.

Today digging was underway to begin repairing the Ashbury cross-over paths that have been drainage disasters. 

The hard storm on Dec 2 knocked over part of the fence just days after it was set up, but park staff had it set back in place that afternoon with the help of some cyclists riding by. More recently, cones were placed in the fence supports along the bike path, which should make them more visible and reduce the potential hazard of riding or tripping over them.

Starting this week, the restrooms are not available because the fence perimeter has been expanded as the work continues on repairing the paths in the vicinity. Sorry for the inconvenience.

December workday wrap up

For our final community workday of the year n December 8, 22 volunteers came to be part of working in cooperation with the Rec and Park gardening staff to take care of the Panhandle. With the serious storm the previous weekend, a lot of extra hands were needed to begin removing fallen branches. Although the grassy lawns look pretty clear from the vantage point of the walking path, as soon as we got out in the fields to begin the work, we found out what a major task it would be. By the end of our workday, a dozen piles were stationed near the path for pickup by park staff. Volunteers also got active in moving compost fines around the redwood trees near Oak/Baker, but they didn't get quite through the job this time. 

A couple of the volunteers were also busy with looking for and identifying mushrooms, which began appearing quickly since the rainy season began.

To show his appreciation of the Panhandle Park Stewards volunteers, Guillermo brought out his mobile skillet and made fajitas for everyone on organic blue corn tortillas from 24th St. A heavenly end to an excellent workday!

Dec 2, 2012

Major tree planting on the horizon after a year of removals

After one more eucalyptus is removed, attention will shift in 2013 to Panhandle tree planting 

Blue Gum to be marked for removal
Another large eucalyptus - a Blue Gum tagged as #302 that is a familiar sight at Fell Street at Clayton - will be marked this week, giving notice to local residents that it is to be removed. Melinda Stockmann at the SFRPD explained that a decay test found extensive decay in the lower trunk. The department plans to remove it within weeks, to abate a hazard before the remainder of the storm season.

That Blue Gum suffers the same fate of several other Panhandle trees - mostly eucalyptus and one large acacia - sent to the chipper this year. A few other trees that had been marked for possible removal ended up getting a major pruning instead. While safety was the driver behind the pruning and removals, some people have been sad to see the end of these trees, especially given their old age and enormous stature.

Opening for treeplanting
After this last removal, the emphasis next year will be on a major tree planting. Park forestry is a program of the 2008 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond, and is also included in the new, $195 million 2012 Parks Bond that received voter approval in November. While a schedule for implementation is not yet in place, the city has developed a draft species list for Panhandle replanting and has defined five replanting zones within the Panhandle - four between Stanyan and Masonic, while just one of the zones is east of Masonic. An example of the zones is this open area near Oak between Cole and Shrader, where the acacia had been.

Cypress and eucalyptus standing tall along
Oak Street won't be replicated 
But the number of new trees - about 40, according to the department's initial plans - is much larger than the number of trees removed this year. And the plan for planting attempts to prevent some of the problems that have turned into management headaches. For one thing, eucalyptus - which is still abundant in the Panhandle, and which besides dropping large limbs, also drops leaf and bark litter year-round - will not be planted in the Panhandle next year. Also, to reduce property damage from limbs falling on parked cars, any tree planted close to Oak or Fell will be species that don’t reach giant stature. Instead, Michelia (michelia doltsopa), Sweetgum (liquidambar styraciflua) and Maidenhair (gingko bliloba) are suggested as trees to plant somewhat close to the streets.

Trees growing about 3 feet from the bike path
Most trees in the Panhandle grow several feet away from the pathways. Standards for pathway design dictate a minimum of three feet, and recommended even greater distance. While the department hasn't committed to a specific distance [see update below], they said they would keep new trees planted away from paths. It’s not only a matter of not wanting people to run into the trees, it’s also to keep their hanging branches and their drip lines (the circumference in which the leaves drip fog and mist) away from the path.

UPDATE 12/9/12: 
I received the following note from the department: For the Park Forestry Program Replanting Plan, we are committing to planting trees no closer than 10’ from paved paths (bike and pedestrian) and street edges.

Open spaces allow full sun on the basketball courts
The department has also heard that neighbors who enjoy the Panhandle’s open, sunny areas want to maintain the open meadows. Although some new trees will be planted along the edges of meadows, these plantings will be done to create a succession of smaller to larger trees and so it could be done without shading out meadows. Likewise, I hope that trees aren't planted on the south side of the basketball courts to block the afternoon sun.

Additional planting could shield the staging area 
Also, recent management practices in the Panhandle have increased openness and visibility,  rather than form a shrubby wall or fortress effect with trees and other plants. That general practice will be maintained with next year's planting. However, there is one place where a row of dense trees may be planted, along the tongue of pavement that extends east of the basketball courts. In this area, park staff temporarily stage leaves and branches before removing them by truck to the parkwide compost yard. A row of trees - complimenting three yews that survive from a planting long, long ago - is planned for that location, and that’s one area where it makes sense to create a kind of shield.

Besides these species previously mentioned, additional trees on the draft species list are Monterey Cypress, Giant Sequoia, Chilean Wine Palm, Copper Beech, Queensland Kauri, Lily of the Valley tree, two species of Magnolia, Monkey’s Hand Tree, Red Horse Chestnut, Norfolk Pine, Dawn Redwood, and Tulip Tree.

Nov 11, 2012

Capital Project date calendared for November 26

Thanks for checking in on the Panhandle Park! For those who read the article in the just-published North of Panhandle neighborhood newsletter, our big planting day did not happen yet, because of changes in the timetable of the capital improvement project. I now predict that the big planting day will be in January. Fortunately, we are closer to seeing the capital project begin, and a contractor is actually in place, with a start date: November 26, according to the capital division of SF Rec and Park.

Working to make a better lawn
Yesterday was a good day for our regular monthly community workday, thanks to the combined effort of many volunteers from the neighborhood and even more families of the San Francisco Day School sixth grade class. We worked to restore the the turf in the center of the park between Masonic and Central. Specifically, our work was to spread compost fines around bare spots. In conjunction with aeration of turf, we expect to see improved quality of our meadows! We used similar methods last month at the far east end of the park around the McKinley memorial and we're beginning to see good results there.

Raking up eucalyptus leaves to start
Remove the leaves in the cushman
Special project: free a tree from ivy


For anyone with an interest in improving our neighborhood and making our schools a place for environmental experience, here's news of an upcoming event: GRAND OPENING of New Traditions Elementary Habitat Garden & Rainwater Cistern Project.  Parents at this school have been involved in transforming the building and building grounds for the last five years, and parents say they would love to see a large turnout for this special event. During the workday, help plan oak trees and install a rainwater cistern! It's scheduled for: 
  • Saturday, November 17
  • 9 am - 12 pm workday; 11 am ribbon-cutting
  • New Traditions School at 2049 Grove Street
You can view a poster for the event at Flickr and also a set of photos showing the development of this project over the years.

Nov 7, 2012

We have a Panhandle workday coming up this Saturday

Join us at the Panhandle this Saturday, November 10 for our monthly community workday.

Saturday, Nov. 10
9 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Meet up at the Playground (near Ashbury @ Oak St.)
Tools and gloves provided (those bringing children are advised to bring child-sized gloves)

Congratulations to local park lovers and the coalition led by San Francisco Parks Alliance for passage yesterday with nearly 72% of the vote in favor of  Prop B, the 2012 Parks Bond, which ensures strong funding for the projects of SF Recreation and Parks.

Oct 13, 2012

Today's workday was sunny & busy

It was a warm sunny morning for our Panhandle workday, and our challenge was to reinvigorate the big bare spots in the turf around the McKinley Monument. A big crew of volunteers was on hand to shovel compost into wheelbarrows and then spread a thin layer on the compacted soil, with the hopes that the seed bank will send up fresh shoots.

After break, we spread a mountain of wood chips around the northeast redwood cluster. By the time our program ended, a crew of seven remained on hand for a final photo in the cool shade of the redwoods.
Our work site was next to the big District 5 mobilization on Baker Street for waste drop-off and compost giveaway. Some of our team brought along bags to take some free compost home. We also had the chance to grab a free reusable bag from the SF Dept of Environment.

District 5 Supervisor Christina Olague also stopped by for a chat on the way to her campaign volunteer mobilization in the shade of the memorial.

Oct 10, 2012

Panhandle workday this Saturday; Work underway on south path near Baker

Here's a photo of work underway today in the Panhandle: our southeast entrance, where the path winds through a cluster of redwood trees, is being repaired! Workers have dug out the bed of the pedestrian path, for a distance of about 30 feet, extending all the way to the corner at Baker Street. So far they have reinstalled a the loose rock foundation and so it looks like they will repave and reopen the path soon. For many years, the path there has been wavy  and cracked (and prone to standing water). Big tripping hazard. 

You can see the improvements yourself if you join us on Saturday for our monthly Panhandle community workday. Expect some awesome fall weather and lots of friendly neighbors. See you at 9am, meeting up at the playground, near where Ashbury Street joins the Panhandle. 

Sep 14, 2012

Panhandle Playground gets a bump on the report card

When SF Parks Alliance released the Playground Report Card this week, it was encouraging to see that the Panhandle Playground got a C, an improvement from the D grade that it received in 2010.

The playground gets frequent help from park staff and from our monthly volunteer days, including last Saturday (pictured). Structural problems like holes in the rubber mats and broken play structures have been tended to by SF Rec and Park on a case-by-case basis and also during the week-long playground maintenance this past February.

While some of the nearby playgrounds such as Alamo Square have been rebuilt in recent years, others (Buena Vista, Grattan) are also stuck in the C category (see the map below). None of these three are included in the Parks Bond that San Francisco will vote on this year. The Report Card is required reading for anyone who want to learn what parents and communities can do to get their neighborhood playground on track for significant upgrade.

THANKS for great turnout to Saturday's Panhandle Workday

The turnout at our recent Panhandle workday was tremendous! Previous volunteers returned for another morning working in the park...and brought friends with them! Thanks everyone for making the morning such a success and for helping Guillermo and me as we worked to get the right tools to the right place. Enjoy the slideshow below, and mark your calendars for our upcoming workdays on the Second Saturday.

Sep 8, 2012

Aug 30, 2012

Next Panhandle workday is Saturday, Sept 8

Our next Panhandle Park community work day is coming up! Mark your calendar and plan to come join us for the last summer program (we'll be joined by SF Day School families starting in October). We're continuing our work on projects such as planting and tending to flowerbeds, spreading compost and weeding around trees, pruning shrubs, and keeping the pathways clear.  

Meet at the Bulletin Board (near Fell @ Ashbury)
All are welcome. Tools provided

Aug 25, 2012

Pole arm could be final fix for the Fell/Masonic intersection

A tall pole and arm for a traffic signal were mounted last week at the southwest corner of Fell and Masonic in the Panhandle Park. By extending the traffic light for motor vehicles over the middle of Fell Street, the new signal arm is intended to create more distance between the vehicle signal and the bike signal, and thus reduce the potential for confusion (many times a day, motorists continue to turn left against a red arrow, sometimes because they only see the green light of the bike signal and the green light for vehicles. ABC7 reported on the confusion in May, and reported that 500 tickets/month were produced by the automated enforcement). The Fell/Masonic intersection got the bike signal in September 2008 and it is well-loved for providing path users with a safer way of crossing Masonic. Since the bike signal was installed, numerous small tweaks have been made to the design to improve compliance (for example, installation of the red-light camera, also visible in this photo), and this signal arm may be the biggest and best one yet.

McKinley gets scrubbed

The McKinley Monument had graffiti removal and a high-pressure wash on Wednesday this past week. Thank you SF Arts Commission for the more frequent attention to this sculpture (the last work was just four months ago).

Aug 18, 2012

Curb work at Stanyan almost complete

A city contractor, Esquivel, is close to finishing work on curb ramps at Fell and Stanyan Street, the Panhandle's northwest corner. Signs posted at the site state the dates of construction would be July 9 to August 9. The last part, smoothing the asphalt where it meets the new curb, always seems to take a long time.

The improved curb ramps are on the east side of Stanyan, both north and south of Fell. This is the second location in the park getting ramp upgrades this year (Lyon Street was in May).

Esquivel is also doing some work on Stanyan just south of the park, near the Oak Street bus stop for the 33 Stanyan. 

Aug 2, 2012

August workday for Panhandle coming up Sat 8/11

Did you miss not having a workday last month? Join us for some summer fun in the park, at the next community workday for the Panhandle Park, Saturday August 11. 

Saturday, August 11 (normal schedule, Second Saturday of the month)
9 am - 11:30 am
Meet near the Panhandle Playground (near Oak @ Ashbury)

It's recommended to wear sturdy shoes, dress in layers. Tools and gloves are provided. 

Jun 10, 2012

Pictures from yesterday's Panhandle workday

Here's a quick look at yesterday's community work day. A dozen neighbors joined our Rec & Park department gardener to help improve conditions in the Panhandle. We focused our efforts between Baker and Lyon at the east end of the park, with most of our work focused on removing weeds from around the base of trees - the young cherry trees and horse chestnuts that are planted near Baker Street, the magnolia trees near the McKinley monument, and more mature Monterey cypress and Giant sequoia next to the north path. 

We also helped pull some grasses that were beginning to encroach on the understory planting among the redwoods in the southeast corner of the park. The plants there are doing well, and a diversity of mushrooms was also noted.

The bed of ornamental plants at Lyon Street also got some overdue attention, after being overgrown by an outbreak of fumitory.    

Jun 1, 2012

Next community work day; Ashbury project update

You're invited to participate in the next Panhandle volunteer work day, on Saturday June 9. We'll gather at the normal time and place: 
Second Saturday work day
Saturday, June 9
9 am - 11:30 am 
Meet at the Bulletin Board (near Oak @ Ashbury)
Dress in layers, wear sturdy shoes. Tools and adult-size gloves are provided. 

During the summer, we don't have the organized presence of families from the SF Day School, so drop-in volunteers from the community are more vital than ever!  Please share with a friend and plan to take part!
There's some further delays to report for our approved Capital Improvement Project (to restore turf and pathways near the Ashbury cross-over path and the basketball courts).  That was frustrating news to receive, and it's not fun to pass it on to the group. The project has been re-assigned within Rec and Park's Capital Division to Jeny Wegbreit.  Jeny told me that the city's design review process has been lengthy, and she expects to have completed construction documents by mid-summer

May 31, 2012

Two trees down near Central

This pittosporum tree, just west of Central  and south of the south path, was horizontal yesterday. It appeared that, in falling, it also pushed over another pittosporum next to it. 

At least I believe they were both pittosporum. The tree that initially fell, had the red flowers (top) of a Karo (pittosporum crassifolium) while the tree that got knocked over (bottom) had closed buds. The Panhandle has a lot of pittosporum trees including the concentrated grove located just east of here, between Central and Lyon.  

Whatever species, they make for quite a lot of tree to remove from the park. Other trees nearby include three nice, if somewhat stunted, hawthornes. There are also several large eucalyptus and, a little farther west, the cluster of olive trees.   

May 20, 2012

Pictures from our May Panhandle work day

For our May workday in the Panhandle, we returned to the trees near Fell @ Cole for some basic tree care. 

Young & old in the Panhandle
 We were led by Zack from RPD and joined by SF Day School fourth graders and their families in the work of removing weeds at the base of the old trees before spreading compost & mulch. 

Besides the main crew's work, additional volunteers from New Traditions Elementary School raked and swept at the playground. Families and staff from New Traditions were together at the playground for a picnic and thought it would be a great time to contribute to community efforts to make the Panhandle a better park. 

At the conclusion of the work, as a special recognition for all of the great contributions during this past school year, volunteers got tacos from Hot Bike, sponsored by SF Day School and the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association.
Photos by Michael Helquist. Thanks!

May 15, 2012

Picnic and pinata celebration at the Saturday's Panhandle work day

At our Panhandle Work day on Saturday, May 19, we're throwing a beginning of summer /end of the school year celebration! Join us for a picnic after working together with neighbors. 

Saturday May 19
Panhandle Workday 9 am-11:30 am
Picnic 11 am-12:30 pm 
Meet at the Playground, near Fell @ Ashbury. Gloves & tools provided (we have small size gloves but not children's gloves). 

The picnic is FREE for all of our volunteers and park staff, and especially to thank the families from SF Day School for another great year of partnership with the Panhandle Park Stewards, making the park a greener and better place. 

Our gardener, Guillermo will bring us a pinata from the Mission, and our picnic chef will be Rose Johnson, a chef in the neighborhood (aka Apothocurious). Rose is fresh off a big success with a Kickstarter campaign to build a pedal-propelled mobile chef station. She has terrific vegan tacos & grilled cheese. 

The picnic is sponsored by SF Day School & Panhandle Park Stewards. 

May 4, 2012

McKinley graffiti removed; also curb ramp underway at Lyon St

After being hit with several waves of graffiti, and after many calls and 311 reports from annoyed members of the community, the McKinley Memorial was finally cleaned up on Wednesday. This 1904 artwork by Robert Ingersoll Aitken is among artworks listed by the San Francisco Arts Commission as most in need of immediate attention & restoration.

Nearby, Precision Engineering company has work underway at Lyon Street to build a curb ramp connecting the park to the crosswalk across Fell. That was one of the last intersections around the Panhandle Park without an accessible curb ramp.

Apr 25, 2012

Special date for May workday: May 19

I'm cross-posting this announcement sent yesterday to our volunteer email list: 

For May, we're modifying our normal schedule and having the community workday in the Panhandle on Saturday, May 19. This is a one-time change and the workday should change back to the second Saturday during the summer. 

Saturday, May 19 (Third Saturday of the month for one-time only)
9 am - 11:30 am
Meet near the Playground (near Oak @ Ashbury)

May 19 is the day before Bay to Breakers. Kudos to those of you who sign up to be community ambassadors to help keep the event positive for the neighborhood. 

Apr 16, 2012

April's community workday in the Panhandle

How does it feel working in the sun? 
Thanks to more than 25 people who showed up to help out on Saturday for our April community workday! Our focus turned back to the playground, where we weeded some of the ornamental beds, raked leaves out of the sand, and added a few new perennials to the empty spots near the northeast border.   
Removing wheelbarrows full of leaves from the playground

Watering some new plants
 During the second half of the workday, we moved west and spread two truckloads of compost fines around redwoods and other trees near Fell and Cole. 

Four wheelbarrows in action at once

We also took time to discuss the city's plans to remove four trees and prune several others to address structural and safety issues. After that discussion it was eerie to return to the park later in the day and notice a forty-foot long branch that had fallen from a eucalyptus tree just across the path from the bathrooms. The limb had either fallen conveniently just off of the path behind a bench - or perhaps had been removed by some helpful folks who happened to encounter it on their Saturday afternoon visit to the park.