Dec 16, 2013

Final Panhandle workday of 2013

At our community workday on Saturday, neighbors worked with park staff in two groups: one to rake up the plentiful leaves beneath the eucalyptus trees west of Masonic Avenue...

...and another group working inside the rain garden for weeding, deadheading and removing leaves.  

Even in the week of the winter solstice, the rain garden receives a fair amount of direct sun at mid-day, contributing to the speedy growth since the planting in March.
The path to the Sue Bierman Glade has been resurfaced with fresh material and its borders have been edged. Gotta love routine maintenance! 

Happy Holidays to all!

Nov 30, 2013

Entry ramp work completed at Clayton

After three months of work, the entry ramps and paths into the park at Clayton have been completed.

A similar project to modernize the curb ramps was completed at Lyon Street last year, but this project has a longer curbed ramp leading into the park on the Fell Street side. The cement ramp then connects to a new, straight, pancake-flat stretch of asphalt to reach the east-west pathway.  

The work at Fell and Clayton follows the removal of a eucalyptus tree there last year. Now, the curb cuts at Baker St are the only remaining entrances into the park without the yellow-dot treatment. 

Nov 18, 2013

A great new way to experience Second Saturday

Our community workday is featured in this brilliant new video from the neighborhood artists at Panhandle Productions.

The next chance to join us in person is Saturday, December 14, starting at 9 am. Let's keep this project growing!

Nov 11, 2013

Saturday's workday and pictures from today

During our workday on Saturday, a couple of willing volunteers stayed near the park's central area to rake leaves from the sand in the playground and trim the hedges around the borders. The larger part of our group traveled east to the area between Lyon and Baker street to offer some help to the park's gardener with managing the area. Besides raking leaves, this also meant weeding a bed of perennials - mostly California natives - planted last year by students.

The first graders from SFDS and their families turned out in good numbers to lend us a hand. Besides weeding and raking, another big task was to remove mud from the bike path and from below park benches. That's a pretty challenging job for folks of any age, especially when tree roots are infiltrating the mud. Volunteers also trimmed the burl growth from some of our redwoods on the east end.

I didn't take any photos during Saturday's workday, but here are a couple taken today during some free time on this Veteran's Day Holiday.

It's the time of the year to see full-grown orb-weavers. Here's one that had its web in a yew tree. 

Soulmates forever
The fall drought continues, but the park has been amply irrigated and is green and puddly.
Stadium seating
Clayton Street curb ramp project, month 3
Park lovers 
A walk in the woods

Nov 5, 2013

SF PUC to install rain garden near Panhandle

It will be wet - very wet - in San Francisco, starting sometime next week if the forecasts are right. Some of the rainfall will soaking into the dry earth, but a great amount of it will pour from our roofs and streets, surge into rain gutters, and rush towards our water treatment facilities.

San Francisco's Sewer System Improvement Program aims to build new infrastructure that can infiltrate more water down into the ground, thus shaving off the peak flow. SSIP has plans for the streets east of the Panhandle. On Saturday morning, Raphael Garcia of the SF PUC led about 40 residents, as well as other employees from PUC and SF MTA, on a walking tour of Oak and Fell Streets, starting at the east end of the Panhandle and extending three blocks to Scott Street. At Baker and Oak, just in front of Mt. Zion Baptist Church, a rain garden will be installed in the curbside lane on Oak starting at the northwest corner of the intersection and extending about 16 feet long. The plants in the rain garden will be maintained by the PUC and will be planted with colorful California native plants, chosen for medium stature (not above hip level) and for habitat for creatures like the tiger swallowtail and black phoebe. 

Rather than installing rain gardens directly adjacent to the Panhandle Park, the south side of Oak Street was chosen as a site to optimize the effects and capture a greater flow of water. Other factors taken into consideration were the potential for shading, leaf debris, and impact on tree roots if the city were to implement rain gardens directly next to Panhandle Park. The material that goes beneath the new PUC rain gardens will not just be regular dirt; it'll be "engineered media" that can handle the "urban slobber" coming in with the water flowing from the city streets while supporting the mycorrhizal fungi that begins to filter and clean the water as it percolates down to our ground water, far below the surface.  

Since there are expectations for extensive engineering changes to improve traffic safety at the intersection of Baker and Oak, SF MTA staff on the tour explained that bulbouts will be constructed on the park side of this intersection. 

Construction of the rain gardens is expected to start in early summer 2014.  
Raphael Garcia of PUC speaks at the location of another planned rain garden

Want a safer Panhandle? Come out Sunday November 17

Our next special event is coming up in just a week and a half. On Sunday, Nov 17 from 11 am - 1 pm, join neighbors for a picnic with a dose of dialog and networking. We're working with local agencies and community-based organizations that can help show ways we can all create a safer environment in the park.  

It's the next event of the Panhandle Park Action Project, a project of the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association supported by a small grant from the San Francisco Parks Alliance.

Waking up Sunday to Fall Back into Nature

With the end of daylight savings time Sunday morning, we had an extra hour to prepare for a special free event that brought community groups together to celebrate nature in the Panhandle. It was the second of the special events planned for the Panhandle Park Action Project.

Dozens of kids were excited by the free face-painting and everyone was treated to fuji apples donated by Earl's Organic Produce. Here are some photos to show you more of the highlights.
Families from New Traditions Elementary School offered native and edible plants along with expert advice. New Traditions is located a block from the Panhandle and has a dynamic green schoolyard program.
branch, a group of nature educators, offered a scavenger hunt that got dozens of kids running around the park.
Learning about lemons with Just One Tree
The rain garden was available as a spot for planting a young dogwood, generously provided by the Recreation and Parks Department and planted with the help of four young ladies. Cornus sericea supsp. occidentalis is the species of dogwood found locally, typically in wetlands. Its red stems are most apparent in winter, during its dormant season, and in the summer it has clusters of small white flowers.  

Oct 30, 2013

Fall Back in Nature: This Sunday Nov 3

Our second special event in the Panhandle Park Action Project is coming up this Sunday, November 3. Join us anytime between 11:30 am - 1:30 pm for picnicking and appreciation of the amazing natural resources of the Panhandle Park! See you just outside the playground.

Oct 13, 2013

October Panhandle workday - pictures

Day School families (and me) gather during our break
A few dozen volunteers - including a big group of families from the San Francisco Day School - came out to participate in yesterday's community workday in the Panhandle. We were happy to have cool and dry weather all morning. 

The largest group of volunteers was put to work in raking up eucalyptus leaves, and then spreading some wood chips around the trunks of the massive trees near the playground. Some of our regular volunteers worked tending to the rain garden, we took time for some follow-up care for a new planting on the north side of the playground - rows of yarrow, heuchera, ceanothus, Oregon grape, and currant.

Thanks everyone for coming out to work together in our neighborhood park!

A view of the east end of the Panhandle as seen on Google Maps

Sep 30, 2013

NoPa NERT stages a drill at the Panhandle

When the next disaster occurs, it's the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) that will be best prepared to respond by providing information and assistance to people in need. Our local NERT has been working to build its capacity to respond to a variety of situations, so last Wednesday Sept 25, they deployed their people, plans, and supplies for a staging area drill on-site at the Panhandle Park.  

Special thanks goes to Steve McPherson and Lt. Erica Arteseros for the photos.   

The tables set up on the paved area west of Masonic don't just look festive, they are color-coded to help you find the leaders of planning, logistics, and operations. And since disasters don't stop when it get dark, your local NERT now has some experience in keeping the emergency response going even when the lights go out. I am certain that I will feel really glad to see these folks out and on the scene in the event of a disaster. 

You can meet local NERT leaders at one of the upcoming events of the Panhandle Park Action Project. On Sunday Nov 17, from 11 am - 1 pm, Picnic with other advocates covering the themes of safety, crime prevention, and preparedness  and meet Park Station officers (with the talking police car) and also reps from SF Bike Coalition, SFMTA, SFDPW and SF SAFE, and NERT.

Sep 26, 2013

Action project: Playground event coming up on Sunday, October 13

The Panhandle Park Action Project is up and running, offering events above and beyond the monthly community workday in the Panhandle. The first of our special events is all about our Panhandle Playground! 

Sunday, October 13, 10 am - 12 noon
Meet at the playground

Originally built in 1965, the Panhandle Playground sees thousands of children and their families throughout the year. The playground was renovated in 1998 and is now in need of some TLC. The Parks and Rec Department, in partnership with the San Francisco Parks Alliance, is deciding where to spend playground renovation funds in 2014. With the Panhandle Playground rating a grade of C- and below every year, we think it's the perfect time to make our little playground the shining star it can be. 

Please come help us celebrate, schmooze, meet your neighbors and get involved. Featuring a neighborhood magician, balloon art, activities and more! 

This event is led by volunteers organized through the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association. The Panhandle Park Action Project is a series of events organized with support from the San Francisco Parks Alliance. 

Come celebrate the day at the Panhandle Playground. For more information about this special event, contact 

Sep 22, 2013

A pine and a eucalyptus slated for removal this week

SF Rec and Park have posted another two tree removals in the Panhandle. Department staff have informed me that an assessment by an arborist found they were hazardous, and that the removals will happen this coming week.

One tree is a Red River Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) located near Fell @ Cole. The tree, though not very large, leans heavily over the cars parked at the curb on Fell Street and its trunk is riddled with holes.

The other tree posted for removal is a tall Monterey Pine near Oak @ Cole. Like the eucalyptus, this tree also shows some damage at the base of its trunk, and the only remaining branches are near the top of the tree. Monterey Pines are one of the major introduced species of trees in Golden Gate Park, but they are growing more scarce in our local green spaces such as the Panhandle due to pitch canker. McClintock's Trees of the Panhandle, published in 1965, mapped four Monterey Pines in just the one block of the park between Cole and Shrader.


In 2012 we had a substantial number of tree removals in the Panhandle, and in 2013 we have seen the beginning of tree planting. A larger-scale tree planting is now expected to commence in early 2014.

Photos of a rainy September workday

Yesterday's rain showers started just before our 9 am starting time, but a good-sized group of both new and regular volunteers still came out for the community workday. We broke into two groups, the larger of which was tasked with planting nearly 50 plants that had been provided and laid out by Rec and Park staff.    

The new plants were designated for a patch around the playground that has been mostly weedy and sandy. A couple of months ago, we added thick layers of soil and mulch to start suppressing the weeds and building better conditions for plants. We chose California native plants like ceanothus, heuchera, currant, and penstemon, all of which will remain short in stature so as to keep the views into the playground. The area is partially shaded by tall eucalyptus and Monterey Cypress, and it will be interesting to see which of the plants are able to survive.  

Even with the recently added soil, in order to dig deep enough for the new plants, we ran into tough soil and a bunch of roots, which meant a lot more work. I was incredibly impressed by the volunteers who kept going, even as the rain started falling more steadily. 

The other volunteers worked in our rain garden, removing weeds and eucalyptus leaf litter.

By 10:30 the rain was steady, and we helped the waters breach the border of the rain garden. Everyone was stoked to see the garden working as designed. And with about a half-inch of rain accumulated, we called an early end to our workday. Sadly, we also cancelled the picnic that had been planned to celebrate the completion of our 2012 Capital Project. 

Sep 21, 2013

Today's picnic cancelled due to rain

Our picnic today is cancelled due to rain. We carried on through our morning workday and so if you are by the park later today you'll see our new work, however, the persistent rain was just too much for us.

Sep 16, 2013

Picnic in the Panhandle this Saturday, Sept 21

It's time to celebrate! This Saturday, September 21 from 11:30 am - 1:30 pm is a Picnic in the Panhandle to celebrate the accomplishments in the park and to kickoff the Panhandle Park Action Project.

Our picnic runs from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm. Bring a frisbee to toss or games to play, or just come to spend time with neighbors and enjoy the improvements around the center of the park. We'll provide refreshments and hope to have enough for everybody.  

The Panhandle Park Action Project is a series of special events at the Panhandle, funded by the SF Parks Alliance. We're already working with volunteers from the community to plan several more events that will bring neighbors together and build our network of people interested in new ideas for the park. We'll have flyers with the dates for all of our events on Saturday.

Sep 15, 2013

North Panhandle News features history of the Panhandle park

The North Panhandle News, distributed to about 3,500 households in the boundaries of Turk, Divisadero, Masonic, and Fell Street, has a brief history of the Panhandle in its September/October issue. The article is written by Sean Sullivan, who is organizing the public safety event for the Panhandle Park Action Project. The newsletter was just printed, and I delivered newsletters along my route yesterday. If you live outside the boundaries, or if you haven't received a copy of the newsletter, you can also check the newsletter online

This issue also has an update on the Arts Commission plans to build a fence around the McKinley Statue. Neighborhood groups have reluctantly come around to supporting the plan to protect the piece from vandalism, and the Commission's agenda for this past Monday, September 9 included a motion for approval of an octagonal iron fence.

Clayton Street accessibility work in gear

The Clayton Street entrances to the Panhandle are undergoing a rebuild to improve accessibility, and signs posted on the site indicate the work will continue through September. Once the work is done and the grass grows back, most of us will probably take the yellow, accessible curb ramps for granted.

In May 2012, new curb ramps of this type were installed at Lyon Street. With this project and the curb work that came with the repavement of Stanyan in August 2012, the curb ramp infrastructure of the Panhandle is about a complete job with at least one major exception: Baker Street, across the street from Mercy Terrace, where most cyclists enter and exit the park. 

On each side, North and South of the park, a single crosswalk leads from the east side of Clayton Street to the Panhandle's pathways. The north path (approaching Clayton @ Fell Street) used to skirt alongside a large eucalyptus, but the tree was removed as a hazard in December. The north side job looks complicated, with digging, removal of roots and reconstruction of a stretch of curbside along the park.

Clayton @ Fell - some digging and removal of roots

Clayton @ Fell - re-build of the curb
The work on the south side of the park at Oak Street appears less complicated. However, this access point is important because it serves as an entry point for Park and Rec's vehicles that need to reach the dump.
Clayton @ Oak

Sep 10, 2013

Workday and community picnic coming up Saturday, September 21

The Panhandle workday for September is happening on Saturday, September 21. If you've got your calendar marked for our normal second Saturday, please make sure to note the exception that this month's event is one week later.

 Come out at 9 am and meet up at the bulletin board, (near Oak @ Ashbury). We'll be working in the area close to the playground and rain garden with Rec and Parks staff - probably planting some new plants! Tools are provided.

Right after our community workday, we're planning a community-wide picnic to celebrate the accomplishments that were completed this year. Everyone is welcome, whether or not you have ever participated in a workday. It will be a fun event and a chance to meet other people who care about the park and want to figure out how to make it even better. For more about our picnic, check out the attached flyer or our event page on Facebook.

The picnic is the start of the Panhandle Park Action Project, a series of events for neighbors at the Panhandle to bring people together and start dialog about ways to continue to improve our neighborhood park. Bring your friends and share this flyer with others!

Aug 11, 2013

Clearing our walking path at the August workday

Presenting the new footpath on the south side of the park, heading west toward Masonic:  

It's like the old path, but it's about 20 percent wider. You've got more room for walking or jogging, and hopefully fewer mud puddles. That's because our volunteers yesterday scraped up and removed several feet of soil that was encroaching on the path. 

Wouldn't it have been great to do that for the entire length of the path? Absolutely, but that will take a bigger volunteer turnout. Imagine how heavy it is to lift the damp, compacted soil. We were a strong group of volunteers, but an hour of that work meant sore shoulders and back (for me, anyway). 
The sun came out during break time at the memorial

In addition to pathway clearing, we tended to a half-dozen smaller jobs in the east end, like weeding around the trees along Baker Street, removing ivy climbing a eucalyptus, and trimming back the enormous shrub that grows into the bike path close to Baker. 

During the mid-summer, the combination of irrigation, fog drip, and increased solar energy makes the Panhandle a bright green oasis. Get out and enjoy it, with or without blue skies.

Aug 9, 2013

After tomorrow's workday, looking forward to a picnic in September

Our monthly community workday is coming up tomorrow, Saturday, August 10. Join us! With our rain garden in good hands, we're expecting to travel to the east end (near Lyon Street) where our ornamental beds need some upkeep and the redwood grove needs a new layer of soil and mulch.

And next month, we're planning a special event, that should appeal to everyone - even those who don't want to get out of bed early on a Saturday morning or rake up leaves in the park:

Picnic in the Panhandle, 
Saturday September 21 
11:30 am - 1:30 pm. 

Jul 21, 2013

Grand jury recommends city start tracking results of outreach to homeless in Golden Gate Park

There was a surge of camping and littering near the McKinley Memorial earlier this summer, and fortunately it seems to be waning. Besides what I can see for myself when I visit the park, each week when I get the email newsletter from Park Station - which contains a list of the week's citations - I open up the document and search for "Panhandle." The times of enforcement varied, but often showed that police were out in the middle of the night to roust campers in the Panhandle. For a while, the citations, for camping, nighttime sleeping (not allowed 8pm-8am), and alcohol use were increasing in frequency, and now they are tapering off.

Camping in the park has a long history, and areas beyond the Panhandle are even more severely affected. Now a new report by the San Francisco Civil Grand Jury offers recommendations for how San Francisco should change its response to "park dwellers" in Golden Gate Park. See the list of current reports to find a link to download the report, published June 20 and called "Golden Gate Park’s Homeless Population: Are San Francisco’s Policies Serving Us Well?"

The Grand Jury's report examined what these individuals need, how the city enforces park rules, and how to address litter accumulation that results from camping. The report has little descriptive information about park dwellers, though it characterizes population of park dwellers in the eastern edge of the park (Panhandle, Alvord Lake, McLaren lodge area) as younger and more transient. Not having been here long, they are less likely to be familiar with city services than typical park dwellers in western end of the park.

 The report delivers a straightforward description of the recent history of San Francisco's homeless outreach strategies. The Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) initially started up in the downtown are and then expanded to the park since about 2007. Their tactic was to drop in on encampments at 4 am to engage park dwellers. It has been successful, at least as judged by the fact that the percentage of the homeless living in parks or on the streets, which used to stand at over 50 percent, is now down to about 28 percent. However when the success of HOT plateaued, it became inefficient to continue the same outreach strategy month after month. There is now a shift to a new outreach model, Engagement Specialist Teams (EST) and the EST's aren't yet serving the park yet. Instead, SFPD and Park Patrol have been handed responsibility for outreach and enforcement. Homeless outreach has been incorporated into SFPD officers' training (but not park patrol training), so when they approach park dwellers, they issue citations and offer homeless services information. However, one of the report's conclusion is that citing people for camping or nighttime sleeping isn't an effective deterrent. The report recommends that the city have a system for gathering information on the characteristics of park dwellers and for tracking its outreach efforts to park dwellers.

 The report also examines the litter left in the park at homeless encampments, quantifying it and describing the processes in place to remove it. Since shopping carts were found to facilitate moving personal items into the park, a recommendation of the report is that the San Francisco Park Code should ban shopping carts in Golden Gate Park in order to discourage living in the Park and to reduce litter.

Jul 3, 2013

Next Panhandle workday is Saturday, July 13

Our next workday is scheduled for Saturday, July 13.  Join us to take care of the Panhandle new gardens and lay the groundwork for ongoing stewardship of our neighborhood park. 

Saturday, July 13
9 am - 11:30 am 
Meet by the Playground (near Oak @ Ashbury)
tools and gloves are provided (kids are encouraged to bring their own kid-size gloves). Wear sturdy shoes as conditions can sometimes be muddy. 

The Panhandle Park Action Project begins this month with a planning meeting, scheduled for Tuesday July 16 at 7pm at the San Francisco Day School. This project is funded by a small grant from the San Francisco Parks Alliance and will involve several public events and celebrations to be scheduled over the next six months. If you'd like to attend this initial session, please RSVP to  

Jun 9, 2013

June workday and progress in the Panhandle's central area

Thanks to 12 volunteers for being part of our workday. Here's the crew remaining at the end of the morning.
Volunteers planted a whole lot of new plants near the playground yesterday during our Saturday workday in the Panhandle: marigolds and cosmos around the south side of the gardener's shack and a dozen larger perennials for the plot on the east side of the shed.

Spreading the mulch around outside the playground
And there's more! A load of compost fines and a heap of mulch was ready for Stage 1 of a big new project: prepping the sandy & weedy area outside the playground gates for planting. This spot has a big eucalyptus and two other trees, and the leaf litter and shade make for a less than ideal growing environment. After a few months of allowing the compost fines and mulch to settle in (pardon my lack of biotechnical knowledge), we'll bring some hardy plants that are appropriate for this spot - for example, short stature (to not block views in and out of playground). 

I was amazed that our dozen volunteers succeeded in the laborious work of moving and spreading the compost and mulch around the entire area. Another volunteer was also busy trimming elm suckers and a hedge on the side of the playground that is forever growing too high. We even had time at the end for a concentrated effort to remove weeds that continue to pop up in the new rain garden. The morning's work was running, so Guillermo was able to take time to get out the leaf-blower and clean the asphalt area for a Silent Frisco dance party that was about to start up.  

Thanks to the Golden Gate Park Nursery for providing our new plants, to our regular and first-time volunteers, and to our gardener Guillermo. 

Conium, ranunculus repens, Senecio Elegans, begone!