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Garden helps to reduce crime

  • Subject: [cg] Garden helps to reduce crime
  • From: "Bill Maynard" bMaynard@WoodRodgers.com
  • Date: Tue, 2 Sep 2003 12:52:06 -0700
  • Content-class: urn:content-classes:message
  • Thread-index: AcNxk1QvzF2h7t1iEdew3AADR2vUag==
  • Thread-topic: Garden helps to reduce crime

Regarding past emails on how community gardens help reduce crime and bring neighbors together... here is a great article in today's San Francisco Chronicle 9-2-03
"Bayview block in Bloom"
here is the link (text is also included below)

Bill Maynard
Sacramento Area Community Garden Coalition


 "Bayview block in Bloom"
 On a palm-studded median in the heart of San Francisco's Bayview District, 
the corn and peanuts are almost ready for harvest, while the basil and snapdragons have reached their prime. 
The 1700 block of Quesada Avenue wasn't always this way. 
Addicts and dealers did business there, vagrants urinated on doorsteps, and the median served as a dumping ground for everything from engine oil and beer bottles to garbage and brake pads. 
A year ago, life changed. Annette Young Smith and Karl Paige planted a garden. 
"We used to have some bad boys in this neighborhood," Paige said. "Now they've calmed down so that you wouldn't know them if you saw them. We're around here all the time. That's hindered all the activity." 
Jeffrey Betcher, who lives in the middle of the block, called the transformation a miracle. 
"More and more over the last few months, people have been leaving their houses to gather in the center of the street," he said. "Some people have met one another for the first time next to the collard greens." 
When they started, Smith and Paige had no such visions. Smith was on the median digging for worms her brother could use as fishing bait. Paige had brought his saw to cut down an "old ragged bush." It wasn't long before a garden seemed like a good idea. 
"I got bored," said Paige, 66. "I'm retired. I got nothing to do." 
Raised on a Mississippi farm, he had learned as a boy how to grow things. He never forgot. 
"If I put it in the ground, I can make it grow," said Paige, who moved to Quesada last year after visiting relatives there for decades. 
Alabama-born Smith is equally confident. "I'm a farmer's daughter," said the soft-spoken 63-year-old, a Quesada resident since 1979. 
The first garden surfaced near Newhall Street, on the west end of the long and sloping strip, a miniature version of palm-lined Dolores Street in the Mission. Since then, five others have appeared -- inching toward Third Street, the Bayview's main drag. There are flowers, herbs, vegetables and cactus, all cordoned off with yellow "caution" tape. 
"We had to think of some way to keep drug addicts out," Paige said. 
Somehow, it has worked. 
The median always has been a place to hang out -- it's just that different people hang out there now. The lowlifes who vandalized, littered and sold dope have gone elsewhere. And residents, like the plants that drew them, have taken root. 
San Francisco Police Sgt. Mike Evanson, patrol supervisor at Bayview Station, said the block is quieter these days. He credited increased enforcement for the most part, but said the garden also has played a role. 
"There are people out there all day, people out there looking and watching, " he said. 
Neighbor Jeanette Hill had another theory. "I think there's a lot more respect for the street now," said Hill, whose median herb garden includes lavender, sage and rosemary. 
Lifelong Quesada resident Ryan Watt, 11, described Smith and Paige as "heroes." 
"They've done a lot for the community," he said. "This part was full of trash, and they cleaned it up." 
Discarded sparkplugs, mattresses, fast-food flotsam and refrigerators have given way to geraniums, marigolds, kale and coleus. After granting permission for the garden, the city offered plants as well. Block residents, along with occasional strangers, also contribute. 
"We don't turn down anything," said Smith. 
Paige said the median strip is an "orphanage for plants." 
"They find them everywhere. It's the guerrilla aspect of gardening," said Betcher, 43, who bought a weathered Victorian on Quesada five years ago and calls it a "rainbow street." 
"Diversity is important to me," said the Ohio native, program director of the Family Violence Prevention Fund in San Francisco. "I'm a gay man and feel on the margin of things anyway. I just feel absolutely blessed to live on this block. I'll come home, and people will be in the gardens. Instead of just running in the house, I talk to the neighbors." 
For Hill, the median community that blossomed on Quesada meant the faces she'd see every day were suddenly approachable. 
Despite buying the house her grandparents had owned since arriving from the Philippines in the mid-'60s, Hill found little that was familiar when she moved to the block three years ago. 
"I didn't know anyone," said Hill, 30, a coordinator with Friends of the Urban Forest. "Now we're working together. We don't have to start off by talking about the weather." 
Her husband had felt disconnected, too, though he grew up only a few blocks away. 
"This is one of the streets my folks would tell me not to go on," said Dennis Hill, 31, a mental health worker. 
The watering process on Quesada is antiquated -- neighbors leave water- filled buckets on their stoops for Paige and Smith to collect. Paige wishes the city would install a water line or at least come by with a truck. 
Even so, the median is exploding with red, purple, yellow and orange -- like incessant bursts of fireworks -- and neighbors inspired by the garden's founders are adding new plots. 
Still, the 1700 block of Quesada will never be mistaken for Atherton. A woman lying on the middle of the median cradled a beer bottle as the Hills' 2- year-old daughter, Deja, crawled in the dirt. Music boomed from a truck parked on the strip, while men on folding chairs drank away the afternoon and watched the Municipal Railway's light-rail project take shape on Third Street. 
"They're just fellowshipping," Smith said. 
There are fewer sirens in the night, though, less trash to collect in the morning, fewer puddles of urine and not as much loitering. And when the rains come, the garden will reach its prime. 
"When you start it," Paige said, "you don't think it'll end up like this." 

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