SFMTA removes Clement Street’s pole gardens from parking meters

A SFMTA worker walks away after removing the pole garden from in front of Seedstore on Clement.
Photo courtesy of Matthew R.

The small “pole gardens” that began popping up on the early blocks of Clement Street this summer made local and international news when we posted about them here on the blog in late August.

The gardens were being hung by an anonymous resident of the neighborhood, who only identified themselves as “Pole Gardener” in a blog comment, telling readers “I’m glad you like the gardens, I’m the person putting them up. I would invite all of you to maintain/adopt them as you see fit, including watering and replanting.”

Reaction to the mini gardens was overwhelmingly positive, and in a KTVU news story on the small creations, city officials said they have no plans to remove them from the poles and parking meters where they had been installed.

But that city stance seems to have changed. Today we received several emails, and photos, alerting us that the SFMTA is removing the pole gardens that are attached to parking meters along Clement Street.

This included the ones installed in front of Green Apple Books and Foggy Notion Boutique, both near 6th Avenue and Clement. Both business owners contacted the blog, disappointed that the gardens were being removed.

“I really love them and want them to stay in the neighborhood and most business owners and residents feel the same!” said Alissa Anderson, owner of Foggy Notion. She recently began surveying Clement Street business owners about the pole gardens, and says “the response was overwhelmingly positive”.

Anderson says the SFMTA is only removing pole gardens from parking meters, not from other poles on the street.

We have not contacted the SFMTA for comment, but one reason for removal may be that the planters interfere with the process of emptying the meters. One blog commenter described it: “They open the meter directly above the plantings with a special Allen wrench and then attach a custom hose to the meter. The hose’s collar has a handle to turn the coin cup in the meter upside down and empty the contents into a wheel-mounted numbered lockbox. The collector then removes hose, closes circle cover and walks to the next meter.”

Or maybe someone at the SFMTA just doesn’t like the pole gardens. 🙁

While we don’t expect the SFMTA to reinstall the pole gardens in a better location, let’s hope they don’t feel inclined to take down all of the pole gardens that have popped up on Clement Street. As one commenter put it, “It’s wonderful that someone cares enough about the neighborhood to beautify it like this.”

UPDATE: Paul Rose of the SFMTA left this comment: “Due to potential concerns related to safety, loose wires and some of the boxes falling apart, we had to remove the plants. We’ll work with other city agencies to see if we can come up with parameters for a reasonable and acceptable arrangement for future consideration.”

UPDATE #2: Peter Lauterborn, legislative aide to Supervisor Eric Mar sent an email out saying, “The good news is that we are told that they haven’t been destroyed and will be maintained until a new plan is figured out.”

Sarah B.

The pole garden that was mounted on a meter outside Foggy Notion on 6th Avenue


  1. Really?

    Removing them if they interfere with opening the meters makes sense. Maybe if someone placed a beautiful planter in front of your garage door you’d remove it too.

    They did say there were leaving the ones not at meters.

  2. if it interfers with the opening of the meters, why dont they just turn the plants to face the other direction?

  3. Due to potential concerns related to safety, loose wires and some of the boxes falling apart, we had to remove the plants. We’ll work with other city agencies to see if we can come up with parameters for a reasonable and acceptable arrangement for future consideration.

    Paul Rose

  4. Thanks, Paul for leaving your comment. I added it to the story.

    Sarah B.

  5. Paul thanks for commenting and explaining a bit about why “function follows form” in this case. Hopefully parameters will come rather quickly so that community involvement in the beautification of our ‘hood can continue.

  6. not surprising. I liked them too but you can’t expect Da Gummint to just ignore it. surely there’s a way where everyone wins. SF needs to ditch the politics of winner/loser and embrace the poltics of making things happen that benefit the neighborhoods.

  7. Here’s a suggestion: make the planters out of panty hose legs filled with moss and attach them to the meters with plastic cable ties.That way there are no wires and they won’t fall apart.

    How many SFMTA employees were “injured” by the planters and had to take extensive sick leave? Given all the antiquated (19th century) Union rules SFMTA operates under, it will take a century to come up with safety parameters and hazardous duty pay.

  8. This is such a bummer. I really enjoyed them and was showing an out of towner how cool they were. It was something brilliant that someone thought up and in no way prevented access to the meter. Bring them back!

  9. I do the coin collection. I’ve just gotta sat that the coin collection process is not that complicated (a hose?). I think the pole gardens are pretty cool and when asked by my boss if they interfered with my collecting or gave me any trouble at all, I just gave a simple “nope”I think he was hoping for someone else’s sake that I would’ve said yes. They really aren’t in the way at all, and I’m inclined to agree with the notion that someone at the MTA just doesn’t like them.

  10. Such a positive, freely given gift to our neighborhood with the simple request that we adopt them and water them and maintain them. When do we ever get anything for free? And these planters were for everyone to enjoy! Why does “Big Brother” have to interfere? Is there some way the city wants to collect a tax on these simple neighborhood delights? Why did the meter reader have to blab to everyone…he should have kept it quiet in the neighborhood. What is the real reason these have been taken down – is it just bureaucratic knee jerk blindness??? There was no reason to “tax” the city by having its personnel doing such counter productive work. I’m sure there are more pressing public work issues that need to be addressed rather than engaging in this regressive action. Listen to Richmond!

  11. They removed the parking meter urinals? Where am I suppose to empty my processed beer once the bar closes?

  12. Hi Peeps and Pissers,
    I think it is great that they lasted so long, some were up for close to 3 months without getting destroyed/removed by anyone. To end the debate regarding whether or not they block meter operations in any way, I can confidently say that they never did (see the response from Meter Dude). They also have not fallen apart as they were built pretty solidly.
    On September 21st, I want to celebrate Park(ing) Day 2012, http://parkingday.org. I hope to set up gardens and have pole garden kits available somewhere between Arguello and 3rd St. on Clement, around 11am-5pm. If anyone is off that day and would like to join me for a bit, I’ll give you a pole garden kit or some lemonade.

  13. Thanks everyone for your comments on the hanging pole gardens.
    I and my staff are working with Ed Reiskin of MTA and his staff, the Dept of Public Works, the anonymous pole gardener and a number of the local merchants to get the plants back up ASAP.
    We are working out agreements on maintenance, size, etc.
    The business owners also are working with my office to further green and improve the inner Clement Street corridor as well! Stay Tuned…
    If you need more info contact Peter Lauterborn from my staff at 415-554-7411 or peter.lauterborn@sfgov.org.
    Eric Mar
    Supervisor, District 1

  14. I would be more than happy to re-plant them! I live across the street from a public parking lot on 9th Avenue (next to the library) and I have been keeping my block clean for 2 years via Adopt A Street. I want to beautify the planter boxes that are in front of the parking lot. I have been trying to get the City to provide the dirt and I will provide the plants and maintain them.

  15. Pole Gardener:

    I would like to install them in my block…9th @ Clement..I will try and make the Park(ing) Day

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