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Help clean up the neighborhood this Saturday with Community Clean Team

This Saturday, the DPW is hosting a Community Clean Team event in the neighborhood.

Volunteer for a few hours to help plant trees, work on landscaping and gardening projects, paint over graffiti, and clean up litter around the Richmond District.

The event begins at 9am at George Washington High School (600 32nd Avenue) and runs until 12noon.

You don’t need to bring anything – all equipment will be provided as well as lunch for volunteers. Be sure to wear clothing for working outside, and a reusable water bottle is recommended.

And keep an eye out for special dignitaries that will be lending a hand, including Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Eric Mar.

Sarah B.

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 5:03 am | Posted under Events, Volunteer | 1 comment

Photo: Cabrillo Street, 1976

Photo by Dizzy Atmosphere

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 5:12 am | Posted under Photos | 4 comments

Beach Chalet soccer field renovation project approved by Coastal Commission

A conceptual, overhead rendering of the four renovated fields at Beach Chalet

It was early 2010 when we first heard about the plans to renovate the Beach Chalet soccer fields in Golden Gate Park. The City Fields Foundation, in conjunction with the City, proposed to fund a new soccer center at the existing site that would convert the playing fields to artificial turf, add lighting, renovate the restrooms, add a small playground, repave the parking area, and erect new fencing and seating areas for spectators.

The goal? More playing time for kids and adults. The proposed improvements would bring all four fields into use year-round and provide expanded hours into the early evening. Currently, the Beach Chalet fields can host 4,738 hours of annual play. The proposed renovations would add 9,582 hours of new play each year for both soccer and lacrosse players.

The process for approvals started off well for the project. In April 2011, the renovation was green-lighted by the Rec & Park Commission after nearly three hours of public comments from both sides of the issue. But this is San Francisco after all, so by May, Rec & Park bowed to the pressure of community groups and required City Fields Foundation to provide a full environmental impact report.

Opponents of the project raised concerns about the environmental impact that the replacement soccer center would have. How would birds be impacted by the new lights? Would light pollution from the lights ruin the sky for stargazers? What kinds of toxins are in artificial fields and will it harm children and animals? Why aren’t they using natural grass instead?

The process has dragged on and on, with appeal after appeal. And despite the plan being approved by the Planning Commission, the Recreation and Park Commission, the Board of Supervisors (nearly unanimous vote – that NEVER happens!) and the city’s Board of Appeals, the opponents made one last ditch effort to block the project by appealing to the Coastal Commission (a narrow slice of Golden Gate Park, which includes the fields, is within the coastal zone, which the commission oversees).

Today was the hearing and dozens of supporters and opponents turned out to voice their opinion to the commission, each given their 2 minutes to speak their mind.

One Richmond District parent, Jim Morris, took time off work to speak his support for the project at the Commission meeting in Marin. He arrived at 10am, spoke at 11:30am, and said when he left, they had nearly three more hours of testimony lined up.

Morris plays soccer in Golden Gate Park in his adult league, and his young daughter plays in a youth league. He said he supports the Beach Chalet fields renovation because there just aren’t enough soccer fields available in the city.

“My daughter’s team usually practices in the outfield of a baseball field. I have to protect them from baseballs coming at them from neighboring teams,” he said.

Morris said he has played games on the Crocker-Amazon fields, which were converted to turf by the City Fields Foundation in a previous project.

“Those fields are great to play on, and there’s such a great vibe in the community around that park since they went in.”

By the end of today’s meeting, the Coastal Commission agreed with what all the other city agencies have already stated – that the project should move forward – by unanimously voting to uphold the permit for Beach Chalet renovation.

And we’re really glad. We think there’s probably lots of kids and parents that will be cheering tonight about it too.

Sarah B.

An overhead view showing the renovated parking, playground and seating area.

Instead of tall bleachers, an 18-inch raised walkway featuring built-in spectator
benches runs across the center of the fields.

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 4:08 pm | Posted under Golden Gate Park, Recreation, Sports | 44 comments

Fun times at the Mayfaire Carnival at Argonne Elementary this Saturday

It’s all about Mom on Sunday, but on Saturday, you might also want to stop by the Mayfaire Carnival at Argonne Elementary School for some family fun.

The Carnival runs from 11am until 7pm on the school’s campus at 680 18th Avenue. There are tons of activities taking place including a petting zoo, climbing wall, hula hoop contest, a dunk tank, live music, a talent show, jumpy houses, face painting and more. Visit the Carnival website for a full schedule.

Admission is free to the Carnival, but tickets must be purchased for various activities (tickets are 10 for $5; most activities are 1 ticket).

While you’re there, be sure to check out the new 53 ft. x 24 ft. playground mural that was recently completed, illustrating the history of California and the Richmond District.

Sarah B.

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 5:26 am | Posted under Art, Events | 1 comment

It was 4 years, and 4 days ago today…

In all the sinkhole madness this week, we nearly forgot to wish ourselves a Happy 4th Birthday! The blog officially launched on May 5, 2009. At the time, we felt like we were broadcasting the first words from a radio station, wondering, “Is anyone out there listening?”

Turns out the answer is yes. Over those 4 years, we’ve had nearly half a million unique visitors, generating 1.8M pageviews. And let’s not overlook our many commenters, who have kept the conversation alive around a myriad of neighborhood topics. You’ve left us over 11,000 comments since we started (and special thanks to the spammers who have left 300k comments…grrr). We love how much you have to say and (most of the time) love the way you say it.

Who says people aren’t interested in the Richmond District? ;)

Hard to believe 4 years have passed, filled with mini doors, underground tunnels, police blotters, business openings and closings, and so much more. Among the stories that attracted the most attention in the last 4 years:

Mysterious Mini Door found in Golden Gate Park
Photos: Coyote pups in Golden Gate Park
A Giant in our midst: Tim Lincecum parties in the Richmond
KGO interviews ADA litigator; Pot de Pho is latest casualty among dozens being sued as recently as this week. Where is Eric Mar?
“Big Heart” Video Cafe at Geary & 21st closes after 25 years
Video: Funnel cloud touches down at Ocean Beach this morning

Thanks to all our readers for making this a worthwhile project. We love getting your tips and comments – keep ‘em coming!

Sarah B.

P.S. – We have no idea who Haley is but we liked her 4th birthday cake ;)

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 3:03 pm | Posted under Blog news | 28 comments

Walk among butterflies at new Conservatory exhibit, Blooms & Butterflies

Photo by Ron Lewis

The metaphor of the butterfly fascinates us – a new creature emerging from a crusty cocoon in full, technicolor glory, only to live for a brief time. It is nature’s reminder that life is short, and should be lived to the fullest in splendor.

Today, a new exhibition called Butterflies & Blooms opens at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. But this time it’s not just plants that are on display, but also the beautiful butterflies that spend time among them. The Conservatory’s special exhibits gallery is transformed into a cottage garden, complete with more than 20 species of colorful and familiar North American butterflies like magnificent monarchs, Western swallowtails, and red admirals.

If you’ve ever wanted to walk among butterflies, this is your chance. You can watch hundreds of butterflies as they move among the flowers, drinking nectar and covering themselves in pollen. All to illustrate the important role that butterflies play in the life cycle of plants.

“I think if you asked most people to explain how a flower turns into an apple, they wouldn’t be able to,” says Lau Hodges, Curator.

“But life as we know it just wouldn’t be possible without pollination – no flowers, no plants, no fruit. It’s a crucial natural process. We want people to understand that and to know there are some very important insects and animals that do the work.”

In addition to watching butterflies float around the exhibition gallery, you can also get a sneak peek into their evolutionary process in the exhibit’s Butterfly Bungalow where their cocoons, or “chrysalises” are on display. During the metamorphosis process, the caterpillar liquefies completely and its cells reorganize into a butterfly. If you get your timing right, you might even see a new butterfly emerge in the Bungalow.

Visitors will also learn some fun facts about these light winged creatures, like that they taste with their feet to determine if a flower has good nectar or might be a suitable place for laying their eggs.

For your chance to come eye to eye with a butterfly, stop by the Blooms & Butterflies exhibit at the Conservatory of Flowers from today through October 20, open every Tuesday through Sunday from 10am to 4pm.

Sarah B.

The chrysalises inside the Butterfly Bungalow. Photo by Ron Lewis

Photo by Ron Lewis

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 5:02 am | Posted under Events, Golden Gate Park | Comments Off

Large sinkhole opens up at Lake and 2nd Avenue during Monday commute

This afternoon around 5:30pm, a large sinkhole opened up at the intersection of Lake and 2nd Avenue. Neighbors reported that a car drove over the area and shortly after, the ground began sinking in on itself.

We stopped by the sinkhole at 6:45pm tonight, and helicopters from two news channels were still circling overheard.

A DPW crew was there inspecting the hole, and the entire intersection was closed off with police caution tape. No repairs were being made yet.

Several streets were closed off from traffic leading into the intersection, including the first and third blocks of Lake Street, and 2nd Avenue between California and Lake.

The surface of the sinkhole looked like it had been covered with fresh asphalt recently, and a neighbor on scene confirmed that the area had been patched in recent weeks.

She drove over the intersection earlier in the day with her husband, and remarked that the ground was uneven and appeared to be sinking.

It’s unclear what caused the sinkhole, but typically it’s due to a break in a sewer or water line that then erodes the surface under the street. When we visited the scene, there was no sign of water and no smell of sewage, but there was definitely an absence of foundation under the street.

UPDATE: KTVU, who was manning one of the choppers over the scene, reports, “It is believed that the sinkhole was caused by an old 21-inch sewer line failure.”

There were several gawkers at the intersection, mostly neighbors who lived close by and wondered why helicopters were circling overhead. Guess it’s a slow news day.

Try to avoid the area for tonight and probably tomorrow, as crews will be assessing and repairing the sinkhole which is pretty large.

Thanks to reader Stacy L. for the tip.

UPDATE 5/8/13: SFAppeal reports that it could take as long as 2 weeks to repair the sinkhole, which was caused by the rupture of a 19-inch brick sewer line.

Sarah B.

Photo by Stacy L.

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 7:06 pm | Posted under Transportation | 22 comments

Local links: Fairy door website, free yoga, weapons seized, street history & more

Sundays in GGP by Methanie Dempsay Binder | April 2013 | Copyright 2013

Happy Friday to all! We hope you’ve been out enjoying this incredible weather. Here are a few local links to kick off what we hope is a great weekend. – Sarah B.

  • Everyone’s favorite elf/fairy door in the Golden Gate Park Concourse now has its own website at faerydoor.net. It’s run by the father and son duo who first installed the door. They’ve already responded to some of the fan mail that’s been left at the door. We were also told another door is in the works for the park – keep your eyes open out there!
  • Need to relieve stress and decompress? Head over to the Richmond District Neighborhood Center on Saturday mornings for free yoga. Classes take place from 10–11:30am at the RDNC headquarters, 741 30th Ave.
  • History buffs, this one is for you! Ever wondered why our streets are named the way they are? San Francisco native Noah Veltman created an interactive map that lets you find out the history behind our street names. For instance did you know Geary Boulevard was named for John W. GEary, first mayor of San Francisco, elected in 1850?
  • Canine wishes: Blog reader Henry P. sent us this earlier in the week – “I would like to ask your permission to post a message of sincere gratitude to our Richmond district neighbors who helped our rescued and much-loved family dog, Mosby, as it passed away on Geary and 25th, due to a traffic accident. I really would like to convey our thanks to the kindness of strangers, despite our pain.” R.I.P Mosby :(
  • We’re hearing about two business closures in the neighborhood. Fredy’s Deli on La Playa out by the beach has been closed for over two months, despite a sign saying that they would reopen last month. Readers tell us they heard the owner, Fredy, is ill. Let’s hope he gets well soon and reopens – folks miss his little deli! We also got word from reader Derek that the Java Source Coffee House on Clement near 5th is either closed for good or remodeling. That place has always been a bit of a mystery to us…
  • One gun leads to another… SFAppeal reported this week on an arrest in Foster City that led police to an extensive weapons stash in the Richmond District. “A subsequent search of a San Francisco residence in the 3000 block of Cabrillo Street yielded two more assault rifles, one rifle, one shotgun, 12 revolvers and semi-automatic handguns of various calibers, and approximately 10,000 rounds of ammunition.”
  • The Examiner stopped by Trad’r Sams on Geary to interview bartender Fred Sor about their drinks, patrons and Asian movie nights. “Q: Do you get any “crusty, old salt”-type characters? A: Well we usually open by noon, so yeah, some of those.”
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 4:11 pm | Posted under Business, Crime, Golden Gate Park, Health, Pets | 9 comments