Photography by Jeff Hunt
There's an unused square block in the Portola District that's Ground Zero in the fight over land in San Francisco.
In Part 1, we learn all about the Greenhouse Project. Volunteer Caitlyn Galloway shares some of the history of the block bordered by Woolsey, Bowdoin, Wayland, and Hamilton streets as well as the efforts underway to reclaim the area as a green space in The City's southeast side.
Then we hear about Caitlyn's life and how she got to this moment. She was born in Union City and raised there and in Livermore, where she went to high school. Her extended family has been in the East Bay for several generations.
Once she was old enough to ride BART without an adult, she and her cousin would come into San Francisco to go shopping around the Powell station. When it was time to go to college, she chose Santa Barbara. Despite a lot of what Caitlyn calls "sameness" there, she found pockets of people she could relate to, people who had different ways of living—punks, hippies, folks who worked at co-ops.
Caitlyn started working at a food co-op in Santa Barbara around the same time she began to garden there. She was still in school and all of these activities started to shape Caitlyn's worldview, especially around food and land.
After graduation, she moved to New York City, partly to get away and partly to ready herself for a move to San Francisco. She found work as a gardener at a landscaping company, where she worked on rich people's gardens around town. Caitlyn also worked on some green roofs in New York, well before the trend that would emerge later.
Two years into her time on the East Coast, she decided that it was time to come back to California. She missed a number of things—people, a smaller-city vibe. But perhaps more than anything else, California sagebrush drew Caitlyn back to her home state. There was no question of where in the state she'd be.
Upon landing in San Francisco in 2007, Caitlyn apprenticed at New Bohemia Signs, a hand-painted sign shop based in the South of Market neighborhood. Through her work there, she met and befriended someone who was gardening and growing vegetables in a backyard in the Mission. Caitlyn soon joined her new friend in gardening.
We end Part 1 with a detour of sorts, when Jeff and Caitlyn discover that they were neighbors 15 years ago or so.
Photography by Jeff Hunt
Maggie Marks has deep roots in San Francisco, and that's not a gardening pun.
In this episode, Maggie, who today is the director of Garden for the Environment (GFE) in the Inner Sunset, traces her family's history in The City. Her mom's side goes back at least two generations here; and her dad's side includes the family that owns Guerra Quality Meats. Her parents lived in various spots around town before settling in the Inner Sunset in the '90s. This is where Maggie grew up.
She went to Rooftop School, where she indulged in art, theater, and gardening. By eighth grade, Maggie was head of the environmental club at school. Around this time, California was experiencing a major drought. Residents were constantly being made aware of steps to mitigate the water shortages, stuff we're very familiar with today—shorter and fewer showers, less watering of gardens, etc. Around this time and not too far from her childhood home, GFE was founded.
Maggie and her friends liked to create make-believe worlds. She also liked to read. She spent a lot of time in the nearby library. Once she was a little older, she rode Muni all over town. One of her (and her family's) favorite spots was the Mission, almost always to get burritos.
We talk a little about Maggie's time living away from her hometown. She went to college in Seattle and loved it, but the rain ultimately got to her. In 2008, she spent time in DC working for the Obama campaign in Northern Virginia.
Before the financial crisis really took hold that year, Maggie had been thinking of permanently relocating. But with the election over and the economy continuing its decline, she decided to come back home. She worked various jobs while trying to find her calling—farmers' markets, her family's shop, and other non-profit work. She got a great spot up in Bernal Heights, met the man she'd later marry, and sealed the deal on staying in her hometown.
Growing up in the Inner Sunset, Maggie remembered GFE being built. Through one of her non-profit jobs, she got reconnected with the garden after sharing an office with them. With GFE's director going on maternity leave, Maggie applied and got the job. That was 10 years ago.
Photography by Jeff Hunt
Our City Gardens series continues with a visit to Sisterhood Gardens. Located on Brotherhood Way (get it?) in the OMI area of southwest San Francisco, the garden was established in 2016.
In this podcast, we meet master gardener and Sisterhood volunteer Jamie Chan. In addition to her work at Sisterhood, Jamie teaches at SF State, where she's also a doctoral student.
Jamie shares her story with us. A fourth-generation San Franciscan, she traces her family's history in The City back to the Gold Rush era. Over the years, her ancestors lived mostly in Chinatown, but eventually, they all moved to the Sunset and Richmond. Jamie grew up near Stern Grove and went to SFUSD schools.
Her parents grew up in Chinatown, where they knew each other growing up. The two reconnected while at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo and got married after graduation.
Today, Jamie trains public school teachers (her husband happens to be a teacher, too). As a teenager, she went to School of the Arts and was interested in telling people's stories. She studied documentary film and made movies about ABC (American-born Chinese) identity. She went to art school at CalArts in SoCal but didn't like it. So she came back and went to SF State, where she studied biology.
After graduation, Jamie worked at California Academy of Sciences and became interested in education. She and her husband got their home through a city program—an acquisition that came with a yard bigger than the house.
She started gardening there after having kids and found herself wanting to connect with food and food systems as a mom. That led to a master gardener program at UC.
Jamie helped found Sisterhood Gardens in 2016, The land is owned by SF Department of Public Works, who landscaped the space and got water running before turning it over to neighborhood volunteers.
We end Part 1 with Jamie's thoughts about still being here in San Francisco.
City Gardens Series: Danielle "Calibird" Fernandez and Isaiah Powell of Calibird and Bee Pollinator Sanctuary and Dragonspunk GRO (S4E41)
Photography by Michelle Kilfeather
In this podcast, Isaiah Powell (Part 1/Part 2) catches us up with what's been going since his Storied: SF episodes back in the summer of 2020. Between the land he and Danielle Fernandez stewarded at Florence Fang Community Farm and today, they were at Adam Rogers Park. The philosophy behind Dragonspunk has always been that they go where the help is needed; it's never been about a single location.
That brings us today and the place we recorded—Calibird and Bee Pollinator Sanctuary on Palou in the Bayview. The spot lies above a Caltrain tunnel in the southeast side of San Francisco. Looking north from this beautiful space, with The City's skyline as backdrop, multiple smokestacks, construction cranes, and the Bay Bridge pepper one's view.
Isaiah talks a little about what he's been up to and their gaining access to the land where we talked. Then he hands the mic over to Danielle. She describes her vision of the space, which spawned from an idea she had 10 years ago when she lived in New York and would regularly visit gardens and green spaces around the city. She says her decade-long dream was to have a botanical garden of her own, one that begins the process of healing the damage humans have done to the natural environment.
Danielle takes us all on a tour of the sanctuary, listing off the mostly native plants, trees, bushes, and shrubs that live there. And we end this episode with Danielle's vision for the future of the space, which includes community gathering and events.