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.
Danielle's parents were born and raised in San Francisco. They met at Sears and Roebuck on Geary and Masonic in the Sixties. After they were married and started having kids, the young couple moved down the Peninsula, but didn't stop coming to The City regularly for big family dinners. The Fernandez family would hit up spots like Bruno's, Caesar's, Green Valley, Spenger's (across the Bay). Danielle describes what these dinners were like for a young kid like her.
Her mom had a successful food-demonstration business in the Eighties. They made the stuff people would hand out as samples at grocery stores back in the day. And sometimes, Danielle would go with her mom on runs to the stores.
In her teens, Danielle and her friends came to San Francisco a lot, mostly to go to raves held all over town. Getting out of the house involved some creative trickery that many of you might relate to. She says other kids at school might've thought she was a druggie, but in fact, she was just having a good time sober. She describes some of the goofy stuff she and her friends did.
In high school, Danielle worked at a pet store, where she learned to work with animals. After graduation, she took a stab at vet tech school, but didn't stick with it. From there, she worked in bio-tech for a while, but she didn't like that much either. Then a friend was looking through an old book of Danielle's drawings. They knew nothing about her artistic past, and asked why she wasn't still pursuing that. For Danielle, it was an awakening.
But it was Project Runway that really kicked things into gear. She ended up going to Parsons in New York and lived there for many years after graduating. She did well with fashion, but shifted her focus to "fast fashion," with the idea that she wanted to create practical clothes for the masses. It wasn't long, though, before she discovered inadequacies and injustices of that industry.
All this coupled with homesickness was drawing Danielle back to the Bay. And so, after nearly 10 years in New York, in 2018, she decided to pack up and head out west. Her aunt's house in the Bayview suddenly was available to her and her partner, and she was able to get a job here. We rewind a little to hear Danielle's version of the story of her and Isaiah's meeting.
Isaiah recounts the story from his perspective. Dani sent care packages to Isaiah while he worked in a dangerous situation in Santa Cruz county. We hear all about their whirlwind first day together all over the Bay Area.
We end the episode with Danielle and Isaiah's thoughts on what it means to still be here in San Francisco.
We recorded this podcast at the Calibird and Bee Pollinator Sanctuary in the Bayview in March 2022.