Near to Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park, the recycling center
has been in operation for more than 30 years. Its earliest beginnings go back even further noted HANC director Ed Dunn. The struggle with staying in operation has been going on for more than a year. Dunn called the eviction notice "heartless, because it will ensure that vulnerable people will most certainly lose their jobs right before Christmas," said Dunn. In a chat with this reporter by phone he noted that the Sheriff's Department served notice to the ecology center earlier that Thursday.
Ironically, the eviction notice must be carried out by the Sheriff's Office and the current city Sheriff is former SF Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi. His name is on the notice, next to the official seal. Back in 2011 he voiced his disdain for the way the recycling center was being treated. "I thought it was a cruel bit of a slipshod manner in the way that Rec. and Park treated the termination of the lease of the HANC recycling center," Mirkarimi told the full Board of Supervisors, when they convened twice that year on the issue. Also ironic is that at the time as reported by The Sunset Beacon Newspaper, Mayor Edwin Lee had not taken a position concerning the eviction, which had been initiated by former Mayor Gavin Newsom and the SF Recreation and Park Commission in December of 2010.
During previous proceedings and meetings SF Rec. and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg made statement. "In 1998, following six years of study the Golden Gate Master Plan was approved by the Recreation and Park Commission," Ginsburg said. "The Golden Gate Park Master Plan policy considers the recycling center 'a non-conforming use of Golden Gate Park' and that its non-park serving activities should eventually be phased out."
Yet, previously, Rec and Park actively sought to have a water treatment plant installed
in Golden Gate Park.
Adding more complexity to this situation, Dunn told this reporter that Thursday evening after the eviction notice had been served, Rec and Park wants to convert the land into a community garden. "Flower and vegetation beds are already here. We offer free soil and workshops on gardening/composting," he said. "It will cost the City to kick us out," Dunn said.
The plan is as reported by the SF Examiner
is to have the two-thirds-of an acre space converted into a community garden. This sounds a bit strange because only blocks away is the Arboretum and SF Botanical Gardens
which now charges an admission fee. That in and of itself has caused a lot of upset with residents and park advocates who think too much of Golden Gate Park is used for revenue-generating purposes.
One of the trends expressed by SF Rec. and Park is the need for more "revenue-generating" in the park system. Dunn mentioned that the recycling center does provide revenue for Rec. & Park. We pay about $5,000 per year to and have been making payments to Rec. and Park since 1990," he said. Dunn believes this situation is really "a class war." He noted that some think a recycling center attracts homeless people. If so, that would be perhaps a vague excuse because homelessness is everywhere. Homeless advocates, like the Coalition on Homelessness
have pointed out that closing the facility would have no impact. If anything, it is perhaps more likely that having the recycling center there keeps homeless busy, discouraging them from "camping out," in the Park. There are many other spots were homeless gather, especially in Golden Gate Park
that needs to be addressed. That is another story in and of itself.
So, back to the issue of the fate of the recycling center. Another reason for the recycling center's dismissal is the upgrades made to recycling collection efforts in the past few years. This also was reported in the Sunset Beacon back in 2011.
"There is a perception that the curbside program has eliminated the need for recycling centers and the statistics that we have been able to find is that in San Francisco there's about an even split between people who put their materials, the redeemable bottles and cans, in the blue bins," said Melanie Nutter, Director of SF Dept. for the Environment. "That is money that Recology SF
is then able to put back into its operation" she said. "About 51 percent of San Franciscans do take their bottles and cans either to a recycling center or to in-store redemption. Right now, she said, it's about evenly split for redemption."
As previously reported by the Sunset Beacon, Nutter pointed out that "at one time there were 30 recycling centers citywide." "Yet now that number is down to 19, so the consolidation has increased both the traffic around and the volume going through the remaining recycling centers, like the HANC recycling center." She also said her department's statistics show that in 2000 the HANC recycling center paid out about $163,000 to the community in redemption money, but by 2009 that had increased to about $574,000.
In a major city, such as San Francisco that has an on-going problem with illegal dumping on just about every street, wouldn't it make sense to have as many neighborhood recycling centers as possible? Illegal dumping continues to be a problem.
It seems to this reporter that there is some contradiction to this circumstance, with lots of political agenda type of intrigue. Rec. and Park wants there to be more "revenue generating" aspects to Golden Gate Park and yet Mayor Lee also wants the City of San Francisco to continue its progress in being a "green city"
leading the way in recycling and environmental concerns. Also, despite Mirkarimi's opposition to closing the recycling facility as city supervisor, he must now abide by his role as sheriff. This is a position he fought to keep despite an impeachment and recall proceeding, one that Mayor Lee was in favor of.
Dunn said the recycling center's attorney Robert de Vries had been notified and will follow up. Yet Dunn said "I am not too optimistic about this because our case has already been to the State Supreme Court. Back in June of last year, the California State Supreme Court declined to accept the recycling center's complaint over wrongful eviction.
It is puzzling to surmise what is the logic and motivation on the part of Rec. and Park? Currently, the Rec and Park department which oversees over a thousand acres of land, says it is having budget problems and a lack of staff to maintain its holdings. So adding another community garden will solve its financial woes? Even if this eviction was done to satisfy an urge to have all recycling efforts placed under the control of the City and its agencies, how much would the City or its contracts gain from it?
Some say that residents want the recycling center to go elsewhere. Dunn told this reporter that the San Francisco Chronicle is in favor of the recycling center being shut down
. "It's a pet issue, The Chronicle sees the recycling center as obsolete."
Dunn insists, despite his disappointment, "we need neighborhood recycling centers. Why use tax-payers money to build a community garden
when one already exists right here?"