park presidio boulevard

Wish list for Park Presidio Greenbelt scaled back

by Thomas K. Pendergast

A list of priorities for improving the greenbelt areas lining either side of Park Presidio Boulevard was winnowed down from 21 to four recently.

On Oct. 25, at the second of three meetings hosted by District 1 Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer at the Richmond Recreation Center, ideas for sprucing up that long stretch of grass and trees between Fulton and Lake streets were voted upon by more than a dozen people who live around the area.

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A worker blows leaves at the Park Presidio Boulevard greenbelt. Photo: Thomas K. Pendergast

“I actually give more preference to people who are living along the beltway because they see it every day and it is in front of their homes. It is their front yard,” Fewer said. “I could have easily made that decision for you but I felt uncomfortable because I don’t live there…. It’s (your) front yard; I would like for you to have a say in it.”

The first meeting was held on July 12, and although many ideas were tossed out from an audience about three times the size of the October meeting, there was little overall consensus, with some people wanting more foliage and others wanting less.

It seemed that one of the central issues was how much “maintenance,” or pruning, of the greenbelt is appropriate.

“It also has to coincide with our own parks’ plan,” Fewer explained. “There is a certain standard for a park in San Francisco, and that goes by Rec. and Park’s standards … I don’t think you’re going to see clear cutting, quite frankly. What they really want to know is what kind of maintenance do you want? Do you want it thinned out or do you want it bushy?”

From that July meeting, 21 separate proposals emerged about what improvements can be made to the greenbelt. The recent meeting was an attempt to winnow them down to a few popular enough by consensus to go to the SF Recreation and Park Department (RPD) as serious proposals.

A system called “multi-voting” was used, in this case consisting of two voting rounds. The first asked members in the audience to vote for only seven of the 21 suggestions by paper ballot. After that, nine proposals were left standing.

So, a second vote was cast, this time asking audience members to only vote for three of the remaining proposals. From that vote, four proposals survived, mainly because two of them both received the same number of votes.

The proposal that got the most votes was that there should be regular, constant, detailed cleaning of the greenbelt to remove trash that collects there. The second-highest called for the development of a more attractive landscape plan to provide better access, a cleaner environment and proper irrigation.

The other two proposals got the same amount of votes. One called for more effort to preserve the greenbelt’s “natural environment by avoiding cutting too many trees.” And the other called for a plan to address homeless people who often camp at the greenbelt.

Fewer mentioned that her understanding is that RPD now comes out twice a week to do maintenance on the greenbelt, including trimming the grass and removing dead branches and foliage.

The conflict, she said, is that some people want less foliage, trees and shrubs so they can see into the greenbelt, because they are wary of the homeless who tend to camp in it. Then there are those who want more foliage in order to act as a sound buffer along Park Presidio Boulevard, helping cut down on the noise from traffic traveling on the busy thoroughfare between the Presidio and Golden Gate Park.

The RPD, she explained, was at a loss on what to do about that.

“They are more than willing, I think, to do what we want to do. They just don’t know,” she said.

So, now that the options have been narrowed down to four, Fewer described the next step.

“I will actually give all these recommendations to Rec. and Park, highlighting the four you have identified today,” she said. “Now we have some direction of what we can work on.”

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