Green vs. "green"

City seeks to evict the HANC Recycling Center after it crosses Newsom on the sit-lie ordinance


Years ago, Greg Gaar was a scavenger, wandering the neighborhoods around Twin Peaks picking up bottles and other kinds of recyclable trash. He began working at the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council (HANC) Recycling Center in 1982.

During his tenure, a project designed primarily to divert waste from the landfill expanded to include a unique San Francisco native plant nursery. Located on a converted parking lot on Frederick Street near Lincoln Boulevard, the recycling center is a drop-off for recyclable materials, including used veggie oil, and a source for soil and 65 species of potted plants.

Gaar started small. "I took some seeds," he explained, "and scattered them into a flat. They came up like fur on a dog's back." Over the years, he researched the natural history of the area, saved seeds, and cultivated the grounds surrounding the recycling center. HANC also converted a traffic triangle across the street into a thriving garden.

The Recreation and Parks Department, directed by Phil Ginsburg — former chief of staff to Mayor Gavin Newsom — is seriously considering a plan to evict HANC recycling center and replace it with a garden resource center.

While trading one garden center for another might not seem like a big deal, it appears to be an attack on poor people who make their living recycling cans and bottles, a group that organized to oppose Proposition L, the sit-lie ordinance that Newsom supported in this election.

Or as HANC Executive Director Ed Dunn put it: "He's going to take it from his enemies and give it to his friends."

The HANC recycling center has leased Rec and Park property since its inception in 1974, and it's been at its current location for 30 years. HANC does not receive any city funding for the center, and it pays a small amount in rent for use of the parking lot. It processes roughly 160 tons of recycling per month.

Newsom has worked hard to cultivate his reputation as a green mayor and promote green-job creation, but evicting the recycling center would kill 10 green jobs. Many of the employees were formerly homeless and previously earned petty cash gathering cans to exchange at the center's buyback station. They were hired without any help from San Francisco taxpayers and now they're earning living wages while diverting waste from the landfill.

But some neighborhood residents are annoyed by the presence of people who arrive at the center with shopping carts filled to the brim with bottles and cans that they can exchange for cash. Buyback hours are held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., so during those times, people who haul around bundles of recyclables line up to receive modest rewards for their hours of effort.

HANC, a progressive organization, publicly and vehemently opposed Prop. L, the voter-approved ordinance that bans sitting and lying down on city sidewalks. Newsom enthusiastically endorsed Prop. L.

Dunn believes the recycling center is being targeted due to HANC's position on that issue. "It's all about political payback," says Dunn. Incidentally, Haight voters rejected sit-lie and HANC sees the pending recycling-center eviction as part of the same agenda. "It's all part of the gentrification that's enveloping San Francisco," said Jim Rhoads, who chairs the HANC Recycling Committee.

Once word of the plans got out, letters started pouring into to Newsom's and Ginsburg's offices from the Sierra Club, San Francisco Tomorrow, the Senior Action Network, and other organizations. Additionally, the center's supporters mailed at least 400 postcards opposing the eviction.


I can't believe anyone with even a modicum of ethics would be so callow as to support this!

Sadly, corrupt union 261, which represents the gardeners in the park (!), has sold out to the right on this.....


Posted by George on Nov. 24, 2010 @ 8:23 am

No one needs a noisy, smelly "recycling" center in 2011. There is curbside recycling.

No, I don't care about "the homeless" and their endless whining that life isn't giving them everything for nothing. Actions have consequences and "the homeless" are experiencing them now.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 24, 2010 @ 8:55 am

Shouldn't you be busy getting ready to steal Christmas? You're like this amazing multitasker!

Posted by marke on Nov. 24, 2010 @ 9:17 am

you're a proto-fascist, leave san francisco now.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2010 @ 10:59 am

It is a question of "use" and safety. Many of the "visitors" do not come to the parks for the parks. They come with criminal intent and create an unsafe environment for the employees and park users. The facts are not debatable. Gaar (who is quite well off,) does not have a permanent "deal."

Funny thing is, the same people who rush to condemn (Laborers are corrupt?). generally have no tolerance for these types of "deals" on park land.

So, now it's a "green" thing?


Posted by Labor rep on Nov. 24, 2010 @ 9:44 am

Thurs. Dec 2nd 2pm City Hall , Rm. 416...the Rec & Park Commission will hear the recycling center issue as well as the Stow Lake Boathouse. Last chance to save our boathouse from being given to a New Mexico based souvenir chain and LLC who plan to gut the historic interiors for a large restaurant/cafe and souvenir shop.... there's so much wrong with this plan... especially that the current tenant, in his bid, offered $75,000/yr more rent and higher revenues from food/boat rental sales! So any argument about this being a good plan for the budget does not hold water!!!

Posted by Guest on Nov. 27, 2010 @ 12:03 pm

It seems like both groups have common ground and they can/should work together to deal with their differences without destroying the legacy of HANC recycling in San Francisco. The gardening movement needs to embrace recycling as one of its tenants, they have a lot in common with each other. The HANC center is a unique and valuable community resource that is accessible to all economic classes. I never see any recycling containers or garbage cans in golden gate park, just dirty dumpsters in corners. This center could be further integrated into the Park's master plan, so people know to go there after their picnics, parties and adventures in the park. It could be a model and resource for others in our nation and abroad that do not have recycling programs at all. For more information on the bottle bill : CRV works better than curbside in California!

Posted by My Garbage Film on Nov. 27, 2010 @ 1:27 pm

I have to get out my shovel get out from all the bull @#$*!

Posted by Guest on Nov. 29, 2010 @ 1:55 am

It's one of the few places where you can actually get paid back on your CRV. You do realize that it's actually a refund, right? When you buy anything eligible for CRV you're paying for it upfront and only getting it back later if you return it to an approved center. Curbside recycling is just a way for the trash company to come in and collect that from you for their own profit.

Having a convenient recycling center is still a necessity as long as CRV continues to operate in the manner it does. Ideally, every location that charges CRV on items sold should be required to offer redemption value for used containers, but until then we need recycling centers and there simply aren't any anywhere else nearby.

Posted by Belgand on Nov. 29, 2010 @ 10:15 pm

They even have machines for it now.

The deal is that the state gets to keep the difference between the cans redeemed those not.

So why change the law? It's a windfall for the state.

Posted by matlock on Nov. 29, 2010 @ 11:33 pm

There's another place within walking distance of the Haight that pays out refunds on CRV? I'd certainly like to know about it. I've always supported the HANC center because, well, I like them, but on a practical level all I really care about is getting my money back for my bottles and cans.

The reason to change the law is because the state has purposely created a system that will result in anything a CRV is charged on being hard to redeem. It's essentially just an underhanded tax designed to prey on people not being able to find a recycling center, not wanting to be bothered, and now just feeling that curbside recycling is more convenient.

Requiring anyone charging CRV to redeem it means that you've taken down the barrier that the state relies on to makes this scam work. Sure, some people will still find it inconvenient, but making it problematic to even try shouldn't be part of the agenda.

Posted by Belgand on Dec. 01, 2010 @ 2:49 am

Why hate the homeless or scapegoat HANC for quality of life issues? It's not about taking one side or another, being a scavenger or property owner. We are all people and all have our own beautiful qualities. If you can't deal, try Walnut Creek or Bore-inda. Because many do see the beauty at HANC recycling center. Stop and take a look. Along with the recycling facilities, it has NATIVE PLANT GARDENS right outside, all along the fence. And this is also a plant nursery, in fact, the only place people can buy SF native plants, which is a service for the public that many of us LOVE and appreciate!

Posted by Guest on Dec. 22, 2010 @ 1:49 am