Former Hayes Valley Farm site Occupied, renamed Gezi Gardens

A sign outside Gezi Gardens

"We're doing this to help give the community a choice," Ayr told me, sweeping his arm out. "Everyone should have a voice when it comes to issues of land use and green space, which is rapidly disappearing in the city. That's why we're inviting the community to meet here tonight [Tue/4 at 6:30pm, also Sat/8 at 3pm] and see what we're about. This is a land liberation concept, we're calling it Free the Land, or Liberate the Land."

Ayr was leading me around the former site of Hayes Valley Farm, the lauded public experiment in urban farming on an undulating patch that used to be a freeway entrance, which has now been cleared to make way for a 185-unit development on half the the lot (low-income housing is slated eventually for the other half). 

Well, not quite cleared. Ayr was showing me around an Occupy-like scene, with an agricultural twist. 

Hayes Valley Farm officially ceased exiting on May 31, which is when Free the Land ("including some of the original Hayes Valley farmers," Ayr told me, and others are related to the Human Bein organization) gently moved in. Large organic garden plots and twisty permaculture-based water cachements still transformed the land; rows of sprouts were peeking through the dark soil. About 20 people were tending the plots or attending a free food stand. Ayr guided me through the garden's parts, which also included an encampment of about three tents, the food stand, a free store, and a greeting table with info.

Although the aim is to preserve one of the city's few urban farms left in the wake of an eviction epidemic and upscale housing development boom, the action also has broader intentions. "In solidarity with what's going on in Turkey, we've renamed this space Gezi Gardens, because it started with trying to protect a green space" Ayr told me. "And we also want to bring up that fact that there are about 30,000 vacant units in the city, and 6,000 homeless people."

Had they had any complaints? "People have been very supportive. The police have come around to check on us, just to make sure we have no vehicles or structures that would be violations. But no one's filed a formal complaint yet that we know of. Probably nothing will happen until the politicians decide if they can benefit from this or not." (Indeed, while I was there, two police cars with five officers pulled up and took a look around the gardens, asking people to leash their dogs.)

Here's the full statement from Gezi Gardens -- you can get more info at

A letter to the neighbors: We wish to keep the space formerly known as Hayes Valley Farm open as a community space and source of fresh, free local food. We have renamed this land Gezi Gardens in solidarity with the people of Turkey who initially were peacefully attempting to protect urban open space from private development. Food Not Lawns!

Dear Neighbors,

You may already know that the space formerly known as Hayes Valley Farm is slated for development. Build Inc. and Avalon Bay Communities plan to replace the farm with housing, parking, and retail.   Meanwhile, the San Francisco Tenants Union reports that over 30,000 housing units are vacant in San Francisco. We believe that the city should develop housing units in existing vacant buildings instead of places like this beautiful farm and green space.

We are a grassroots collection of bay area residents, urban farmers, and neighbors. We agree that large scale land-use decisions which impact entire communities should not be based on economic interests alone, and must recognize the inherent value in preserving open, publicly accessible space.  We are dedicated to maintaining this piece of land as a space for growing food.

This issue is not new. San Francisco has a long history taking collective action to defend the character of the city, to make sure that it’s unique beauty is not sacrificed to commercial interests and over-development. In the “freeway revolts” of the 1950′s, our communities banded together to fight off a transportation plan that was intended to ring the entire city (including golden gate park) with massive freeways. As you are probably aware, this very space, as well as the character of the entire neighborhood, owes much to that struggle, which continues to this day!

There is much more to be discussed, so please join us at this weeks’ Neighbors’ Meetings to help develop a vision of what this space could be.

Come to the Farm, located on Laguna between Fell and Oak for neighborhood meetings:

Online resources:
Twitter: @LiberateLand    Hashtag: #GEZIGARDENS
More info: HUMANBEIN.ORG    




And you certainly have not established that you have majority support within that community.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2013 @ 12:23 pm

So you can not condone or support illegal acts? Its only of interest if we knew who it is that can not condone illegal acts, otherwise your position is pretty meaningless.

Posted by Chris Pratt on Jun. 04, 2013 @ 12:51 pm

spoke for the only person I can speak for.

Names are meaningless here and I feel sure that yours is fake.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 6:06 am

This group should pool their money and buy land somewhere in the city.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

30,000 vacant units? Where did they get that number?

How is this even possible?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 8:47 am

number is just made up. It's possible to guess at the number of vacant units, by looking at property tax records and matching them up against documented rentals and rent board fees, but it's going to be very rough.

Also, many units are vacant simply because they are being marketed, or sold, or remodelled. You really cannot count those.

I've seen a figure of 10,000 referring to the number of units that landlords deliberately leave vacant rather than be subjected to rent control, and I can believe that, but not 30,000.

But anyway, so what? If I own a home, it is nobody's business but mine whether it is occupied or vacant.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 9:44 am

It's not an impossible number to measure. The number comes from 2010 Census figures:

Posted by Guest on Jun. 08, 2013 @ 12:28 pm

Hispanic illegals refusing to complete the form.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 08, 2013 @ 1:21 pm

are protesting against an autocratic, strongly-Islamist government which they feel has become increasingly intolerant of Turkey's secular background.

How is any of that inimical to a few straggly homeless people trying to squat on an old piece of freeway exit?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 10:51 am
Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 11:01 am

Our government at the national and local level has becoming increasingly intolerant of forms of demonstration against the onslaught of capitalism, as has the Turkish government.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 08, 2013 @ 12:30 pm

EXACTLY like oppressed residents in the Middle East.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 08, 2013 @ 1:22 pm

to SFPD, to the Mayor, and to the State. We have all been part of a long process of public comment on the proposed development--many years long. The proposal worked its way through the democratic process, and it's done now. The development is going to happen.

The idea that this development is "taking away a green space" from the city is moronic. This space was a freeway onramp! It has been an unusable vacant lot for most of the time since the 1989 earthquake, and the Hayes Valley Farm project was a short-term use of the property during the final entitlements phase of the housing development. The "farmers" knew this coming in, and any of them who are now "occupying" this property are just spoiled children.

And yes, this "occupation" is insulting to the Turks. If you guys want to show solidarity with them, go to Turkey and actually risk your necks for them, instead of just annoying a community who does not want your uncivilized, obnoxious, pretentious behavior.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 1:02 pm

As a neighbor living close by to Hayes Valley Farm, there are a few facts our little reporter left out. 1. is that the farm was never permanent and they new that. 2, the Hayes Valley Association had a very detailed plan for the entire Hayes Valley area including the Farm witch was voted on and supported by the people that live in Hayes Valley. 3. Half of the farm area is scheduled for low income houseing desperatley needed in the city. Everyone just talks about the other half witch are condo's that help pay for everything else. So with the squatters your loosing Low Income houseing for a silly little spot of soil that was never a farm , never a park but was actually Victiorian housing that was moved or torn down for the freeway. 4. This group is from Oakland and has little connection , knowledge or support of neighborhood. They did'nt even know of the local left political activism done for years by they Hayes Valley association. 5. Theres lots of empty lots in the city , but mayby not a trendy and hipsterish as Hayes Valley, something they strive for. WE dont need people from Oakland telling us how to run our community in such a dictatorial autocratic way. Mayby we should go squat their homes and gardens and start our own liberation front in Oakland.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 1:05 pm

If you seriously feel so threatened by a few well-intentioned souls gardening on an abandoned plot of land before they get kicked out by the police at the behest of developers, I really feel sorry for you. Not sure I see any dictatorial authoritarianism here, but I'm sure you'll keep looking.

Yes, Hayes Valley Farm was there as a conditional use experiment and it left without a fuss. And yes, there was a big community process a long time ago that property holders were invited to join, and yes the other half of the plot is thankfully going to affordable housing. All that is still happening. Why not use this window of opportunity to draw attention to the fact that we live in a city that no longer supports public urban farming or stands in solidarity with people struggling in other countries?

Have a drink and relax, friend. No big scary Occupy shibboleth is coming to snatch your precious building plans in the night.   

Posted by admin on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 1:21 pm

It's really that simple.

Move on.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 1:35 pm

LOL -- I'm the freaking nightlife columnist. But who said what these people are doing is illegal? Everything's still going ahead as planned, and no tickets have been issued or arrests made so ...

Posted by admin on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 1:43 pm

Hanging signs on the fence, prohibited by Cal. Penal Code Sec. 602(f)
Cutting through the fence and lock, prohibited by Cal. Penal code Sec. 602(i)
Entering the property, prohibited by Cal. Penal Code Sec. 602(k) and (m)
Remaining on the property, prohibited by Cal. Penal Code Sec. 602(m)
Driving vehicles into the property, prohibited by Cal. Penal Code Sec. 602(n)

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 3:03 pm

please. What else, surely you're keeping track better than that. With every post we're getting to know more and more about you!

Posted by admin on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 3:07 pm
Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 3:25 pm
Posted by admin on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 3:30 pm
Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 3:45 pm

cannot professionally and credibly support illegal behavior.

You know that, right?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 3:17 pm

must have been reading Woodward and Bernstein in the quad.

Posted by admin on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 3:19 pm

I stopped thinking breaking the law was cool somewhere during my college years.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 3:33 pm

You did not really just compare yourself to Woodward and Bernstein, did you? Or a bunch of feces-tossing patchouli-soaked trust-fund brats' trespassing on a vacant lot to Watergate? Get a grip, buddy.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2013 @ 7:02 am

a whole new meaning.

And self-delusion of course.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2013 @ 7:29 am

Can a journalist professionally and credibly support civil disobedience in the name of a higher code of law?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 08, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

"higher law" is.

Which there evidently is not.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 08, 2013 @ 1:23 pm

Let me guess. The journalist, right?

Word. Everyone thinks that they are right, therefore what anyone thinks is right means nothing.

Posted by anon on Jun. 08, 2013 @ 2:03 pm

Maybe you should do some research about who these people trespassing on this property are:

Their stated aim is to prevent the development, period.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 1:45 pm

We find out many of these people are from elsewhere.

Something that progressives just hate is people from elsewhere coming here and telling us how to live.

Posted by matlock on Jun. 08, 2013 @ 2:24 pm

There is a "usual suspect" gaggle of agitators who apparently have nothing better to do.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 08, 2013 @ 2:36 pm

Well, I guess we've established your standard of objectivity. Oh, wait a minute. I see this is a blog, not reportage. The main difference, as I can make it out is a blog means never having to say you're sorry, and never having to check your facts.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2013 @ 5:16 am

whether I want development or a bunch of squatters there.

I want development.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 1:39 pm

People of Turkey need your help. Please take a minute to sign this petition, and share it with your friends. International pressure on the Turkish government is the only way to force them to stop the police violence.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

of self-absorbed white people with a sense of entitlement and self-importance to squat on some land they have no right to and in defiance of the people in that neighborhood who clearly want a development.

All that nonsense in the name of a people who are really suffering?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 2:06 pm

First, I am a resident of Istanbul and a "Chapuller" [çapulcu] as our PM Erdogan calls us. I am a supporter of #occupygezi, not an occupier myself. Even as a supporter I have been patronized by the officials and the supporters of the ruling AKP. Before you start accusing me of being a tree-huger,I want to highlight that I will not call myself an environmentalist. [There is no Green party or an organized Green movement in Turkey] I just want to exercise my basic rights and liberties; to be heard and acknowledged.

I do not know the specifics of the situation in SF and Hayes Valley Farm. I also know I do not have a right to lecture you on your neighborhood's well-being, as it is not my place. I am also definitely sure you had a much more transparent decision-making process.

However, I would appreciate if you also do NOT talk on my behalf. Call me a romantic or a desperate citizen, the name Gezi Gardens is endearing. You may think it is a stunt, but to me it signifies that we are heard, and we are not alone.

Also the Gezi Park resistance is about urban gentrification as much as it is about rights and liberties. The gentrification projects of Taksim - the banns on cafes, the destruction of famous landmarks such as Emek Cinema Hall, the contruction of a mall that led the historical Inci Patisserie to move to another location - and increasing environmental concerns were the driving force behind the occupation. So as far as I understood from the letter [hope I did not get lost in translation], they are not that wrong.

And it is also a good thing you are not here, they are already labeling the whole event as a "foreign" conspiracy, and accusing foreign students for provoking violence. [See]

But as I said I do not know the specifics of the situation there. But I appreciate the intent. And please do not speak on my behalf, as I have enough people doing that in here, and calling me misguided. If you think they are really wrong and misguided then rather than calling them a nuisance, talk and convince them. I assume they are peaceful, smart and reasonable people.

And to the occupiers there use your wits and humor, it really works here they do not know what to do with us ^_^. As long as you are peaceful and creative you should be fine.

Posted by Istanbul Chapuller on Jun. 06, 2013 @ 10:58 pm

Love and solidarity from San Francisco! Thank you for speaking up, for your words of advice for our town, and for the tremendous risk you take. Güvenli kalmak

Posted by Guest on Jun. 08, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

Hi everyone. I'm the land itself, and I just thought I'd chime in here.

It really doesn't matter what you do with me. Farm me or develop me, it's all the same. I'm just a piece of space. I will be largely unaffected by the squirming screaming struggles of a group of desperate humans on my surface. Maybe I will grow some vegetables or provide construction jobs for a while. Whatever, do what you want. I have no preference--I'm just territory.

In about 100 years, you and everyone else you know will be dead. Everyone who has an opinion about what to do with me will be bones in the ground. Those children you see in the streets, the ones you want to give a better future to by building housing for them, or teaching them about urban farming? They will be dead too.

But I will still be here. I am the land. I am eternal. And you, you humans--you are irrelevant.

Posted by The Land Itself on Jun. 07, 2013 @ 8:16 am

Rising ocean levels, landslides and earthquakes may reform you, as they have been doing for millions of years.

But cities and people will still be here, as they continue to flexible adapt to all the changes that happen to the surface of the planet.

You see, we're intelligent life, and can survive no matter what you do. You're just a bunch of dirt, in the end.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2013 @ 8:29 am

"But cities and people will still be here, as they continue to flexible adapt to all the changes that happen to the surface of the planet."

You should read up on the petroleum industry or the pollinator crisis. You may find that your worldview that we are such intelligent, invincible creatures, and that the land is "just a bunch of dirt" is a bit skewed.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 13, 2013 @ 9:02 pm

Here is a short video of Jay Rosenberg discussing Hayes Valley Farm demonstrating urban agriculture as a strategy for interim land use: He makes it clear that it was never anyone's intention at HVF to stage this kind of sit-in. Actually, this occupation very much goes against precisely what they set out to demonstrate with Hayes Valley Farm...

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2013 @ 4:16 pm

the dirty hippies in this town covered it with signs saying "if this was housing you would be home by now"

Now the dirty hippies are complaining they are putting up housing.

These are the people we are supposed to be listening too and learning valuable life lessons from.

Posted by matlock on Jun. 08, 2013 @ 4:50 am

Are we supposed to be listening to people who call activists "dirty hippies"?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 08, 2013 @ 12:56 pm

always wash and never have long hair or wear sandals?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 08, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

Why would you care that they are called dirty hippies?

Your post makes no sense.

Posted by matlock on Jun. 08, 2013 @ 1:54 pm

I live across the street from the site of the occupiers. I'm in a rent controlled apartment and have been here for many years. I want them to go away. They are polluting the neighborhood with their homemade billboards (no different from Clear Channel erecting billboards.) They are peeing and crapping on the land. They are loud and rude and hostile. I have to avoid that block when I walk my service dog. All the "statics" they site are entirely made up. Life this one: " 30,000 vacant units in the city." Where? That would come as news to anyone looking for an apartment in the city. We have a housing shortage in the city and more people means more jobs and a better economy. The are also from outside the area. I was told by one that they "hung near Oakland". Whatever that means. I live here. I want them to go away. My neighbors want them gone. They have no support in the neighborhood. The sooner they stop sullying my neighborhood the better. We are organizing to have them evicted so the construction can begin and we can welcome legit neighbors.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 09, 2013 @ 7:59 am

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