Visitacion Valley Greenway
The Visitacion Valley Greenway is composed of a linear series of six publicly owned parcels (each a block long), cutting a verdant swath through the heart of Visitacion Valley. Over a period of 16 years it has been developed by the members of the Visitacion Valley Greenway Project in partnership with the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department (SFRPD) and the Trust for Public Land. Both partners are owed a great debt of gratitude. Originally a PUC easement, it took 5 years of negotiations to gain permission to build the Greenway. The Visitacion Valley Greenway is a Parks Partner of the San Francisco Parks Trust.
In its entirety, the Greenway is an outdoor classroom and recreation area beautifying the landscape and uniting the diverse groups and generations of Visitacion Valley. This hillside park land with its vistas of the Bay and the surrounding Visitacion/Guadalupe Watershed incorporates a native plant garden, children's play garden, various fruit and street trees, public art made by community members, agricultural crops, herb garden, and a Senior Pavilion. Horticultural and propagation classes are planned in the near future and job training is planned for a later time. The Hans Schiller Plaza opening onto Leland Avenue - the neighborhood commercial area - is the southern gateway to the Greenway and initiated revitalization of Leland Avenue, as well as, the entire neighborhood. Recently completed Leland Avenue Streetscape Improvements under the auspices of DPW incorporate VV Greenway design elements.
The Visitacion Valley Greenway functions as a corridor of native and other beneficial plants that attract insect and avian pollinators. Pathways provide a pedestrian connection from the lower to the upper Valley. Soil erosion prevention, water wise irrigation, and drought-resistant planting methods are practiced. Thematic design of gates and fencing and sidewalks create a beautiful visual unity throughout the entire Greenway. The ultimate goals are to establish a dialogue within the community so that, eventually, the entire neighborhood will be greened by incorporating methods practiced and promoted in the Greenway and provide educational and recreational opportunities for the residents of Visitacion Valley and beyond.
The Visitacion Valley Greenway Project represents an outstanding model for using public and private sources for funding its capital improvements (over 6 million dollars including grants, in kind donations and volunteer labor)) and creating a sustainable program for the future. The SF Recycling Company has generously funded construction of the Greenway's gates (designed by Jim Growden and Fran Martin) and contributed materials, such as compost and urbanite. Beautification of the neighborhood has been a spur to economic development and revitalization of the long neglected Visitacion Valley community.Geography and Population Served:
Visitacion Valley is a hilly neighborhood nestled in the greater Visitacion/Guadalupe Watershed that includes the cities of Brisbane and Daly City and enjoys natural areas, such as San Bruno Mountain State Park, Bayview Hill, McLaren Park and the Bay. Unfortunately, although nearby, these natural areas, particularly the Bay, are somewhat inaccessible to our community. The entire Region is undergoing enormous, unprecedented changes due to proposed development including 8-10,000 new housing units and 450 acres of commercial development.
It can easily be said that Visitacion Valley has been the victim of systematic governmental neglect over the years. In addition, Highway 101 runs along the Watershed's eastern edge cutting off access to the Bay and the Martin PG&E Substation is also located in the Valley. The Schlage Lock site remediation is nearing completion and will be developed with housing, new parks and retail after years of community advocacy. The adjacent 600 acres of Brisbane Baylands is a toxic brownfield/landfill site slated for future development. The Kinder Morgan Fuel Depot continues to pose a toxic threat and Caltrain tracks run the length of the Valley.
The Mayor's Office of Community Development has identified Visitacion Valley as one of 8 San Francisco neighborhoods with "significant rates of poverty," the neighborhood with the greatest number of families led by single, female heads of households and the second-highest number of children (15 % of residents) receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Overall the population is one of the most diverse culturally and racially in the city. Visitacion Valley is home to an enormous new immigrant population and 3 public housing projects including Sunnydale (San Francisco's largest public housing project). Issues of extreme poverty, violence, language barriers, lack of adequate housing, cultural conflicts and concomitant mental/physical health problems plague the community. Despite the obstacles many residents are working together to improve the Valley and build a more vibrant community based on a sense of unity. Our youth are equal to those of wealthier communities, if given a chance at equal opportunities, which the Green Rangers and Green Stewards Programs hope to address.Activities:
In the past VVGP and California Academy of Science coordinated a program to work with local children to bring the Academy's invaluable expertise to Visitacion Valley and make the entire Greenway an outdoor classroom. 4 years ago, the Visitacion Valley Green Stewards program was inaugurated, The Green Stewards program consists of up to 20 high school students from the area who are learning about environmental education and career opportunities and are participating in wilderness trips with the group Environmental Traveling Companions (ETC). The Scully Foundation has funded this program. The Green Rangers consists of younger children from pre-school through elementary school age who come out to learn about nature and help plant food for their own consumption. VVGP has begun working with the ROCK program at El Dorado Elementary School and Visitacion Valley Middle School and continues working with Kids in Parks.
Other Activities: The Greenway Project has received three San Francisco Beautiful Awards for Beautification, and the Trust for Public Land has awarded its prestigious Lachman Soulage Award to the Greenway Project's leadership. In addition to the above, the Greenway Project was instrumental in SFRPD's design and construction of the new Visitacion Valley Playground and Clubhouse, which opened in October 2003. VVGP also participated in the landscape design and installation of plants for the new Clubhouse.
VVGP also has participated in the design process for the renovation of Kelloch Velasco Park with the Recreation and Park Department. VVGP has partnered with local community based organizations, such as the library to hold musical and other events and the Green Stewards worked with the Friends of the Urban Forest to plant trees throughout the Valley. The Visitacion Valley Planning Alliance and the former Visitacion/Guadalupe Watershed Group grew out of the V V Greenway Project. The Green Stewards and core group of volunteers help maintain the V V Greenway along with help from a SFRPD gardener. Upkeep is also supported by volunteers from corporate and other non-profit groups, such as Build On.