How many Potrero residents have ventured into the neighborhood’s public housing, the Potrero Terrace and Annex? Unless they live there, most people have at best driven through quickly, or perhaps walked their dogs in a park on the edge of the area. But on Saturday, September 17, a group of about 50 neighbors, from both the public housing and the surrounding areas, joined in a community walk that took many where they had never gone before.
The walk, sponsored by Rebuild Potrero and organized by the Unite Potrero Social Outreach Action Team, was kicked off at the Potrero Library by community organizer Emily Weinstein and Supervisor Malia Cohen. Then the group began the walk into the public housing in the warmth of the gorgeous day.
We stopped to see and hear about the Family Resource Center garden, where we sampled delicious fruit donated by local business Veritable Vegetable. The garden is the proud achievement of area residents, neighbors, and people from Bridge Housing, all of whom helped install it over a year ago. Its popularity has led to plans for an even bigger garden at Texas Street overlooking the SF Food Bank, a site we walked by next. Look for more news as this new garden develops.
The hot day left many out of breath as we continued up the hill, so we were glad to stop for a brief rest by the “Watermelon House,” known for its bright paint job — though not an official stop on our walk, a distinctive house with an interesting history, having been both been a church and a collective, as well as now housing one of our Unite Potrero members.
Then it was on to Starr King Open Space, a quiet piece of nature protected from development, for all to use and enjoy, with wonderful views of the city.
We’re lucky to have this in the middle of our neighborhood — and there’s a good chance that some people on the walk had never seen it, so this was a good opportunity to let people know about this valuable resource.
The walk ended at the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House, aka The Nabe, where even more neighbors joined us for face painting, slime making with the SF Exploratorium, tile painting, and other fun activities, plus food and drinks — followed by a free movie. It was great chatting with the neighbors we knew and others we’d met on the walk that day. And it was fun to see kids from all parts of the neighborhood running around enjoying themselves.
The children had been an integral part of the day. Earlier, as we walked up the hill, I was flanked by a group of eager children who enjoyed helping to lead the walk, and assured me repeatedly that they weren’t tired and their legs weren’t hurting. One young girl pointed out where she lived, in one of the public housing buildings, and announced that she loved her home. When I asked what she loved about it, she replied, “Everything!”
That made me think how differently children see things from how we adults do. This same girl told me that her mother dreams of moving elsewhere, but she would be sad to leave. As she waved to some friends in a nearby playground, I felt that she was really in a community, and I could see what she valued in it. The world can look very different through an adult’s eyes — but as we saw at this Community Walk, even adults can experience real friendliness among neighbors who don’t normally interact with one another, and we can all take steps to get to know our neighbors and walk in one another’s shoes. I hope that when the Terrace and Annex are rebuilt, that sense of community will remain and spread throughout the neighborhood. Perhaps this walk was the first step in that direction.
All photos by Rafael Olivas.