The city's eviction of HANC's recycling center could harm local businesses along with the gardeners and recyclers
And though some — like Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius, a regular critic of HANC — are celebrating HANC's demise, the unintended consequences should have all small businesses in the Haight Ashbury worried.
CLASS WARFARE BACKFIRES
State law requires that Californians have easy access to a "convenience zone," basically somewhere nearby that they can collect the five-cent deposit all consumers pay for cans and bottles. HANC served that purpose for a half mile radius around its location on Frederick, near Stanyan.
"Whole Foods and Andronico's were serviced by HANC's existence," Regina Dick-Endrizzi, the director of San Francisco's Office of Small Business, told us. With HANC gone, "They will be required to buy back [bottles and cans] from local stores."
San Francisco's Department of Environment oversees recycling policy in the city, but did not respond to calls or emails.
The reason that HANC was being pushed out was due to a vocal few, like the Haight Ashbury Improvement Association, complaining that HANC was a magnet to the homeless population looking to sell bottles and cans collected in shopping carts. That group didn't respond by press time. Now those same poor folks may take their business from Golden Gate Park to the Haight neighborhood itself by recycling at the local Whole Foods, the new legal alternative to HANC.
Sometimes local grocery stores defy the state mandate, and instead choose to pay a state-mandated fee, Dick-Endrizzi said. If Whole Foods chooses not buy back recyclables, small businesses all over the Haight will be required by state law to do it themselves.
Suhail Sabba has owned Parkview Liquors on Stanyan Street, just two blocks from HANC, for nine years. He said that he doesn't have the employees, storage, or scale "to handle even a portion of HANC's customers."
He may not have much of a choice. If small businesses don't buy back the recyclables, they would face charges of $100 a day under California state law. A year gone without complying would lead to charges up to $36,000, an amount that large-scale businesses often factor into their budgets, but which could bankrupt a small store.
When contacted, Whole Foods representative Adam Smith said that the company was aware of the issue and was still deciding on a course of action.
The company has a 60-day grace period to make a decision that, for good or ill, would ripple through the Haight neighborhood. "I might go out of business," Sabba said.
Store owners can apply for an exemption, but the process can be as lengthy as a few months and fines could still accrue, Dick-Endrizzi said. The Office of Small Business will soon reach out to the affected store owners, but she encourages them to contact her office directly at 415-554-6134.
GARDEN FOR A GARDEN
The HANC site houses more than the recycling center. It also encompasses a native plant nursery, run for the past decade by caretaker Greg Gaar, who we've profiled before ("Reduce, reuse, replace," 5/30/12). Gaar raises Dune Tansy, Beach Sagewort, Coast Buckwheat and Bush Monkey — all native plants bred from the dunes of old San Francisco, which Golden Gate Park used to be.
Adjacent to the nursery is a community garden with 50 plots serving just more than 100 neighbors. But the odd part is, when the city is done tearing down the recycling center and gardens, it plans to put in, well, another community garden, at taxpayer expense.
The new plan does offer a few tweaks. There will be a small stone Greek-style amphitheater, and removing the recycling center will leave more green space for the site. The new community garden will feature 10 fewer plots. As of now, there is no formal plan to transfer the 100 gardeners from HANC's community gardens to the new plots once they've been built.