June 6 hearing may spell the end of HANC recycling center

Some beds at HANC's community garden, with the recycling center in the background

It’s just a triangle of land on Frederick Street, right next to Kezar Stadium. But the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council (HANC) recycling center has been the subject of years of political battles- and depending on the results of a June 6 hearing, they may get shut down for good.

HANC got an eviction notice in December 2010. HANC’s lawyer, Robert DeVries, successfully challenged the eviction. The Recreation & Parks department sued for eviction again in in June 2011, and that matter may finally come to a close June 6. The Guardian is awaiting comment from Rec & Parks.

In December, the Planning Commission approved a plan to turn the site into a community garden. They meant a garden run by Rec & Parks, not HANC. But HANC got to work building one, and Executive Director Ed Dunn is proud to say that they did so “without a cent of taxpayer money.”

Dunn emphasizes that “over the course of the past year or so the operation has been completely transformed.” The new community garden has 50 beds, which resident gardener Greg Gaar says are divided into about 100 plots, are are planted with mostly native plants that are currently in full bloom.

“We could build one community garden like this per month at no cost to the city,” said Dunn, referencing a recent SPUR report that talked about the benefits and challenges of urban agriculture.

Said Dunn, “we can help fill in some of those challenges.”

The center has a history of working on the cutting edge of environmentally friendly trends. The site at 780 Frederick was established as a recycling center in 1974, a decade before San Francisco implemented curbside recycling. The curbside program became fully operational in the early ‘90s. But 18 recycling centers remain in the city- and state Bottle Bill laws require the existence of recycling centers in "convenience zones." Dunn says the HANC recycling center fulfills the legal requirement to be nearby a recycling center for several supermarkets.

Now, many San Francisco residents rely on curbside recycling, rather than trucking their bottles, cans, and paper products to a recycling center. But a large population uses recycling centers- for excess amounts of recyclables that don’t fit in the bins, other material that doesn’t fit like large cardboard, or to generate income. Those who benefit from money traded for recyclables include housed people looking to supplement income, often immigrants and the elderly, and people living on the streets. But the center's opponents have painted the population it serves as mostly or all homeless, and the city has argued for its eviction on the grounds that the recycling center attracts homeless people to the area.

“[Gavin Newsom] thought the eviction was one way they could ward off camping in Golden Gate Park,” said Dunn.

Some neighbors have raised concerns about the noisy garbage-picking in the nightime, and questioned the need for recycling centers with curbside in place. If the center is shut down, though, it won't signal the end of recycling centers or those who benefit from them. It will likeley change where people go to cash in on recyclables; HANC's recycling center is centrally located, while the majority of  San Francisco's recycling centers are in neighborhoods on the city's borders, including several in Bayview-Hunters Point.

Regardless of the centers effects on the community, HANC’s landlord, Rec & Parks, doesn’t legally need a reason to evict them- they just need to give notice. HANC has fought the eviction, but after almost two years of successful stalling, Rec & Parks may finally succeed.

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