The Hayes Valley Farm was always a temporary proposition.
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The one-block plot of collapsed highway near the intersection of Oak and Laguna streets had sat unused since the Central Freeway collapsed in the 1989 earthquake. In 2009, the city-owned parcel was scheduled for conversion into a 239-unit housing development (50 percent affordable, 50 percent market rate); however, that was years away from becoming a reality due to a recession-induced slump in new home construction.
In the meantime, the lot had gradually become a homeless encampment and a hotbed for drug use. Until then-Mayor Gavin Newsom had an idea.
[Hayes Valley Farm Project Director Chris] Burley and several other organizers were approached by Mayor Gavin Newsom's Office of Economic and Workforce Development (MOEWD)...with the idea to transform the unused lot into a farm. The...[Hayes Valley Farm] received a $50,000 grant from MOEWD for the first year of the project, money that comes from the operation of parking facilities along Octavia Boulevard. Burley expected to work the farm for between two and five years, depending on when the economy turns around and the land is developed.
Only a block away from Hayes Valley's prime strip of trendy boutiques, the farm is the textbook definition of an urban oasis. But now that the economy has "turned around" (at least a little), the farm's lease on the property has expired, and the city's experiment in urban agriculture is going to have to pack up shop and move somewhere else.
The 2.2-acre non-profit, which was named one of the top ten urban parks in North America by Sunset Magazine, is a working farm that also offers classes and workshops in urban agriculture for both kids and adults.
In just the fist year of its existence, the farm's all-volunteer force contributed over 16,000 hours of labor, trucked in 800 cubic years of organic waste from a local landfill and was given 88,000 pounds of cardboard boxes by Googleall of which were combined to help create the farm's bevy of organic goodies.
Knowing from the start that their project was temporary allowed the organizers to prepare for their eventual eviction and work with the city to make sure they would be able to continue with the project long after this particular parcel's carrots had been replaced with condos.
For example, instead of ripping up the already existing concrete, the farm instead installed trees to hold the soil in place. That way, the block's inevitable conversion back to traditional city uses would be made significantly easier.
A statement by the farm released in July explains:
Hayes Valley Farm is committed to working with representatives in city government in a positive and straightforward manner to find viable options for continu- ing our work. The Office of Economic and Workforce Development, the Department of Environment’s Urban Forestry Coordinator and the new office of Urban Agriculture have all been, and continue to be, strong advocates for the efforts we are pursuing at Hayes Valley Farm. Currently, we are discussing potential next-generation parcels of land in order to continue our vision. We are working together to find options to continue our vision and we welcome all constructive contributions to that effort.
"It’s been enormously successful," Office of Economic and Workforce Development Project Manager Kelly Pretzer told the San Francisco Examiner, noting that a new location for the farm will hopefully be announced within the next month or so. "It's pretty amazing what they’ve done in a space that doesn’t scream urban farm in such a short time frame."
The Hayes Valley Farm could be completely off the premises as soon as next February.
Take a look at images of the urban oasis below: