San Franciscans recently bestowed a community
project award on the Bridgeview Teaching and Learning Garden — a project in the
city’s gritty Bayview-Hunters Point district that University of San Francisco
students helped to design and build.
The organic garden was named Best Green
Community Project for 2011 by the Neighborhood Empowerment Network (NEN), a coalition of San
Francisco city government, nonprofit, and neighborhood organizations.
USF architecture and community design
students, as part of a class project for Associate Professor Seth Wachtel, director
of USF’s architecture and community design program, teamed up with Bayview-Hunters
Point residents, interviewing them about their ideas and aspirations for the
formerly vacant lot and dumping ground. The result was a garden designed to meet
several needs, including educating residents about urban gardening, fostering community
connections among residents, and providing fresh produce to a neighborhood where
access to affordable, healthy food is limited.
“The garden is a place where children and
adults come to learn about community building, sustainable food systems, and
environmentalism,” said Jeffrey Betcher, the Bayview-Hunters Point resident who
nominated the garden for the NEN award. Betcher is co-director of the Quesada Gardens Initiative (QGI), a network of people who live
and work in Bayview-Hunters Point.
USF students also learned something about
what it takes to garner community buy-in, shepherd a project through government
approval, and raise funds for materials and construction.
“The Bridgeview Garden is a terrific
example of a community-university collaboration where the community guides the
process and USF students contribute advanced skills and learn about productive
community engagement in the process,” Wachtel said.
Wachtel and his students began working with
QGI in 2006 and on the Bridgeview Teaching and Learning Garden in 2008, establishing
USF’s ongoing service-learning partnership with QGI. Additional Bayview-Hunters
Point projects that USF students have participated in include backyard raised-bed
gardens for local residents, an organic food production garden for an at-risk
youth culinary arts program, and improvements to the Quesada Avenue median