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USFers, Residents Win for Best Green Community Project


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 strip.

Written by Kathleen de Lara »email usfnews@usfca.edu | Twitter @usfcanewsecarpenter