by Julia Prince
Since its inception, the activists behind The Dolores Street Pollinator Boulevard have had to demonstrate the popularity of and acclaim for their vision among the
community in order to gain permitting, funds, and support– a process typical of any public project. Last night, however, at SF Beautiful’s 45th Annual Beautification Awards, the community spoke for itself to honor the achievements of the first median’s garden on Dolores Street; the inaugural segment of the Pollinator Boulevard to come to fruition. With the second median already underway, the project aims to transform the entire street in following years from a corridor of thirsty turf to one of
captivating gardens and teeming pollinator habitat, a challenging but attainable goal that will require the continuous engagement of the community.
SF Beautiful is the humble and tireless group behind numerous, critical milestones that have both preserved the character of and promoted propitious development within our beloved city. As said in their mission statement, for over 60 years, SF Beautiful, “…has been instrumental in creating and delivering community-centered design and public benefits.” Some of their successes include, “Saving San Francisco’s cable car system…Launching the first citywide tree planting program…Capping the number of billboards in the city…Legalizing sidewalk seating…[and] Creating developer and business tax set asides to fund public art & greening.” Every year, SF Beautiful, “honors San Francisco’s stewards and placemakers” that contribute to keeping the city beautiful, inviting the public to both take part in nominations and attend the event.
This year’s event was held at the classic and elegant Marine’s Memorial Club, where a diverse group of inspiring visionaries filled the exquisite Crystal Lounge. Tickets were
extremely affordable and well worth the poignantly moving experience that took place. The tables of refreshments were almost as impressive as the discourse among the intriguing array of attendees preceding the awards ceremony. It was truly humbling to be in a room of such progressive, passionate, change-makers. There were representatives from every, unique neighborhood of San Francisco celebrating what appears to be a fabulously pervasive fabric of organizing and activism enveloping the metropolis. At a time when negativity has seemed to siege “the news” of San Francisco and criticisms of its development patterns are often more common than commendations, remembering what makes this place great and shedding light on the multitude of community-driven projects that have been materializing all across our foggy hills this year was nothing short of tear-jerking. I will admit it; I cried. Even more of a joy than winning an award was simply being in the presence of and learning about the accomplishments of this constructive, bright, effective group of people.
But, winning the award was pretty exciting too (and did I mention we got to arrive in a limousine?) SF Beautiful recognizes nominees within a number of categories, such
as placemaking, grassroots action, converting under-utilized space, bringing nature to the city, and creating neighborhood character. This year, in a pool of remarkable competition, The Dolores Street Pollinator Boulevard came out on top winning the Golden Gate Award for advancing the, “…union of nature and the built environment.” It was a powerful moment standing in front of the room, adorned in bedazzled bee brooches, accepting the award with Patricia Algara, Founder of With Honey in the Heart, Principal of BASE Landscape Architecture and leading force behind the Pollinator Boulevard, Natalie Martel, landscape architect with BASE, Andrew Sundling, cofounder of With Honey in the Heart, and Chad Beecher, resident of 38 Dolores Street and whom we refer to as “the garden angel” for all he does in stewarding the first median on a daily basis.
The closing remarks made by SF Beautiful Board Member and longtime leader, Bob Friese, left the audience with a precious piece of guidance; to get young people involved in keeping San Francisco as the city we know and love. He declared the undeniable fortune many in the room had met with economic growth in the Bay Area over recent decades, but made the astute observation that the development resulting from such gains is endangering the very reasons many of us came to this city from elsewhere in the first place; because it has a charm and character that can only be found here. And as more young people populate our neighborhoods from other cities, states, and countries, in search of the very same prosperity an older generation looked for and found, it is important to remind them what San Francisco is really about and nurture this great city’s spirit in the face of impending change. The purpose of SF Beautiful is not to deny development, but embrace it, and bring different stakeholders together to guide its trajectory for the good of all San Franciscans.
I see much the same purpose in the Dolores Street Pollinator Boulevard. As a 25 year-old, one year resident of this city, I have often felt like part of the problem. However, it is through the Pollinator Boulevard and participatory projects like those celebrated last night that people like me are welcomed, even as newcomers, to be part of the solutions that have been work-in-progresses of SF Beautiful and its community partners since 1947. I would love to see more young adults, newbies like myself, the employees of Google, Facebook, Salesforce, the engineers, designers, the tradespeople, the bartenders, artists, and activists, all populating our workdays on the Dolores Street Pollinator Boulevard and filling the Crystal Lounge at next year’s SF Beautification Awards. Because if I have learned anything in my short time in this beautiful city, it is no matter who you are, if you find yourself here, you are part of this– you are responsible for upholding a collective identity around a truly great place– and that takes all kinds.
Aside from just my own sentimental sentiments, the makers of The Dolores Street Pollinator Boulevard are beyond proud to be inducted into this extraordinary group of change-makers. We are excited for all that the many connections made last night have to bring: opportunities for collaboration, seeking and giving support, and growth toward a brighter future for San Francisco. I will leave you with what Patricia said with simple eloquence while we were around the dinner table, celebrating our success, last night– “Life is beautiful.”
And lastly, if you did not see this in our most recent blog entry, please check out the following video of the second median sheet mulching day which showcases our stellar volunteers and how the neighborhood is encouraging the continued work of the Dolores Street Pollinator Boulevard. Also, a big thanks to Peter, one of the volunteers featured in this video, for nominating the Pollinator Boulevard for the SF Beautiful Golden Gate Award. Thank you, Peter!