TNDC’s People’s Garden Expands UP!

In December 2012, TNDC volunteers and tenants completed the new vertical garden at the Tenderloin People’s Garden at the corner of Larkin and McAllister streets. The expansion will allow TNDC to produce 1,000 more pounds of food each year on the same size lot. The expansion project would not have been possible without the volunteer efforts of Geoffrey Barton, who led this community effort and donated more than 600 hours of his time planning, organizing, and facilitating the installation of the new garden wall.

As a regular volunteer in the garden, Geoffrey often heard TNDC Garden Coordinator Nella talk about how they did not have enough space. When he heard the same concern at TNDC’s Food Justice Committee meeting, Geoffrey thought he could help. He had seen pictures of vertical garden systems and knew the concept existed, but he was not sure how they were built or if they could be designed to grow edible plants. Despite the unknowns, the big blank south-facing wall of the Power House building on the site of the garden was a perfect location for a vertical garden, and Geoffrey knew this was a perfect opportunity to try and build one.

At the same time that Geoffrey was pondering interesting ways to help TNDC expand its garden footprint, a colleague sent him the call for submissions for Legacy Grant proposals for US Green Building Council’s 2012 GREENBUILD Conference. With a solid idea, and a potential way to pay for the project, Geoffrey contacted Lorenzo Listana, one of TNDC’s Community Organizers, with the idea of applying for a grant to build the vertical garden. Lorenzo and Nella were excited about the possibility.

Lorenzo Listana was impressed with Geoffrey’s dedication, “Geoffrey demonstrated his commitment to this project by reaching out to the garden volunteers during the design process and contributed his time and talent to make this project a success. ”

With guidance from TNDC’s management and Fund Development team, Geoffrey was given the go-ahead to apply for the grant and assemble a community team of collaborators on TNDC’s behalf.

The process to build the vertical garden began with community meetings and the grant application. Geoffrey organized two community meetings, with help from TNDC staff, to share ideas with residents, business owners in the area, and interested horticulturalists and designers. More than 20 people showed up at each of the two meetings. Geoffrey worked to create buy-in and even cultivate new relationships for TNDC at those meetings. With the ideas and feedback he got from the meetings, Geoffrey began working on the project’s schematic drawings. With Geoffrey’s help, TNDC was awarded several grants for the project.

Fueled by the community’s enthusiasm (and the funding), the five-month planning process resulted in plans for a large (18 foot tall) vertical garden that covered the entire wall. As Geoffrey navigated the budgeting and permitting process, he realized the project would need to be scaled back. With a scaled back design and costs that were within budget, construction began in late October.

Working side-by-side with TNDC residents, staff and community volunteers, the project proceeded. When asked what motivated him to take on this project, Geoffrey says:

“I like doing architecture from my desktop but always feel like it limits my creativity. Getting hands on, working out in the community, and figuring out ways to put my design training to beneficial use in the real world are far more rewarding to me than simply drawing plans for a building that gets built. When I started, I had no idea this project would consume so much of my free time, but I was motivated by working directly with the community. The best part was being able to work with (and pay!) residents right before Christmas. They really appreciated the ability to earn a paycheck, and I learned a great deal about the Tenderloin community from them.”

The Tenderloin People’s Garden is just one of TNDC’s food security projects. If you are interested in learning more about the work TNDC is doing to bring healthy, fresh, and sustainable food options to the people of the Tenderloin, contact Ryan Thayer at (415) 358-3962 or about how you can get involved.

TNDC Residents: Alfredo Dejamco, Michael Smith, Tommy Soriano; Construction Volunteers: Joe Giddings, Carla Frenkel, Blake Rainville; Contractor: Fineline Construction (they set posts and reduced their standard fee as a donation); Irrigation Experts: SF Landscapes; and Tool & Supplies Donation: Tripp Gobble, Wooly Pockets

•The Christensen Fund
•North of Market-Tenderloin Community
Benefit District (CBD)
•U.S. Green Building Council Chapter – Northern CA
•Awesome Foundation

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