What do we want? A swing!

September 11, 2013

The Bayview-Hunters Point community is tired of broken promises, explains Julien Ball.

ABOUT 40 Bayview-Hunters Point residents, including about a dozen youngsters, rallied in the park at Lillian Court in the Shoreview housing complex to demand that it be rendered usable and safe for children.

The grass there is yellow and parched, broken glass could be seen by the picnic tables, and a large area of the park where there was once a play structure has been fenced off for more than 10 years, leading many residents to believe there may be toxic substances or other safety issues with the land. Behind the fence, the park is overrun with weeds not to mention other health and safety problems, including poor lighting.

Children held signs highlighting the lack of amenities in the park--amenities that would be taken for granted in almost any other neighborhood. "We need somewhere to play," read one sign. "Help us." And, "This is what we want: a long slide, a play structure, a swing." Chants included "What do we want? A park! When do we want it? Now!" and "No park, No peace!"

The Shoreview Tenants Association organized the event in conjunction the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) and the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco. Many of those in attendance were long-time residents of Shoreview, but they received support from a dozen residents of the larger Bayview-Hunters Point community.

Protesting for a park in Bayview-Hunters Point
Protesting for a park in Bayview-Hunters Point (Fred Sherburn-Zimmer)

Mawuli Tugbenyoh, an aide to District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen, also made an appearance. He promised that the "process" of fixing up the park was "already underway" but said there was "a lot of bureaucracy" to go through in the city. Indeed, to decipher who is in charge of the park is frustratingly convoluted. Calls to the Redevelopment Agency show that it still technically owns the park. But the agency has been reduced to a shell as a result of Gov. Jerry Brown's moves to end all California redevelopment agencies in his drive to balance the state budget.

Shoreview residents, however, say bureaucratic turf wars between government agencies are not their problem, and that Cohen should do more to advocate for the community. "I'm requesting to have a meeting with her, because I'd like verification," says Belinda Rollins, vice president of the Shoreview Tenants Association. "We've been promised so many years. We need action."

Because the park has been inaccessible for so long, neighborhood children have nowhere to play. Hunters Point has the highest concentration of children in San Francisco--the median age is nearly seven years younger than in the city as a whole. But its parks are the worst maintained.

Residents say that inaction by city officials is symptomatic of the not-so-benign neglect of the Bayview-Hunters Point community in general. "If this park were in any other neighborhood, it would have been fixed up by now," says Janice Powell, president of the Shoreview Tenants Association, a group formed in recent months to improve conditions in the community. "But when it's our kids who are suffering, somehow problems get shoved under the rug. We're tired of being ignored."

Rollins agrees. She says that if the park were in another community "it would have been up and running at this point. Unfortunately it's a low-income and minority community."

First published in San Francisco Bay View.

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