julia fights the power

Jeepers, what a day. Dropped Claire at school and Jeremy at the station, consigned books and clothes on Cortland, met Blanca and Milo on the way to the playground. Left the car at home, caught the bus to City Hall, picked up Julia’s birth certificate, had lunch at Arlequin (shepherds pie! yum!) and made it back to City Hall just in time for the Rec & Park meeting.

The open space at the top of Bernal Hill was wilderness, then goat paddocks, then just waste land until a group of concerned residents (Bernal is awash in concerned residents) organized the transfer of most of it from San Francisco’s Department of Public Works to Rec & Park in 1975. For some reason they left off a lot on the north-west side, outside the boulevard. Today it’s all grassland and trees and habitat for the hawks and their prey.

Public Works wanted to sell it off to help pay the city’s debt.

I’m conflicted, especially after the first 75 minutes of the meeting covered the city budget in great and intriguing detail. I missed a lot of it while Jules was squeaking (I think Prop 13 offends her sense of civic responsibility), but I was impressed both at the sheer amount of money it takes to run a city and at the tenacity of the people who are trying to do it.

Golf pays an awful lot of the bills here.

I’m a bit conservative fiscally and would like the city to balance its budget (saner property taxes would greatly help), but frankly, I’m not prepared to sacrifice that particular chunk of land. I drive past it on the way to Claire’s school in the mornings. The light shines on the green green grass and the red clay path winding its way up to the summit. It’s totally Middle-earth.

So various people got up and declared their passion for the acre, pointing out that Bernal has narrow streets and tiny lots and that we all live on top of each other and need our open space. A woman called Melanie, who had brought her three-year-old Margaret to the meeting, was particularly good. She’d dug up various other proposals to develop the hill, and submitted the evidence that the Board of Supes had rejected them all.

A counter-proposal to transfer this last chunk of land to Rec and Park was one of twenty or so items included on what was called a consent calendar. At the end, the commissioners took a single vote on all the items and came to a unanimous agreement. After all that impassioned testimony the actual vote was business-like and cryptic.

“Was that it?” I asked Bernal personality Gail Sainsbury when we got out. “Did we save the park?”

“Yes we did!” said Gail.

I felt very mildly euphoric. I’m very glad I went. It’s always fun to watch public America in action, like reading a book by Sarah Vowell. I got the impression that Gloria Bonilla is decent and likeable and that Jim Lazarus is extremely sharp.

Carved inside the City Hall dome: “O glorious City of our hearts that has been tried and not found wanting, go thou with like spirit to make the future thine.” I’m totally sentimental about San Francisco. The United Nations, gay rights, the Interwebs – half the things I care about were invented here.

Met Quinn and Bryan at Ritual, picked up a panettone from Lucca and Claire from school, caught the bus home, made gnocchi with a sun-dried tomato pesto and cream sauce (delicious). Chasing two kids makes me nuts – when one stops crying the other one starts – but today Jules learned why taxes can be a good thing (“Stop smirking young lady! In this family we are for libraries”), and we saved Middle-earth and ate pie and drank chai. We’ll all sleep well tonight.

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