Fenced off and closed to the public earlier this year, the re-graded Kern Street parking lot behind Pebbles Café on Diamond Street includes about 4,000-square feet of city land, nearly doubling the space its owners are using to charge tenants for parking.
That changed Tuesday in response to three months of inquires by Glen Park Association president Scott Stawicki about public land being used for private profit and virtually no community gain.
The city land ended up in private hands when San Francisco Public Works issued a Director’s Order temporarily granting its portion of the block to the Hayes family trust, which owns the 6,300-square foot swath of the block adjacent to Kern. (Click on this Assessor’s map to see how the land is divided.)
But that was back in August 2018, when the family was working with the Planning Department and then-District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy to turn the blighted 50-year-old de facto parking lot into a clean, well-lit paid parking lot the neighborhood could use for the next six years. (The long-term plan was to develop the lot for housing.)
After the city’s Planning Department refused to budge on landscaping requirements, the Hayes family fenced off the lot — including the 40 percent the city had loaned them — and restricted it to their tenants, whom they are charging to use it. La Corneta, one of those tenants, is letting its customers use the lot. The family did not inform Public Works the lot would no longer be open to the public.
On Tuesday, Public Works decided to rescind the order, according to an email sent to Stawicki by deputy director John Thomas.
“I have been in contact with Patty Hayes, a representative of the [Hayes family] Trust, and informed her that the Director’s Order was to be rescinded, which will require that the fence be relocated to the property line,” Thomas wrote. He added that he is also looking into who is responsible for repairing Kern Street’s dilapidated sidewalks; the city or the Hayes family.
Since the Kern Street parking lot was closed to the general public, the Glen Park Association has received numerous complaints from Glen Park merchants, who say their businesses were negatively affected by the lot closure, and from neighbors who say the lot closure has reduced access to shops and restaurants. Neighbors also complain the sidewalks on each side of the street have not been repaired in keeping with the repairs on the lot.
Coincidentally, today’s San Francisco Chronicle has a story about privatization of public land. On Bernal Heights, neighbors who’ve fenced in small strips of public land for decades are fighting the Recreation and Park Department’s demand that the land be made accessible to the public.
But rather than making money, the Bernal Heights residents erected fences to keep hikers on Bernal Hill from dumping trash — and the occasional dead body — in their yards.
Additional reporting from Hilary Schiraldi, Stephany Wilkes, and Bonnee Waldstein.