The Green Benefit District helped create a new park in The City, called Angel Alley, on Tennessee Street between 22nd and Tubbs streets. The park officially opens Saturday.(Emma Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Unique SF benefit district sees fruits of its labor

What was once a blighted alley in the Dogpatch neighborhood has been transformed into a public park thanks to a unique approach to creating and preserving public spaces in San Francisco.

The Green Benefit District of the Dogpatch and Potrero Hill neighborhoods, believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S., allows residents to invest directly into parks, streets and other public spaces through an organized effort.

“[The district] brings together businesses and residents and ties them together to improving parks and public spaces in general,” said Jonathan Goldberg, the district program manager.

Unlike other community benefit districts in The City, which typically focus on the economic development of an urban area, this benefit district plans to use the funds to improve and maintain the state of community parks, streets and other public spaces, Goldberg said.

After a three-year effort to establish the district, Dogpatch and Potrero Hill property owners and volunteers will see the fruits of their labor come to fruition with the ribbon-cutting of the Angel Alley street park Saturday, the first officially-recognized Green Benefit District public space.

The pedestrian alley, located between 22nd and Tubbs streets off of Tennessee Street, was considered a dangerous area by many in the community, where there was previously no street lighting, trash in the streets and illegal dumping, according to Goldberg.

The alley has since been transformed into a street park, and seen updates including street cleaning and the planting of a succulent garden. The park will be maintained by benefit district organizers and volunteers.

The district pays for projects using money from property assessments in the area, which are paid by residential, commercial and industrial property owners per every square foot that they own.

So far, the benefit district has received $300,000 in funding and is expected to receive an additional $150,000 to $200,000 throughout the year, Goldberg said, adding that the money is used in addition to funding already provided by The City.

“This is a model that lets communities put the power back into their own hands,” Goldberg said. “‘What [the community has] done is going to provide a template for a lot of other community groups to be able to fund their own parks and services.”

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