Civic spaces and neighborhoods reborn

By Dee Dee Workman

After one of the worst natural disasters this country has ever seen, survivors are returning to the South to rebuild their lives. As we witness the resurrection of New Orleans, we are inevitably reminded of an earlier time in history when San Francisco was nearly wiped off the map by a natural disaster that claimed the lives of thousands and left The City in ashes.

In April we marked the 100th anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire with remembrances of the devastation, but also celebrations of a city rebuilt by its people. In this context it seems appropriate to acknowledge those who today are selflessly working to restore and renew San Francisco’s urban fabric for the benefit of all of us now, and for future generations.

Each year San Francisco Beautiful honors our city’s civic heroes with its annual Beautification Awards. Founded by the intrepid Friedel Klussmann, who saved The City’s beloved cable cars from being replaced by diesel buses, San Francisco Beautiful’s mission fornearly 60 years has been to create, enhance and protect the unique beauty and livability of San Francisco.

This mission is achieved in partnership with its members by working with civic leaders to promote healthy and sustainable urban planning and design policies, giving grants to neighborhood groups for community improvement projects, and, in the spirit of continuing Friedel’s legacy, encouraging and rewarding citizen activism with its beautification awards.

From Hayes Valley to the Outer Sunset, from Bayview-Hunters Point to the Mission District, individual citizens and community organizations, working hand in hand with city staff, are rebuilding our public spaces for people to use and enjoy.

New street trees and colorful plants are appearing along sidewalks where concrete and asphalt have predominated. Medians in the major transportation corridors have been beautified with vegetation that, once established, requires little water to maintain.

In the heart of The City, the new Octavia Boulevard, lined with greenery and benches, has replaced a crumbling freeway. Flourishing community gardens, new trees and landscaping and vibrant public art installations are enlivening our neighborhoods block by block while building communities in the bargain.

Often it is just a handful of neighbors who take on the staggering task of reclaiming a public park, beautifying a local stairway or reinvigorating a tired commercial district. Each project reflects extraordinary commitments by average citizens willing to do what it takes to improve the condition of The City for its residents as well as its visitors and the business community.

The Call for Nominations for the 2006 Beautification Awards has begun. This year we give special consideration to projects that reflect the theme “Rebuilding our Civic Spaces and Neighborhood Places.” Creative and sustainable efforts that have enhanced San Francisco’s public realm would be considered potentially award-worthy.

Nominated projects must be located in San Francisco and visually or physically accessible to the public. The deadline to submit nominations is 5 p.m. on May 31.

The awards will be presented during the San Francisco Beautiful Annual Awards Dinner on October 19 at the Nikko Hotel. For more information, call Ron Wong and Associates at (415) 355-9988.

It is often tempting to dwell on what’s going wrong in The City. Join San Francisco Beautiful to celebrate San Francisco’s local heroes who are responsible for what’s going right.

Dee Dee Workman is the executive director of San Francisco Beautiful. Nomination forms can be downloaded from San Francisco Beautiful’s Web site, www.sfbeautiful.org, or call (415) 421-2608 to be sent a form.General OpinionOpinion

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