Monday, February 20, 2017

What's blooming this year at the GTL sidewalk garden?

Now that we're well into the rainy season, new growth is taking root in the sidewalk "Green Turk and Lyon" garden at St. Cyprian's church in San Francisco. Here's a look at our garden with some plant ID's and explanation of what's happening: 

I added a few horkelia californica and they are doing very well on Lyon Street. This native plant has a musky fragrance year-round and small white flowers.

A coyote brush (baccharis pilularis) on Lyon Street was another newcomer - about a year ago - and has grown very rapidly. 

At the top of the hill, the bed has some open areas and I'm hoping that some interesting new plants that have sprouted from seed will survive. I've also transplanted some California Mugwort and Douglas Iris here.  
A big cloud of miners lettuce (claytonia perfoliata), an important local native plant, grows here. Last year's growth of miner's lettuce set a fair amount of seed, so it's now popping up in several of the beds on both Lyon and Turk Street. There are probably some California Poppies down below the miners lettuce that will be visible and in bloom by the summer. 
At the eastern edge of the garden, I am allowing some kind of nettle to sprout again, as it did last year. Not sure if this is stinging nettle or hedge nettle, I just like it. 
I transplanted another interesting native plant, Thimbleberry (rubus parviflorus), and it has slowly established here in the shade of a flax plant. 

A car jumped the sidewalk, crashed into the building, cracked a pipe and took out one of the podocarpus here. I've plopped a few plants in - and some miner's lettuce is growing as well. 

The car that jumped the sidewalk also took out one of the street trees. Miners lettuce grows in the spot for now - the tree stump still needs to be removed. 
The Berkeley Sedge (a bunchgrass) that was initially planted in the garden almost six years ago looks particularly nice in this bed on Lyon Street.

More native plants that have sprouted from last year's seed on Lyon Street: miners lettuce and tarweed. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Green Turk and Lyon: 2 years in


These photos give an idea of the tremendous success of our plantings at Turk and Lyon. Click one to visit the set on Flickr.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lessons Learned: How'd It Go at Turk & Lyon?

Photos: Michael Helquist

The concrete’s gone, the plants are in, purple spikes and yellow blossoms flash along the sidewalk. Once it starts raining, the permeable aspect – letting the rain water reach the aquifer instead of the sewer – begins. It’s green, healthy and just the start of what we can do together for a more sustainable future.

Any good project deserves reflection and evaluation. What went really well, what surprised us, what might we have done better, and how well did the city permit process work?


  • For a large project, get input from friends and neighbors – we held a Design Lab last fall to exchange ideas
  • Attend the city’s Grey2Green workshop
  • Enlist the help of a landscape architect* to prepare drawings to-scale, select materials and plants, order at wholesale outlets and guide the planting
  • Have several pairs of eyes read the city’s sidewalk use restrictions
  • Host an event to present plans (and a fundraiser, if needed, to cover costs)
  • Remember to plan for every stage – including removal of the dirt
  • Make it a work party – so much better with music and food provided

From Grey2Green

  • Expect concrete cutting and removal to cost at least $5.50 per square foot
  • Schedule the concrete work to coincide with street cleaning hours and avoid the risk of damaging vehicles parked nearby during demolition
  • Expect to remove a lot of dirt – it will be sand or clay
  • Prep the required edging a few days before – the workday will be busy enough
  • Place new plants with soil and mulch one inch below the sidewalk or curb surface – this will help contain the rain water and irrigation

After the Planting

  • Celebrate and post photos online, thank everyone
  • Depending on the season and weather, water frequently to get plants thriving

Now We Know

  • Really do plan for dirt removal – we thought of everything but this
  • Read the city regs one more time – especially about the edging & courtesy paths
  • Do the prep work with the edging materials ahead of time – we rushed to saw 6”x4” beams and drill holes right before the workday started
  • Keep at the fundraising – unexpected costs will occur
  • Work can proceed in two phases – we left another stretch of sidewalk for the future

Working the System

  • City staff are friendly & enthusiastic,** but sometimes difficult to contact initially
  • You can’t get begin the work without a permit; allow 2-4 weeks
  • An initial inspection is required
  • Be sure to get a final inspection – the city sign-off increases liability protection
  • City website – DPW Bureau of Urban Forestry -- needs to be more user-friendly

How Much Did It Cost?

  • We removed 160 square feet of concrete at $5.50 per square foot
  • We purchased almost 100 plants and shrubs – we bought more mature plants
  • Plants and soil were obtained from a wholesale firm through our landscape architect
  • Total cost: approximately $3400
  • Total donations: approximately $3400

Was It Worth It? Stop by Turk & Lyon and then start plans for your own Grey2Green project

* James Munden, senior landscape architect, at Marta Fry Landscape Associates/MFLA Studio, made all the difference to the success of this project

** Thanks to Markos Major, DPW Bureau of Urban Forestry for getting us through the permit process

*** Special thanks to major donors Rev. Sally Bingham, Oz Erickson, The Emerald Fund; and all those who supported this project from start to finish and at points in-between

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Jugband, Bluegrass & Folk Headline Green L(a)unch Saturday, July 23

Image: Duncan Ramsay

Turk and Lyon this Saturday -- The corner will rock, buzz, twang, and throb as gardeners, neighbors and friends get in the dirt, amend the soil, shovel, rake, edge new beds, and settle-in new plants. All to the accompaniment of live bluegrass, jug band, folk, and jazz tunes.

Erich Silvester (Hot Steel & Cool Ukulele) will delve into his rich repertoire plucking favorites from the jug band revival of the 1960s to his latest jumping uke sets from last month's San Francisco Free Folk Festival. NOPA's own Wigg Party will also send up the hill its hot band-buds to keep the green glow on the corner through the afternoon.

The day's line-up for work and play goes like this:
10 am
  • gardeners assemble
  • work begins: weeding, sifting soil, shoveling, adding new soil, edging beds, planting
  • tour and description of sidewalk plans -- what will & won't be happening
  • chances for door prizes, plant sales, kids stuff
12 - 2pm
  • Green Lunch provided (donations welcomed)
12:30 - 4pm
  • Live Music begins
  • Building Tours
  • More cool door prizes & kids play
Stop by for a look, lend a hand, check out the bands, get a great lunch
Saturday, July 23, 10am to 4pm
Turk and Lyon

Info: or 415 218 7937

Friday, July 8, 2011

Green L(a)unch Sat July 23 workday / party

Image: Duncan Ramsay

It's going to be Green. It's a Launch and a Lunch, a Workday and a Party.

NOPA neighbors and friends, stop by the corner of Turk and Lyon on Saturday, July 23 to help transform 160 square feet of concrete into landscaped, permeable surfaces. All the better for rainwater to replenish the aquifer, for runoff to be diverted from the sewers, and to provide a more attractive, livelier swath of green along the sidewalks.

The concrete squares will be removed a few days before the event, and the new spaces will be ready for topsoil, plants and permeable materials. Volunteer gardeners will amend the soil -- what lies below sidewalks at least 50 years old? -- and prepare the beds for planting. Helpers 16 years of age and older are encouraged to help with lifting, shoveling, and raking. Bring tools and gloves if you can.

But it's a party, too, with live music, games, door prizes, kids stuff, sparkling green drinks, and a remarkable lunch. Think double tomato crostini, bite-size caprese salad, stuffed sweet peppers, inside out carrot cupcakes, and take-home treats. Donations appreciated for lunch.

Help make NOPA greener one corner, one block, one building at a time.

Saturday, July 23, 10 am to 4pm
Lunch at Noon, Music starts at 12:30pm
Turk & Lyon at St. Cyprian's

More info:

Thursday, June 30, 2011

SAVE THE DATE: Green L(a)unch Party & Workday Sat July 23

Bring some green to the top of Lyon at Turk

20 + concrete squares to be removed for landscaping

Our Green Turk & Lyon project is about to delve into the dirt to make this corner greener, more sustainable, and definitely more permeable (let the rain soak in, fill the aquifier and spare the sewer system). On Saturday, July 23rd neighbors from the North Panhandle, Anza Vista, Alamo Square, the Richmond, and the Haight (and anyone else too) will gather at Cyprian's to make the city's latest greening project happen.

Stop by, lend a hand and celebrate during the Turk & Lyon Green L(a) unch -- project kick-off, free green lunch and desserts, green door prizes, info on how you can transform your own sidewalk, and live music through the afternoon.

For those wanting to get in the dirt, we'll mix top soil into more than 20 squares formerly covered by concrete, place pavers for convenient crossing, and start the planting for a new community green spot. Tools will be available but bring your own if you can (trowels, rakes, shovels and gloves).

Free lunch at noon (we guarantee you'll get your green quotient for the day)
Live music in the afternoon. Bring an instrument!

The Green Basics:
Green L(a)unch Party & Workday
Saturday, July 23, 10 am - 4 pm
Free lunch at noon, donations appreciated
Green door prizes, kids activities
Work in the dirt: tools provided and bring what you can
RSVP: help us plan for lunch, let us know if you'll join the launch

While you're there, check out Cyprian's, the neighborhood's newest performance venue. (We've got a concert planned with SF Live Arts for the evening of July 27 too).

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Turk & Lyon Closer To A Greener, Friendlier Future

Green Possibilities for Turk Street near Lyon
Image: James Munden, Marta Fry Landscape Associates

Green Turk & Lyon Fundraiser at Chile Pies Photos: Dale Danley

Jarie Bolander (left), NOPNA President, and with Honoree Michael Helquist

Thanks to everyone who joined the party and fundraiser at Chile Pies (& Ice Cream) last week -- all 60 of you and those unable to attend who also donated to the Green Turk & Lyon project. Your support helped raise $1100 that will bring greener sidewalks, benches and bike racks to the southeast corner of Turk and Lyon.

An occasion like this is always the result of help and contributions from many people. Thank you to everyone and special thanks to
  • Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi for designating community member Michael Helquist as District 5 Person of the Month for June and especially for all his efforts to support individuals and groups in this amazing district
  • Vallie Brown, Ross's legislative aide, who takes good ideas and guides them to implementation
  • Trevor Logan, owner of Green Chile Kitchen and Chile Pies. His generosity and support of the fundraiser has been remarkable
  • Kalie Nickless, manager of Chile Pies, who made all arrangements incredibly easy
  • James Munden, neighbor and landscape architect with Marta Fry Landscape Architects, whose images of the Green Turk & Lyon project inspire us to create a model for green permeable sidewalks in NOPA
  • The members of St. Cyprian's Episcopal Church, led by Pastor Will Scott, for their ongoing engagement with the community and eagerness to transform the sidewalks along the church property for a green neighborhood respite
  • NOPNA, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Sunday Streets, Walk SF, Fix Masonic and NOPA VELO for co-sponsoring the fundraiser
Next steps for the project will be a community meeting in July to review designs, workplans, and a timeline for removing the concrete and enlivening the Turk and Lyon corner. Date and time will be posted here on Green Turk and Lyon. Take a look at the corner this Saturday night, June 4, before a special concert, an Evening of Song, at Cyprian's.

Interested in volunteering or want more information?:
To donate to the project: so far we're set up to accept checks made out to St. Cyprian's Episcopal Church; please write on memo line: "Turk & Lyon Project". All donations will go to a separate Turk & Lyon account. Thank you!

Note: A variation of this story is being co-published -- as a time-saver -- with the site BIKE NOPA.