A vacant lot on Treat Avenue near 22nd Street has no owner, but has a community group who’ve occupied the space with a garden, and a new next-door owner in Monkeybrains who are effectively doing the same with parking. Their conflict is quickly growing like a weed.
Last autumn, a Mission District act of civil disobedience — and the subsequent gardening that came along with it — created a two-day firestorm of curious media coverage. A patch of land on Treat Avenue near 22nd Street, owned by the long-dissolved Southern Pacific Railroad, had been long locked and informally used for neighbor parking. A group calling themselves Mission Greenway pried their way in and started a community garden.
In a two-day span in late October, several local publications ran stories; the Chronicle described it as “S.F. tech founder and neighbors reclaimed an empty lot to plant a garden. Not everyone was happy.” The SF Standard said “Guerrilla Gardeners Want To Take Over This San Francisco Lot With No Known Owner,” and NBC Bay Area reported “Urban Garden Sparks Mixed Reaction Among SF's Mission Residents, Workers.”
There's a 26,000 sqft lot in SF with no known owner. This weekend some neighbors and I opened the fence.— Zach Klein (@zachklein) October 25, 2022
The story starts more than a hundred years ago. pic.twitter.com/dskOyzQGRX
All of these stories were in reaction to what is documented in the lengthy tweet thread above. And in large part, much of the “Sparks Mixed Reaction” sentiment can be attributed to the fact that the fellow who posted the above tweet is Vimeo co-founder and venture capitalist Zach Klein.
Local internet provider Monkeybrains has closed a nearly $4 million deal to buy the Heinzer warehouse in the Mission.— Mission Local (@MLNow) February 22, 2023
But their intended use of the adjoined parcel 36 has brought them into conflict with guerrilla gardeners Mission Greenway.https://t.co/xzGYDiytqe
The oddball situation may be turning into tech-on-tech hostilities. Mission Local is reporting that the SF-based ISP service Monkeybrains has bought the adjacent land, and “staked its claim to using the adjoined parcel” which is the area in question. Moreover, Monkeybrains also paid $20,000 in delinquent back taxes on the abandoned property,
“We do want right-of-use, which we believe is intrinsically there,” Monkeybrains co-owner Alex Menendez told Mission Local. “The space allows for loading and unloading. The warehouse has a very strong historical use argument.”
And the two sides are engaging in a trolling campaign. Menendez and company tell Mission Local they’ve been getting “aggressive emails” from Mission Greenway folks, which they’ve been choosing to not engage with. Mission Greenway member Lara Hanna tells Mission Local that Monkeybrains refuses to respond, and they “They refuse to talk to the neighborhood about what they are trying to do.”
Mission Local sums this up: “Both groups claim that they want to nurture the parcel after years of neglect, and both claim that their use of the lot will benefit the community. Neither claims to own the parcel.”
And neither does own the parcel. Mission Local reports that a meeting between the two parties is “tentatively scheduled for Thursday at 5:30 p.m., with a location still to be confirmed.”
Image: missiongreenway via Instagram