Photograph by Don Nolte

Photograph by Don Nolte

Many long-time India Basin residents welcome development to the neglected waterfront.

March 2013

India Basin Association Looks Out for Waterfront Community

Sasha Lekach

The India Basin Neighborhood Association (IBNA) continued its nearly two decades of advocacy on behalf of the pocket neighborhood wedged between Bayview and Hunters Point with their annual general meeting last month. The gathering served as an open house, winter get-together and opportunity for the association to showcase its accomplishments, lay out plans for the coming year and get feedback from members. The association supports a neighborhood that has roots in the 19th century boating and shrimping industry that became a key node for the U.S. Navy in the mid-20th century. 

This month IBNA sponsors its 13th annual egg hunt at India Basin Shoreline Park. In early fall the association supports Kayak Day, a youth-oriented event of boating activities organized by America True, a San Francisco-based non-profit that teaches marine pastimes to children.

According to Jill Fox, a longtime IBNA board member who helped found the group in 1994, the association tracks development in the neighborhood in collaboration with other community organizations, such as Better Bayview and the Bayview Historical Society. She recognized that India Basin, with a population of roughly 400, is part of the greater District 10; IBNA keeps a close eye on goings-on in Dogpatch and Potrero Hill. “We’re not big, but we try to keep awareness on what’s going on here,” said board member Sean Karlin. A large part of keeping tabs on the area is working with City agencies, such as the Port, Mayor’s Office, Housing Authority, Planning Department and Recreation and Park Department.

Pauline Peele has lived for decades at Innes Avenue and Third Street, and was part of the group’s predecessor, the Innes Avenue Coalition. She contended that “we are not anti-development,” but instead claimed that the group wants to create a neighborhood hub, rather than high-rises on the waterfront. 

The association helped obtain landmark status for 900 Innes Avenue, the Shipwright’s Cottage that was built in 1875, and is now working to improve the neglected building by pushing for Rec and Park to purchase and maintain it and the surrounding area. The group is also monitoring redevelopment of the Hunters View housing complex and the Hunters Point Shipyard, a San Francisco Redevelopment Agency project — an agency that was dissolved in 2011 — in which large amounts of residential buildings will be erected on the former naval base, with connecting green spaces to the Blue Greenway and Bay Trail, a bike and walking trail.

According to board president and Earl Street denizen Michael Hamman, the neighborhood is “an amazingly well-kept secret,” but to improve it and be engaged in, more people need to understand the community. One of the association’s biggest achievements was establishing and revitalizing India Basin Shoreline Park in the early-2000s, and the improvements to Heron’s Head Park, completed last year. In the past decade they also joined other advocates in successful efforts to shut-down Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s power plant at 1000 Evans Avenue. 

The group has created a Community Vision for the shoreline and shipyard, which Hamman said, hopes to “get people out here.” The board worked for several years with a consultant to compile the 30-page document which outlines goals for the community. The Vision’s main tenets include transforming Jennings Street into “Restaurant Row,” building a boat center and festival pavilion along the waterfront, constructing new housing, connecting the Bay Trail to make a through-way to Jennings Street, and improvements to main thoroughfares, such as Jennings, Evans and Innes Avenue.

Member Cab Covay — who lives with his wife, Fox, in the historic Watch House on Innes Avenue, which was built in 1874 — said the neighborhood is often overlooked or disregarded as unsafe and rundown, but countered that the area provides great weather, views, a quiet atmosphere and quirky vibe. 

 District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen, who grew up in nearby Portola, and who remembers the shoreline before IBNA started advocating for improvements, attended last month’s meeting. Looking at a poster board displaying the Community Vision, Cohen said some of the plans are more likely to move forward than others, such as connecting the Blue Greenway into the area along India Basin Shoreline Park, and improving and establishing bike routes. Cohen also expressed a desire to underground overhead electric distribution wiring throughout the district, thereby opening up waterfront views, something she acknowledged is on her “wish list,” and not necessarily a top priority for the City. 

Armed with IBNA pins and hard hats for board members to distinguish them for the work they’ve put into the community, meeting attendees mixed at the Speakeasy Brewery, on Evans Avenue and Keith Street, snacking and imbibing beer and soda. Last month’s meeting was held during the start of San Francisco’s “Beer Week,” which helped attract newcomers to the Bayview brewery, who, while exploring the local beer scene, also were exposed to IBNA. Speakeasy owner and Bayview resident Forest Grey is an active association member. The group often tables at the brewery with information about the association and its goals, soliciting memberships, which cost $20 a year. 

The association is volunteer-based, with about $1,000 in reserves. Funds are used to support events, meetings and awareness campaigns. IBNA has roughly 40 due-paying members, and a mailing list of more than 100 contacts. 

For more IBNA information: www.indiabasin.org

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