Potrero Boosters under New Leadership
Last spring, in an uncontested race, J.R. Eppler was elected to serve as president of the Potrero Boosters, a neighborhood association that focuses on land use issues impacting the Hill. The previous president, Tony Kelly, decided to stepdown after serving in the position for more than nine years. “The Boosters act as a big tent where everyone can come together and bring their different viewpoints, work to develop a common message to the City, and address the changes taking place on the Hill. The more neighbors we can organize, the stronger our voices will be, and the better we can ensure this neighborhood remains wonderful” said Eppler.
The Boosters have 350 members, with upwards of one-third attending a given monthly meeting, and perhaps a tenth joining over the past few years. Established in 1926, the association is one of San Francisco’s largest neighborhood organizations. Boosters members also tend to engage in other civic groups, including parents and merchants associations. According to Kelly, one-quarter of the Hill’s 12,000 residents are involved in some community-oriented civic activity. “Good schools, parks, and transit. We can do more collectively than separately,” said Kelly.
“The Boosters have enlisted several relatively new faces to serve on the executive committee this year. We hope that engaging new members can help bring folks back into the Boosters who have not been so active in the last few years and help bring in new members,” emphasized Eppler, who joined the organization in 2010. “I am concerned about maintaining the character of the neighborhood that drew so many of us to it in the first place.” Other new executive committee members include Lisa Schiller-Tehrani, second vice president , who previously served as the View’s production manager, membership chair Carlin Holden, and treasurer Maulik Shah.
Eppler, a corporate attorney for Crowell & Moring LLP, learned how to tackle City planning issues “on the job” while serving as the Booster’s treasurer. In 2010 the South-of-Market transplant and his now-wife, Kate Eppler, moved to the Hill after finding a Utah Street apartment they liked from a flyer posted on a pole at 18th and Connecticut streets. He called his new home “a very community-minded place,” where he knows his neighbors, and residents are engaged in local affairs. “This helps the Boosters be successful” he noted.
“With the amount of change happening on the Hill, right in the middle of a lot of development plans, it is akin to jumping on a horse in motion” said Eppler, of his new position with the Boosters. “Everyone knows that these folks are coming. We see the designs. In five years there will be 7,000 new residents on or about the Hill. Are we going to wait for them to come and be gridlocked, or will we start planning now the necessary infrastructure?”
To help develop the necessary transportation and open space infrastructure, the Boosters have proposed to collaborate with the more than one dozen rarely-full private company shuttles traversing the Hill, consolidating routes and offering access to residents. Such an approach could be supplemented with a neighborhood-serving shuttle to transport residents and workers to local commercial corridors and employment centers. And last year the Boosters launched an effort with the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association to form a Green Benefit District (GBD), under which property owners would pay a voluntary tax that would support maintenance and capital improvements at neighborhood open spaces and gardens.
While Eppler is energized by the prospects of the community shuttle and GBD, which are “new variations on ideas already in use by the City,” he recognized “the implementation process takes time, which is frustrating when we’re already behind on infrastructure improvements.”
Kelly remains an active “member at large” of the executive committee. “Residents are experts about how their neighborhood works,” he said. “We live here. We work here. We see connections between different things that the City does not see. We need to be a watchdog for government. We have so many issues in this neighborhood. We have eight times the asthma rate of other neighborhoods because of our freeways. At schools like Daniel Webster Elementary, one in six children don’t have a secure home; the official term is a ‘family-in-transition.’ These issues affect all of us. You could say we have a neighborhood in transition. We don’t have a secure home, and City Hall doesn’t pay attention. So we have to fight for ourselves. Local control is critical.”
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