Saturday, November 23, 2013

SF STEM Academy students from International Studies Academy visit the EcoCenter

SF STEM Academy instructor Alyssa Rowatt and 10 students enrolled in the program from the International Studies Academy (ISA) High School on Potrero Hill participated in several programs at the EcoCenter in one very event filled Saturday.  The SF STEM Academy is an education and workforce development program geared towards increasing awareness and interest in careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Led by former LEJ EcoCenter program manager Tracy Zhu together with EcoCenter staff and CCSF students, ISA youth were introduced to the history of Heron's Head Park and the environmental justice issues plaguing the Bayview Hunters Point community.  Study of wetland ecology was coupled with sampling plankton so the organisms could be further studied under the microscope and compared to those found in the EcoCenter's constructed wetland.  The students had a tour of the EcoCenter with opportunities to explore how the wastewater treatment and energy systems work by engaging in hands on activities that included a settling tank demonstration, using a solar panel to power a water fountain, and observing plankton from the bay and the constructed wetland under microscopes.  After a lunch break, students participated in a ethnobotany exercise to learn about the utility of many of our California native plants.

We look forward to these students returning and exploring in greater depth all that the sustainable systems at the EcoCenter have to offer related to STEM related fields and careers. We loved having them!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The EcoCenter is part of the Cities Alive Conference

The EcoCenter's living roof was part of the Cities Alive Conference today. The conference is put on by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities. About 30 participants from all over the world toured some of the City's most beautiful living rooftops and walls and the EcoCenter's roof was one of the first stops. Awie Smit who was one of the principal builders of the living roof at the EcoCenter lead the tour/discussion of the rooftop and Peggy and CCSF student interns gave a tour of the facility.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

New Website for the EcoCenter

With the help of CCSF student, Jonelle Gausman, we finally have a website under construction dedicated to the EcoCenter. There is still much more content and media that will be developed for it, but it is a great start. Check it out at

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Port of San Francisco Issues RFP for the EcoCenter

On September 25th, the San Francisco Port Commission issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) seeking a new tenant to lease the EcoCenter at Heron's Head Park.  Recall that LEJ is moving on to focus on the stewardship of other lands in our community.  You can learn more about the Candlestick Point EcoStewards Project by following this link

We hope that the current relationship and stewardship of the EcoCenter by CCSF students and faculty will be a continued part of the facility's future.  To obtain further information and to download the RFP follow this link

Friday, September 13, 2013

Silicon Valley Bank Employees Spend the Day Volunteering at the EcoCenter and Heron's Head Park

Today was a busy day at the Ecocenter and Heron's Head Park.  We had more than 140 volunteers from Silicon Valley Bank come to help out with various outdoor projects!  The tasks included mulching, planting, and watering in the EcoCenter landscape.  Volunteers also did a tremendous job pulling invasive species in the wetland area of the park.  The amount of work accomplished was incredible. In addition to all of the physical labor, Silicon Valley Bank generously provided funding for much needed tools and additional plants for the EcoCenter landscape.  According to one volunteer many of the visitors were from the San Francisco office, but some came from South Bay. Most were visiting for the first time!  The volunteers that took a break to come and visit us in the EcoCenter were incredibly impressed with what the facility has to offer.  

District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen also stopped by to check out the happenings.  She was also interested to learn about the work City College faculty, staff and students have been engaged at the EcoCenter.

Overall, we had a fantastic day of work and education, with a dash of politics thrown in for good measure!

View photos of the event below:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Fall Semester at City College Begins and Students Return to the EcoCenter

For the fourth semester now, students enrolled in Sustainability 91: Applied Research in Sustainability offered by the Engineering and Technology Department at City College of San Francisco (CCSF) return to the EcoCenter. The course is work experience based with students having backgrounds in environmental, earth and biological sciences, alternative energy and engineering, environmental monitoring, native landscaping, and habitat restoration.  There are 13 students with half a dozen returning from previous semesters. For the first time and with the generous support of the Port of San Francisco's Carol Bach, four of the returning students were hired this summer through December as paid interns - Emily Fryer, Wendy Kwong, Charles Laws and Nikki Mixon. These student interns continue to work with CCSF Faculty and EcoCenter Project Manager Peggy Lopipero-Langmo and Operations Technician Pat Hall to assist with and supervise new students in the operations, maintenance, research, and educational programming at the EcoCenter.  Contact Peggy at to schedule a free tour and come help us on our volunteer days every Friday from 11 am to 1 pm. Or just stop by to visit and stay awhile to learn more about the facility's sustainable features and the continued work and programming taking place. We return to school session hours this week which are Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm.

Monday, July 22, 2013

More than 200 "Lead America" High School Students Tour the EcoCenter and Heron's Head Park

This month on July 8th and again today on July 22nd, more than 200 students total toured the EcoCenter and Heron's Head Park.  The students ranged from 15 to 18 years of age and came from all walks of life and from all over the US and abroad. For many it was not only their first time in California, but this was their first visit to a facility that can boast so many sustainable features and systems. Lead America is a summer youth leadership program focused on experiential learning. The group's focus and interest was on "Green" business innovation and its applications. In addition to a tour of the sustainable systems at the EcoCenter, the students were introduced to the many local and state policies that help drive the green economy in San Francisco and that make a facility like the EcoCenter possible. A discussion of the formation of Heron's Head Park, environmental justice concerns, and the continuing transformation of the area into a eco-industrial park were also discussed.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The EcoCenter Achieves LEED Platinum Certification!

We received great news today from the US Green Building Council. The final review and decision regarding our application for LEED certification was completed.  We garnered enough points (52 out of 56 attempted) to achieve a Platinum rating! This makes the EcoCenter one of a only handful of buildings with this level of certification in the City, the first Zero Net Energy Building in San Francisco, and the only LEED certified building in the southeast sector of San Francisco.

Though it took years to complete, many thanks to all those involved. The project administrator was Heidi Liebes, a San Francisco based LEED-certified architect and speaker at CCSF's Green Careers Seminar Series. Many thanks go to our project team members that included Laurie Schoeman, Justin Lee, Rick Unvarsky, Matthew Macko, Toby Long and Peggy Lopipero-Langmo.  Rick and Matthew and many of their colleagues also contributed to this effort and performed work pro bono.  We are indebted to them for their generosity.  Thanks also to CCSF students enrolled in the Applied Research In Sustainability work experience class at the EcoCenter for the hours spent pouring through thousands of pages of records. Special thanks to students Lisa Milos and Katrina Tice for their work on the materials and water sections of the LEED application.  Come visit and read our plaque and certificate. Be sure to ask us questions about how a LEED certification is achieved.
To learn more about the EcoCenter's LEED scorecard click here.
To learn more about the USGBC and LEED click here.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Indonesian Students Interested in Sustainable Development Visit the EcoCenter

Twenty students taking part in the Indonesian Leadership Program visited today. San Francisco and the EcoCenter were their first stop in what is to be a three week tour of the United States with a focus on sustainable development and urban ecology.  Though still a little jet lagged this inspiring group of high school students were continually engaged and polite during their tour of the EcoCenter.  With the aid of a translator, the kids learned about the sustainable systems and asked many great questions during the two hour visit.  Their favorite part of the tour was the constructed wetland and its organisms. The students were particularly interested in learning about the organisms' roles in the food web and their particular adaptations.  Definitely many budding biologists were in the group.  Before leaving, we took a group picture.  Several asked for our email addresses and want to keep in touch. We hope they do! A few pictures of the afternoon follow:

Friday, May 24, 2013

Aptos 6th Graders Test Drive Curriculum for the EcoCenter

Today sixty 6th graders from Aptos Middle School spent the day at the EcoCenter and Heron's Head Park.  CCSF faculty and student interns along with Tracy and Austin from Rec and Park led four activities on energy, wetlands and wastewater treatment, a scavenger hunt style tour of the EcoCenter, and bird surveying in the park.  The energy activities included manipulating a solar panel to power a water fountain, making a solar chocolate fondue with fresh organic fruit and organic fair trade chocolate.  Students were also able to make themselves smoothies with a pedal powered blender.  Another highlight of the day for many of the kids was viewing the constructed wetland and pond organisms under the microscope and guessing which organism was which and their roles in the food web.  The day was a long one - it began at 8 am with CCSF students preparing for the day. The Aptos students arrived at 10:30 am and stayed until 2:30 pm.  The afternoon was followed by the Sust 91 end of semester "Presentation of Learning" and potluck.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Maritime Day Celebration and Open House at the EcoCenter

On SundayApril 28th, the EcoCenter hosted an open house to celebrate the Port's 150 birthday as part of Maritime week.  LEJ Project Manager Peggy and Operations Technician Pat along with over a dozen CCSF students gave private tours, shared their work, and provided hands on opportunities for visitors to learn about the EcoCenter and its sustainable systems. Over one hundred guests came to the facility! It was quite a day. A few photos of the event follow.

Photos kindly taken and provided by the Port of San Francisco's Dave Rauenbuehler (

Friday, April 19, 2013

More Pond and Wetland Organisms Arrive at the EcoCenter

Today 19 different commonly found freshwater organisms arrived at the EcoCenter.  Some of each will be used to reseed the constructed wetland and pond mesocosms.  They will also be cultured by CCSF students who have worked diligently all semester preparing live material care sheets, culture media and appropriate "habitats" so we can always have them on hand.  They will be used in educational programs and tours so we can educate our visitors on the important roles that they play in our wastewater treatment system and in nature.  Check out the organisms in the slideshow below and come visit the EcoCenter to see meet them in person.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Carol Bach of the Port of SF Gets a Chance to Participate in the Programs She Has Supported at HHP All These Years!

At least 60 students, parents, and teachers of the Julia Morgan School for Girls in Oakland participated in a restoration program, a tour of the EcoCenter, and lunch at Heron's Head Park.  One of the honored guests and participants was none other than the Port of San Francisco's Carol Bach. It is largely because of Carol that Heron's Head Park even exists.  She finally just a chance to relax today and partake in events that she has supported for years!  It was an honor for all of us to play a role today and to work with our amazing partners at Rec and Park and City College of San Francisco.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Environmental Justice Tour of BayView Hunters Point with Tracy Zhu

Taking advantage of unusually warm winter weather, former LEJ EcoCenter Program Manager and lifelong
Bayview resident Tracy Zhu led a group of bicyclists on a Saturday tour of the neighborhood. About twenty people, perhaps half of whom are current CCSF students, joined the ride with the goal of learning a bit about the cultural and industrial history of the area.

The group gathered at the Eco Center at Heron's Head Park for a 360-degree orientation of the development centered around India Basin and Hunter's Point. The group began by sharing their own preconceptions about the
neighborhood. Generally, people expressed impressions of a 'ghetto', an environmentally neglected area or pleasant surprise at the sunny, lively neighborhood they found on the ground compared to what they'd heard.

Prospecting back through history, Tracy spoke about the Ohlone who inhabited the shores of the Bay; the role of the military and its associated heavy industry and mass, low-cost housing; and about the aggregation of industry that persists solely in this part of the City to this day. After taking in the distant ruins of the abandoned naval ship
yard, the substation remains of the demolished PG&E power plant and the mountainous debris piles at the Recology pier, the riders set off westward on Cargo Way. Our attention was directed to the abandoned grain silos on Pier 92, a repository for graffiti considered by some to be an eyesore, but soon to be home for a City-sponsored art project<>.  Any wealthy city is bound to have contrasts, and adjacent to the north of
the silos is the warehouse home of the Oracle America's Cup sailing team - expected to spend in excess of $150 million in pursuit of victory. By contrast, the art grant for Pier 92 is for $190 thousand.

The two sites are separated by the vestigial inlet that was once the outflow of Islais Creek. The group stopped at a small park on the south bank called Islais Landing. There, the City placed within a narrow green space, a few picnic tables and a ramp to a landing used for fishing or boating. Tracy noted that Islais Creek originally drained a watershed that begins several miles west and south beyond the southern border with Daly City. Now the only part of the watershed that is above ground is in Glen Canyon park. She went on to tell the group that Islais Landing sits in an area that was home to the City's slaughterhouses < title=Butchertown%27s_Beginnings>in the late 19th Century. The outflow into the Bay was said to run red with
animal blood and the streets were populated by roving packs of scavenging dogs<>.

Next stop was a street-side view of the Southeast Wastewater Treatment Plant -- long-time repository of San Francisco sewage. Fortunately, the wind blew at a cross direction so sight and sound dictated the limits of
the description. Woe to residents downwind.

From here the group headed a few blocks south to the wholesale produce district. Eerily quiet on a weekend, the warehouses host a hive of commerce and transport in the early morning hours each weekday. The trade in fresh
produce stands in contrast to the dearth of full-service supermarkets in the area. Apart from two marginal grocery stores and a couple small 'bodegas', the large extent of retail food sales in Bayview-Hunter's Point
consists shops selling only processed foods. Tracy said that her mother rides a bus an hour in each direction to China Town to buy food for her family.

To finish on an upbeat note, the group stopped first at the materials re-purposing and do-it-yourself Mecca, Scrap <>.  Most riders seemed unfamiliar with this pocket of creativity and walked out
bubbling with ideas.  A few blocks further south and east we rode up the cul-de-sac of Quesada Gardens <>, home to one of the City's most successful re-claimed green spaces. We listened to two of the core organizers talk about the many benefits the community has reaped from working together to make something not only beautiful and natural, but also self-directed. A very constructive model in
a neighborhood typically overlooked when money is spent on quality of life amenities.

Story and photos by CCSF Sustainability 91 Student, Darin Greyerbiehl
Check out this slideshow of the tour

Saturday, March 2, 2013

CCSF Students Finish Plantings of Manzanita

The final plantings of the manzanita demonstration garden was completed by CCSF students with the guidance of our partners Bay Natives.  This ambitious and beautiful project was conceived and designed by Geoff Coffey and Paul Furman from Bay Native's working together with LEJ's Patrick Rump.  Paul began the plantings on New Years Day 2013 with Bay Native interns and in the following weeks public school visitors along with CCSF students enrolled in Sust 91 at the EcoCenter put in the last plants.  Manzanita, which is Spanish for little apple, is the common name for the genus Arctostaphylos.  Many species of manzanita are found in California and range in form from low ground covers to large tree-like shrubs.  Their distinctive reddish or mahogany colored bark and their silver to green foliage makes them easy to identify.  These drought tolerant plants are easy to grow in San Francisco gardens and they are great plants for wildlife.  Their small bell shaped flowers attract hummingbirds and provide nectar for butterflies and other native insects. Be careful not to over water though especially during summer. Manzanita also do not like fertilizer. Come take a walk along the path through the garden look and read about the many species and cultivars represented.  Then don't be shy to walk over to Bay Natives and see about taking some of these beautiful and important California natives home to your garden!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Mr. Woo, Electrical Technician Helps Out at the EcoCenter

Today Mr. Tong Woo installed a timer for the irrigation pumps that provide harvested rainwater to either the living roof or the native landscaping around the EcoCenter.  This is an important change as our pumps use current when the breakers that provide electricity are on - not a good thing when we hit a streak of cloudy and rainy days.  Remember we are off grid and the continual energy usage drains our battery storage system.  Mr. Woo has been with us at the EcoCenter since last Spring. He works as an electrical technician at the San Francisco International Airport and has helped us learn about our electrical system, particularly how to care for our batteries so they will last as long their full life expectancy - about 10 years. See photos below of Mr. Woo along with CCSF students Lauren, Darin, and Toby.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Potluck to Celebrate Birthdays and the Opportunity to be at the EcoCenter

This week CCSF students and LEJ staff celebrated the birthdays of students Nikki Mixon (her birthday actually is today!) and Emily Fryer.  As a gift to the ladies who head the Landscape Team at the EcoCenter, most of the day was spent helping weed the area just around the facility.  The workday was officially over at 4:30 and we shared food and drink with family and friends and spontaneous visitors to Heron's Head Park. We also wanted to celebrate this amazing opportunity and now our 3rd semester at the EcoCenter.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Patrick Rump of LEJ Gives Tour of HHP to CCSF Students

This week at the EcoCenter and Heron's Head Park, LEJ Executive Director Patrick Rump gave CCSF students a tour of Heron's Head Park and shared the history of this very special restoration project.  Starting this month, students enrolled in Sustainability 91 at the EcoCenter will also have the opportunity to engage in various restoration activities in the park two Wednesdays a month. The last Wednesday of every month, students will have the opportunity to work at the LEJ nursery and learn about seed collection and propagation of native plants. See some photos taken of the walk/tour below.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The EcoCenter's Living Roof to be included in a city-wide study

Lisa Lee Benjamin of Evocatalyst who designed the living roof and constructed wetland came to the EcoCenter today to discuss her design and research work on green roofs both worldwide. She gave students a background on the research evidence that makes the economic, environmental, and public health case for this type of greening in the built environment.  Green rooftops lower heating and cooling loads and costs, help mitigate both the urban heat island effect and climate change, manage stormwater, and provide habitat especially when cultivated with native species.  They last longer than traditional rooftops and can be cheaper to install and maintain.  The green rooftop at the EcoCenter will be part of a city wide study starting in March 2013.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Orientation for Sust 91 at the EcoCenter

School is back in session this week at City College of San Francisco (CCSF).  Students enrolled or looking to enroll in Sustainability 91, Applied Research in Sustainability came to the EcoCenter for a two hour orientation.  The orientation included a tour of the EcoCenter that was conducted by students and myself.  Student and photographer Julia Ellis Tomiyama (AKA Jet) took photos which are shared below.