Richmond Roundup

Groundbreaking at Presidio Heights Playground
Construction crews broke ground for renovations at the Presidio Heights Playground on March 8 after more than four years of community planning and fundraising led by the Friends of Presidio Heights Playground (FPHP), a community group sponsored through San Francisco Parks Trust's Park Partners program.

Beginning in 2005, six women formed a group of volunteers to pursue renovation of the Presidio Heights Playground, located on Clay Street between Walnut and Laurel streets. The park was dilapidated and had not been updated since 1969, was not ADA compliant, and was rat infested. A blocked sewer pipe had flooded the park's play sand area.

After learning that the playground was 254th on the list of parks slated for improvement and there was no possibility of city funding, the group formed Friends of Presidio Heights Playground and went to work.

Starting in 2006, the community group solicited input on a schematic design and began seeking community support for the renovation, which would need to be 100 percent privately funded. Fliers, neighborhood newsletters, mothers groups and e-mail lists inspired action and consensus, and plans were unanimously approved at a community meeting in 2007.

"It seemed impossible at first," explained Amy McNamara, one of the original volunteers, "but these talented women put their minds together and never gave up. At a time when it would have been easy for the community to use the economy as an excuse, they instead came together to restore an important park that serves as a neighborhood backyard."

The new park will include a basketball court, picnic grove, separate toddler and older children's play areas, nature nook, sand adventure area, new landscaping and ample seating. Phase II of the renovation will include a new ADA compliant entry ramp and new landscaping on Clay Street.

The park is scheduled to re-open this summer.

The community mobilization behind the renovation is an inspiring model of successful philanthropy, made more poignant amid consistently eroding budgets for park maintenance and improvements. So far, FPHP has raised more than $800,000, but is still $90,000 shy of the renovation's total cost. The project's "Buy a Brick" campaign offers engraved bricks installed at the playground for donations of a certain level. Interested donors can contact Maria D'Angelico at (415) 750-5442 or visit the website at

Rec. and Park Commission President Mark Buell visited the playground at the groundbreaking ceremony and remarked: "It is the best reflection of the type of public-private partnership needed to preserve public lands. All the leaders within the neighborhood should be congratulated for their hard work, and for rejuvenating one of our parks for all to enjoy."
– Peter Tucker

Family Fights to Keep Louis' Restaurant
A fight is on to keep Louis' Restaurant in the hands of the people who started serving Richmond District residents 73 years ago.

Helen and Louis Hontalas founded the long-time institution in 1937, which is now being operated by their grandchildren, Tom and Bill. The Hontalas family wants to remodel the restaurant to add a second entrance and to make it ADA accessible, for the first time since 1975, and sign a long-term lease to make the upgrade financially feasible.

But, the National Park Service, the landlords of the property since it is in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, wants to put the contract out to bid. The park service says all new contracts have to be competitively awarded, per Congress' instructions. A request for proposals was sent out Feb. 24 and all bids are due by May 25. The park service hopes to award a contract by Oct. 1.

Local residents and long-time patrons are signing a petition to support the Hontalas family getting a long-term lease at Louis', located near the Cliff House at 902 Point Lobos Ave. To sign a petition, go to the website at

Richmond Library's One-Year Anniversary Party
The Senator Milton Marks/Richmond Branch Library, located at 351 Ninth Ave., will celebrate its one year anniversary since being remodeled and expanded on Saturday, May 15, from 1 - 5 p.m.

The celebration will feature speeches, lion dancers, poetry, puppet show (2 p.m.), Native American dancing (3 p.m.), jazz music (4 p.m.) and refreshments. Outside activities, weather permitting, include a recycling demonstration table and artworks created from recycled materials.

For more information, call the library at (415) 355-5600.

RAMS Celebrates 35th Anniversary
Richmond Area Multi-Family Services (RAMS) will celebrate its 35th anniversary during Asian Pacific Heritage Month, on May 12, with a gala reception and celebrity forum titled "Changing Reality: The Voices of Asian American TV Stars."

Scheduled to appear are fashion designer Chloe Dao, from "Project Runway;" executive chef Hung Huyhn, from Bravo's "Top Chef;" attorney Victor Jih, winner of the "Amazing Race;" and doctor Pamela Ling, a cast member of "The Real World." State Sen. Leland Yee will moderate the event.

To purchase tickets or get more information about the non-profit mental health organization, go to the Web site at or send an e-mail to [email protected].

'Woman of the year' named
In April, veteran educator and activist Hene Kelly was honored by Sen. Leland Yee for her career in public service and activism.

"For her lifetime of public service, Hene Kelly is most deserving of this award," said Yee. "Hene has made numerous contributions to our community, especially for our children and public education. I was honored to stand with Hene as we protested and as I voted against all budget cuts to education, social services and health care."

A graduate of the University of Chicago, Kelly began her career in education as a teacher in the Chicago public schools. In 1967, she relocated to San Francisco and earned her teaching credential at San Francisco State University. Subsequently, she worked as a special education teacher and a substitute in Oakland's public schools prior to beginning her teaching career in the SF Unified School District.

In 1969, Kelly started teaching social studies and English at both Horace Mann and Presidio middle schools before moving on to Wilson (now Burton) High School, where she taught "Family Life," the euphemism for sex education.

After a 17-year tenure at Wilson, she rounded out her career back in the classroom teaching English at Marshall High School before finally returning to Horace Mann Middle School, where she retired from teaching in 2003.

During her teaching years, Kelly was a delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council and served on the executive board of the United Educators of San Francisco. In retirement, Kelly has risen to become the legislative director of the 850,000-member California Association of Retired Americans.

In 2008, she successfully ran for a seat on the Democratic County Central Committee and has been active in state and local politics.

Kelly's son and daughter are also active in education. She is married to Dennis Kelly, president of the United Educators of San Francisco.

Heron Watch at Stow Lake
Each year since 1993, the Great Blue Herons have returned to Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park to court, mate and raise their young. There are five active nests with chicks.

The public can observe the herons for free at Stow Lake on three Saturdays in May with the help of San Francisco Nature Education middle and high-school interns, who have spotting scopes to show the birds and answer questions.

To get to the viewing area, go to the Stow Lake Boathouse, where a sign will point the public in the right direction. Viewing is on May 1, 8 and 15, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For more information about SF Nature Education, a creator of science and nature programs for underserved students, call (415) 387-9160 or go to the Web site at