Ed Dunn is in the market for scrap metal. Dunn, the Executive Director of the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council Recycling Center, is also looking to recycle unused metal chains and padlocks. His plan isn’t to melt them down and turn them into trashcans or anything like that. Dunn claims to have over 1000 volunteers willing to use those chains to affix themselves to the fence of the center in a large-scale act of civil disobedience on the day the embattled recycling facility is scheduled to shut its doors.

Operated by the non-profit Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council on land leased from the city since 1974, the recycling center is perched on the edge of Golden Gate park right next to Kezar Stadium. Last year, after the savage beating of a 53 year-old homeless man near the center prompted a neighborhood outcry, mayor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order to close the center. A 90-day termination notice was sent to HANC in December, and their lease ends March 4.

Even though the center only handles a fraction of one percent of San Francisco’s total recycling, it’s one of the city’s largest recycling facilities and has long been considered a neighborhood landmark. With the adoption of mandatory citywide curbside recycling, the city has been gradually closing down its recycling centers. There were 30 within the city limits in 1990 and now that number has dropped to only 19. San Francisco recycles about 77% of its total waste, but only 5% of that comes from recycling centers. However, as HANC center advocates charge, for a city looking to get that number up to 100%, every little bit helps.

The recycling center’s detractors attest its more of a nuisance than a shining example of San Francisco’s progressive environmental vision. They say the center is a magnet for the homeless and other unsavory elements. Chronicle writer C.W. Nevius, whose column “San Francisco is Scary” has been a driving force behind the effort to shut down the center, called it an “ATM for booze and drugs.”

HANC responded by saying that less than 20% of its patrons are homeless and posted a video of some of the center’s regular recyclers doing an excellent job of not being scary hobos (password: HANC), and by posting a brief, on site interview interview (you can watch it above) with area resident and actor Danny Glover, who called the possible closing of the center “a tragedy.”

Nevius wrote last September, when Newsom initially issued his order closing the center, that “the mayor’s office is…bracing for a backlash. My guess is there won’t be one.” (Through a spokesperson, Mayor Ed Lee confirmed that he wouldn’t overturn Newsom’s order.) In retrospect, his dismissal of a possible uproar seems shortsighted, especially in the light of the bitter fight over the Sit/Lie ordinance he pushed with equal vigor.

In a column last weekend, Nevius similarly poo-pooed HANC’s threat of old school chain-yourself-to-something-you-don’t-want-destroyed activism and called the center’s closure a positive for the city, though as recently as 2000, the city was officially commending the center for the services it provides.

Since then, led by the Haight Ashbury Improvement Association, the neighborhood has become increasingly business friendly and made a move to shed its image as a place for burned out street kids and even more burned out old hippies. The HAIA was instrumental both in the creation of the movement to implement Sit/Lie and the newly opened Whole Foods that sits just across Stanyan from the recycling center.

HANC’s Dunn has no plans to go quietly, however, saying in a statement that “1000 people have already pledged to chain themselves together on our last day, so we’ll need a lot. But in any case, if things work out scrap prices for steel are through the roof, so this is a good time to recycle.”

Framed in the context of a fight for the soul of the Haight Ashbury between its gritty past and a sanitized future, Dunn’s dramatic reaction to the closure of the HANC center isn’t that surprising. For the 1000 people he says has lined up to chain themselves to the building to prevent foreclosure, it’s not just about recycling or cutting of one of the rare income streams for the city vast transient population, it’s about trying preserve a neighborhood. For their opponents, this fight is all about trying to change it.

Contact HANC if you have any extra chains lying around you want to donate.

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  • Willo

    I live on this street. I have for over 15 years. I have not met a single neighbor who likes the center. This has always been a problem and HANC makes no bones about NOT representing the neighbor residents, but rather a “philosophy” for the Haight. I am not a yuppie, but coffee talkers I meet consider HANC’s position on everything to be “it should always be the Summer of Love” or “Yay for drugs.”

    With regards to the recycling center:

    • We have curbside, we don’t need the Center.
    • The Park has a Mission. Homeless shelter and homeless/drug subsidizing is not part of its mission.
    • Taking recycling out of our curbside bins hurts the City financial situation (i.e. ours) when it tries recoup some of the costs of the curbside recycling service. The Center pays for theft.
    • There are no logical reasons to keep the center. Emotional ones, yes. Practical ones, no.

    If HANC’s reasons to keep the center is to provide homeless and (really?) recycling services, then they should be referred to the actual homeless and recycling services which the City provides (and we pay for).

    Beyond the nuisance, I see this as a defense of the park issue. This is not a proper function of the park system, and is an outdated, unnecessary attractive nuisance.

    Good riddance.

  • Willo

    I live on this street. I have for over 15 years. I have not met a single neighbor who likes the center. This has always been a problem and HANC makes no bones about NOT representing the neighbor residents, but rather a “philosophy” for the Haight. I am not a yuppie, but coffee talkers I meet consider HANC’s position on everything to be “it should always be the Summer of Love” or “Yay for drugs.”

    With regards to the recycling center:

    • We have curbside, we don’t need the Center.
    • The Park has a Mission. Homeless shelter and homeless/drug subsidizing is not part of its mission.
    • Taking recycling out of our curbside bins hurts the City financial situation (i.e. ours) when it tries recoup some of the costs of the curbside recycling service. The Center pays for theft.
    • There are no logical reasons to keep the center. Emotional ones, yes. Practical ones, no.

    If HANC’s reasons to keep the center is to provide homeless and (really?) recycling services, then they should be referred to the actual homeless and recycling services which the City provides (and we pay for).

    Beyond the nuisance, I see this as a defense of the park issue. This is not a proper function of the park system, and is an outdated, unnecessary attractive nuisance.

    Good riddance.

  • Erik

    And it’s not like San Francisco has such a shortage of unused light industrial space that we need to devote a portion of a flagship park to a scrap metal collection operation, however well-intentioned that operation may be.

  • Erik

    And it’s not like San Francisco has such a shortage of unused light industrial space that we need to devote a portion of a flagship park to a scrap metal collection operation, however well-intentioned that operation may be.

  • DT

    HANC’s lease expired BEFORE Newsom was Mayor or even on the Board of Supes.

    There is no such thing as rent control for non-residential space.

    Bye bye HANC, you will not be missed by this Richmond District native.

    P.S. Willo is 100% correct.

    If you want to help the bums, send them to Narcotics Anonymous.

  • DT

    HANC’s lease expired BEFORE Newsom was Mayor or even on the Board of Supes.

    There is no such thing as rent control for non-residential space.

    Bye bye HANC, you will not be missed by this Richmond District native.

    P.S. Willo is 100% correct.

    If you want to help the bums, send them to Narcotics Anonymous.

  • Belgand

    Uhm… I use that center all the time. I’m paying for CRV for cans and bottles and I don’t see why I should just toss them into curbside bins and lose my refund. At present it has become ludicrously difficult to actually get that money back. The HANC recycling center was one of the few places in town (and the most convenient to me) where I could redeem my CRV recyclables for refund.

    So yes, as a local resident I use and depend on the center. Just because I’m not so lazy that I’m willing to throw money away doesn’t mean that I should be forced to.

    I doubt the people complaining about the recycling center have even set foot there. I assure you it’s not some trash-strewn pile filled with drugged-out homeless. It’s mainly just, well, regular people taking in their bottles and cans for refund. I encounter more homeless along my own street and in the park on my way to the center than I ever do at or near it.

  • Belgand

    Uhm… I use that center all the time. I’m paying for CRV for cans and bottles and I don’t see why I should just toss them into curbside bins and lose my refund. At present it has become ludicrously difficult to actually get that money back. The HANC recycling center was one of the few places in town (and the most convenient to me) where I could redeem my CRV recyclables for refund.

    So yes, as a local resident I use and depend on the center. Just because I’m not so lazy that I’m willing to throw money away doesn’t mean that I should be forced to.

    I doubt the people complaining about the recycling center have even set foot there. I assure you it’s not some trash-strewn pile filled with drugged-out homeless. It’s mainly just, well, regular people taking in their bottles and cans for refund. I encounter more homeless along my own street and in the park on my way to the center than I ever do at or near it.