DIYSan Francisco

5 Tragic Ways Backyards Are Wasted in San Francisco

San Francisco is a cramped and expensive city, so you know you’ve got something special when you find a place to live that actually has its own outdoor space (be it backyard, balcony, or rooftop). These gardens are rare, but are they cherished? It’s one of the weird ironies of San Francisco that for every chill-out ready garden I encounter, I see or visit six more overgrown, cracked, or otherwise neglected yards.

The reasons for letting a good outdoor space go to waste range from understandable to downright shameful. So here are the five common plights facing the yards SF:

The Renter’s Dilemma
From a landlord’s perspective any outdoor space is good enough to hike up the rent, so why bother making it less of a shit hole? From a renter’s perspective, why put in the effort and money making a place you might only live at for couple of years nicer? I’m not saying that there aren’t renters who make the effort, just that I can understand why people aren’t doing extreme makeovers of backyards they don’t own. And if there was ever a city where you could reasonably risk eviction for making your place nicer, it would probably be this one.

The Outdoor Storage
I get it. Space is a premium here. Maybe instead of a place to barbeque or enjoy the fresh air what you really need is a place to put three bikes and all the recycling you’re definitely going to take down to the center the next time you can borrow your friends car. You can enjoy being outside at a park if you have to.

The Scavenger’s Respite
Wooden industrial spools warped from the rain. Cinderblock and pallet chairs. Beat up furniture you scored from the sidewalk. So much seating and yet nowhere to sit. As much I can respect a good street find and the ingenuity of a Brokeass Martha Stewart, let’s try to be honest with ourselves and admit when something’s too uncomfortable, itchy, beat up, and gross to even sit on.

(P.S. Scavenger’s Respite is the name of my future pirate ship.)

The Spare Bathroom
If the only time your backyard gets used is when you don’t feel like walking your dog or the line to the bathroom gets too long during your parties, then you don’t have a backyard so much as an open-air, emergency outhouse. I would not believe someone would waste their yard in such a manner if I had not seen it with my own eyes: Yellow grasses up to your hip, and dude after dude doing their part to undo the drought. I can’t be sure if I’m more outraged at the wasted gardening opportunity or that I’m stuck waiting in line for the bathroom inside like a chump.

The Shitty Urban Farmer
The Bay Area enthusiasm for eating local almost inevitably leads to some half-hearted attempts to grow your own veggies. Apparently it takes more than water (and possibly piss — see above) to make a garden bloom. This is something I’m personally guilty of. Right now I’m pretty excited about how my mint is flourishing, mostly because I really think it has a shot at finally killing my chard and I just don’t know how much longer I’m willing to keep up the pretense that I eat this many vegetables.

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Lisa Martin

Lisa Martin

Lisa Martin is a SF based writer, cocktail lush, short story enthusiast, reluctant bicyclist, and all-around lazy-time kind of gal.

  • Michael Walker

    I’m that guy that always wants to fix up the back yard, and the biggest problem is always: getting rid of the huge piles of garbage and trimmings involved. Bulky waste is an ordeal as a tenant.

  • Don’t leave bikes in the backyard unless you want tweakers building shantytowns out of the parts. My old neighbor used to have his dog shit on the 5’x5′ concrete “backyard” that held up a jankily contructed laundry room. He would leave it to fester and collect flies for a week or so before spraying it down with the hose… where the shit water used to wash into other people’s yards.