This Ingleside couple spent years transforming their front yard to encourage more interactions with neighbors and the community.
From hosting monthly book club meetings to offering free herbs from their garden to neighbors, this Ingleside couple is on a mission to bring back the front yard as a place for community building.
Since 2012, Mihal Emberton and Raelyn Ruppel have spent countless hours renovating their front and side yards to be a community oasis in a part of the neighborhood where many yards have been paved over.
“My hope would be that it would be nice to be recognized for how much this kind of investment adds to the city,” Emberton said.
A physician and co-president of the parent-teacher group at Commodore Sloat Elementary, Emberton wants to set an example.
“We want our neighbors to do this kind of thing,” she said.
Their yard is filled with multiple seating areas, an arbor, a fire pit, a fountain, fruit and cherry blossom trees and several planter boxes filled with produce such as blueberries, tomatoes, carrots, herbs like mint and sage and more. It took years to improve.
The transformation has led to a years-long battle with the city over alleged code violations due to their yard renovations. This month Emberton took the city to court over the matter with a $12 million lawsuit.
“This whole setting might be something that somebody would put in their backyard,” Ruppel said.
Ruppel, a stay-at-home mom and volunteer for Sloat Elementary, said it was important to decorate and add amenities to the front yard to be part of the neighborhood and get to know neighbors.
“People outside on the streets and in front years deter crime,” Ruppel said.
Aside from speaking to their neighbors more often, they have also held several community events in their yard like San Francisco Youth Baseball League team celebrations, outdoor movie nights, birthday parties and a free after school program for several neighborhood families.
The effort is about creating a new culture in the neighborhood.
“It's just this kind of culture where the neighbors all see each other and engage socially,” Emberton said. “When we moved back to California I wondered, ‘How are we going to bring this kind of culture, this kind of East Coast-Midwest outdoor community and neighbor culture here?’”
The answer: create a space where people hang out.
“Everything will follow from that,” Emberton said.
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