COLMA (KPIX 5) — Tens of thousands of people are buried in Colma in an area that looks nothing like a cemetery.
The remains of more than 25,000 San Franciscans now sit beneath the cut flower operation in a field along Colma Boulevard, beneath a private nursery. The field, which is now covered in flowers, sits between two big-box retailers: Best Buy and Home Depot.
Concerned family members are saying that the covered area prevents them from paying respects to their loved ones underneath.
The piece of land functions largely as a private garden on top of the graves, which are almost entirely unmarked and off limits, even to those with ancestors just below the flowers.
When Rene Monié of San Francisco visited the field in search of his great grandmother, who was moved there in the 1930’s, he was surprised to find that her final resting place was laden with flowers.
Similarly, John Rector of Canby, Oregon was looking to pay respects to his great grandfather, only to find a host of flowers surrounding the area in which he lays.
“That’s when I realized that this isn’t a cemetery, this is a nursery production, cut flowers,” said Rector.
The relatively small piece of land is just one piece of the larger Greenlawn landholding, the area to which a portion of the San Francisco Oddfellows Cemetery was relocated in the 1930’s.
Over the years, ownership entities changed, property lines were redrawn and, by the early 2000’s, the old grave markers had given way to soil, pipes and flowers.
“You see there is a grave marker here that has been removed, by the plowing, and you see over there? They go deep into the ground!” pointed out Monié .
KPIX 5 reached out to the cemetery to determine the particulars of the flower operation and what lies beneath it, but they have not yet returned any calls.
KPIX 5 also learned that the cemetery has been reluctant to engage in discussions with family members who have no access to the grounds.
“You could tell it was a struggle, they would rather people just not know, and just keep driving by,” said Rector.
Monié asked the California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau to investigate how the burial plots are maintained and if the correct rules and regulations are being followed.
According to the bureau, currently there is “insufficient evidence to support a violation.” The cemetery said that an “open investigation” is underway.
“We don’t want any money. We don’t want a public case or anything. We just want the nursery to go, we want access to the grounds, and access to our families,” said Monié.