Redesigning Chinatown's Historic Public Plaza - Portsmouth Square, located in Chinatown, is one of San Francisco’s most significant historic, cultural, and civic spaces. The park is eligible for listing in the California Register of Historic Resources for its role as an important cultural space for the Chinatown community and for its association with important events and early development of San Francisco. As the city’s earliest public square, the park was the site of the 1848 declaration of California independence, the proclamation of the discovery of gold in 1849, California’s first public school, and the site of a refugee camp after the 1906 earthquake and fire. Portsmouth Square has also served as both a formal and informal public square and gathering space for San Franciscans since the settlement of Yerba Buena was first platted circa 1835. Portsmouth Square has served the Chinatown community for more than a century.
Environmental Review - The San Francisco Planning Department is conducting the environmental review for this project. For more information please visit the Planning Department’s website here.
Scope of Work
The park, located above the Portsmouth Square parking garage, will receive a complete renovation with funding from the 2020 Health and Recovery Bond. The design is the result of a robust community engagement and participatory design process, is reflective of the significance of the neighborhood, and addresses programmatic challenges unique to Chinatown. The renovated park will include the following community-identified priorities:
- A large flexible outdoor event space with an elevated stage
- A new larger community clubhouse with a large assembly area and meeting rooms
- A large shade structure
- A new consolidated playground with adult fitness equipment
- The removal of the existing Kearny Street pedestrian bridge
- Perimeter park fencing to allow for night security
- Enhanced accessibility
- New planting, irrigation, lighting, and furnishings
- Generous seating and gathering areas
- Replacement of the garage roof’s waterproofing and drainage system
- Adjacent streetscape improvements
The project will be largely funded through developer impact fees and the 2020 Health and Recovery bond. The current identified funding sources include:
- Transit Center Impact Fees: $10,865,000
- Downtown Park Fund: $500,000
- 2020 Health and Recovery Bond: $54,000,000
- Grants: $8,400
|Open to the public||Summer 2026|
Reminder! We will be hosting an in-person community meeting this Thursday, October 19, 1:00-2:30 p.m. to review interpretive and arts themes, analyze existing plaques and monuments, and identify Read on...
We will be hosting an in-person community meeting to review interpretive and arts themes, analyze existing plaques and monuments, and identify Read on...
We wanted to share some updates from the Portsmouth Square Improvement Project, a complete renovation of the park slated to begin next year. We have just completed Read on...
The Portsmouth Square project team has been incredibly busy over the past several months . . . Read on...
The project has reached an important milestone as schematic design wraps up. . . . Read on...
Portsmouth Square is located in the Chinatown neighborhood at 733 Kearny Street, between Clay Street and Washington Street, and is one of San Francisco’s most significant historic, cultural, and civic spaces. Originally a civic plaza for the Yerba Buena settlement, the square was renamed after the USS Portsmouth in 1846. Portsmouth Square has served as a backdrop to some of the most important moments in city and state history, including:
- Countless festivals, parades, and other affirmations of civic pride
- The rise and fall of the Gold Rush
- The site of the first City Hall and California’s first public school
- A staging ground and place of refuge after the 1906 earthquake
The existing terraced site includes:
- Restroom building
- Pedestrian bridge extending over Kearny Street
- Two children’s play areas
- Underground parking garage
- Various historical markers
The Recreation and Park Department has identified the following objectives for this project:
1. Provide a Renovated Park that is Sensitive to the Cultural and Historic Setting of the Property
- Provide a renovated park that is architecturally compatible with the Chinatown neighborhood while maintaining the existing park character.
- Incorporate the existing monuments and art elements into a renovated park.
2. Align Park Renovation with Community Input
- Be responsive to the recreational needs of the Chinatown neighborhood and provide for diverse groups of people of various ages and abilities.
- Maximize the implementation of community input received during the engagement phase.
3. Maximize Park Cohesiveness and Usability
- Improve spatial relationships, access, and circulation, both within the park and at the park-street frontage interface.
- Maximize usable space and remove barriers or elements that divide usable space.
- Create inviting and flexible spaces that can accommodate daily recreational activities and events of all sizes.
- Establish a clubhouse that can flex to accommodate gatherings of multiple sizes.
- Create a large multi-use upper plaza that can accommodate large events but is also comfortable for all event sizes.
- Site new buildings in a manner that maximizes natural light, works with the existing garage structure and respects the topography of the site and the surrounding area.
- Maximize direct connections between the clubhouse and the park that offer opportunities for indoor-outdoor uses.
- Create a unified “active recreation” area with fitness equipment and a children’s playground with direct access to the clubhouse.
4. Create a Safe and Secure Park and Streetscape
- Create a single cohesive park that is both physically and visually connected and uses site elements and structures to connect instead of divide spaces.
- Provide direct lines of sight to and from the clubhouse to maximize safety and visibility throughout the property.
- Provide a safe pedestrian experience both within the park and on the sidewalks.
5. Maintain and Preserve the Existing Garage and its Operations
- Minimize impacts to the garage structure and its operations both during construction and at completion.
- Upgrade the waterproofing of the garage and all roof drainage components to eliminate water intrusion into the garage and its structure.
- Protect the existing restroom and garage infrastructure on the park level and seamlessly incorporate them into the renovated park.
6. Create a Sustainable and Easy-To-Maintain Park
- Provide a “Zero Carbon” clubhouse by eliminating all carbon emissions and using 100% renewable energy.
- Utilize durable and long-lasting materials and building systems to withstand intense use and not create long-term maintenance burdens.
- Minimize the need for long-term pest management.
- Design and implement a project that meets the established budget.