SAN FRANCISCO – Under the watchful eyes of 45 preschoolers, city officials and community members broke ground today on five playground renovations—a major milestone in a project that promises to transform 13 timeworn play areas used by 20,000 children in neighborhoods across the City.
Today’s groundbreaking ceremony, held at the Panhandle Playground, marked the beginning of construction at that site and four others: Alice Chalmers Playground in the Outer Mission, McLaren Playground and group picnic area in the Excelsior-Portola neighborhood, Merced Heights Playground, and Sgt. Macaulay Playground in the Tenderloin.
The Let’sPlaySF! campaign, a partnership between the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department and the San Francisco Parks Alliance, will support the 13 renovations by supplementing $22 million in public funds with $14.5 million in donor contributions. Washington Square Playground in North Beach, the first to undergo a transformation, re-opened in January. Construction on the remaining seven playgrounds will take place from late 2019 to 2021. Those include the Buchanan Street Mall in the Western Addition, Golden Gate Heights Park, Herz Playground in Visitacion Valley, Juri Commons in the Mission, Richmond Playground, Sigmund Stern Recreation Grove, and West Portal Playground.
“The renovations at Panhandle Park will finally bring this community the high quality playground our children deserve,” said Mayor Breed. “But we are not stopping here. We are upgrading playgrounds across the City, which serve thousands of children, because this is a matter of equity. Every child in every community should have a safe, clean place to play.”
All playgrounds were selected by a citizen task force based on presence of unhealthy chemicals in playground wood, with priority given to playgrounds in low income neighborhoods dense with children.
“We need outdoor spaces for children and families,” said Supervisor Vallie Brown. “Playing outside is part of being a kid and has so many benefits—of course for the kids, but also for all of us. Their joy and laughter radiate out into the City.”
Studies have linked access to parks and playgrounds to youth and family wellness. Growing research also speaks to the impact of exercise on brain development. Children living in neighborhoods without a park or playground are 26 percent more likely to be obese. Play also helps children forge strong connections with one another through learning to share, negotiate, resolve conflicts, and develop self-advocacy skills.
“Supervisor Vallie Brown has been a champion for recreation and open space in District 5 for decades and playgrounds are no exception,” San Francisco Recreation and Park Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg said. “They are essential to both children and adults; modern town squares where urban families forge friendships while kids experience the rush of outside play.”
The Let’sPlaySF! campaign is ongoing. An additional $5 million in private funding is needed to complete all 13 sites in the initiative.
“We are thrilled to begin the renovations,” said San Francisco Parks Alliance CEO Drew Becher. “Approximately 20,000 children will benefit from the Let’sPlaySF campaign. We believe all kids deserve healthy, creative and imaginative places to play regardless of where they live. In a world class city like San Francisco, our families deserve no less.”
At today’s ceremony, community members from each of the five neighborhoods took shovels to mounds of earth representing each of the five construction sites. Following the event, each of the students from Stepping Stones preschool enjoyed a cookie from the Mayor.
Both video and still photographs from the event can be found here.