SAN FRANCISCO – City officials and neighborhood residents today celebrated the re-opening of iconic Washington Square Park—now greener, drier and more accessible after a $3 million water conservation project that will save 2 million gallons each year, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department announced.
The 2.26-acre park in the heart of North Beach replaced its 65-year-old drainage system with weather sensing irrigation, permanently transforming it from greedy guzzler to sensible sipper. The overhaul also includes new drought-tolerant landscaping. Accessible pathways were added through funding secured by District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin.
“This renovation is an example of what the city can do when it partners with the community,” said Peskin. “We were not only able to finish the project early and on budget, but we preserved the dignity and character of one of the three original parks that has shaped San Francisco for the last 170 years—and the only one of the three that isn’t the roof of a parking garage! Washington Square has managed to stay both a humble and majestic city landmark, while continuing to serve as the living room for a community of fan dancers, tai chi regulars, strolling seniors, families and picnicking guests.”
The 2012 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond funded $1.2 million of the project. SF Rec and Parks partnered with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) to develop a conservation plan for its 12 parks with the greatest potential for water savings. At 3 million gallons a year, Washington Square was the biggest water hog per acre. The overhaul will reduce water usage by 66 percent, to 1 million gallons a year and improve the condition of the lawn, which would previously become saturated during the rainy season.
“We are incredibly proud of this vital transformation of one of the city’s most cherished parks,” said San Francisco Recreation and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg. “Washington Square has been immortalized in movies and as an official city landmark. For seniors, children and everyone in between, it is a neighborhood gem for playing, exercising, and socializing. This project ensures the area will remain healthy, beautiful and green for future generations.”
SF Rec and Parks worked closely with the North Beach, Chinatown, and Telegraph Hill communities to develop plans for the improvements. Their advocacy was central to obtaining a $625,700 grant from the SFPUC to help fund the conservation project. The SFPUC’s Large Landscape Grant Program provides incentives for implementing water-saving improvements and increasing water efficiency in outdoor spaces and has allowed SF Rec and Parks to improve irrigation infrastructure at Alamo Square, Jefferson Square, Alta Plaza and Balboa Park as well. Combined with Washington Square, these improvements save nearly 10 million gallons of water per year.
“We are always proud to partner with our fellow city departments on water conservation projects that protect our most precious natural resource,” said SFPUC General Manager Harlan L. Kelly, Jr. “Washington Square is not only an iconic site beloved by San Francisco residents, it is now a national model for sustainability and conservation in urban parks.”
The San Francisco Public Works completed the architectural design and helped plan construction.
“Given Washington Square Park’s importance in the fabric of San Francisco, this was an exciting project for us to partner on,” said San Francisco Public Works Director Mohmmed Nuru. “Our design team honored the bones of the beloved historic landscape elevating the design with more durable materials setting the stage for the next 100 years, and the unseen improvements of the drainage and irrigation allow the lawn to be used year-round and make more efficient use of our precious water resources.”
The water conservation project is the latest in a series of investments SF Rec and Parks has made in Washington Square Park in recent years. New restrooms were added in 2015. In January, the park’s playground re-opened with undulating topography, new equipment, playful art elements and an improved layout. That renovation was made possible by Let’sPlaySF!, a partnership between SF Rec and Parks and the San Francisco Parks Alliance to inspire creativity by overhauling the city’s 13 most deserving playgrounds.
Today’s ribbon-cutting celebration featured performances by the Salesian Club Theatre Ensemble and LionDanceME.