Helen Diller Family Foundation Expands Gift to SF’s Civic Center Plaza

A $1 million donation to create a street café in the Park

SAN FRANCISCO – The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department in partnership with The Trust for Public Land and Civic Center Community Benefit District (CCCBD) announced today that Helen Diller Family Foundation will be expanding its $10 million playground renovation gift to Civic Center Plaza.  Through The Trust for Public Land, Helen Diller Family Foundation has donated funds to support CCCBD to create a street café and central gathering place at Civic Center Plaza.  CCCBD has selected Bi-Rite, a family-owned San Francisco institution since 1940, to be the operator of the café, which will provide ice cream and a variety of fresh foods.

“During the community outreach and design process for the playground renovation, when we asked the community what other activities they would like to see at Civic Center Plaza, they talked about park amenities like food and seating as well as an area to relax and gather near the playgrounds with their children and families,” said Alejandra Chiesa, Bay Area Program Director with The Trust for Public Land.  “Because of the community feedback, we worked with Helen Diller Family Foundation who has offered additional resources and funding to provide this much-needed community hub serving families living in the Civic Center and Tenderloin neighborhoods.”

“Food brings people together, and we could not be more excited about the outcome here,” said Jackie Safier, President of the Helen Diller Family Foundation.

As an active community member in the San Francisco neighborhoods in which it operates, Bi-Rite welcomes this opportunity to deepen its existing partnerships in the Civic Center and Tenderloin neighborhoods, and to bring its delicious ice cream and freshly prepared foods to this new space.

“Creating community through food is why we exist,” shares Sam Mogannam, second-generation owner of Bi-Rite. “And we’re honored to be asked to be a part of the fun and togetherness that this project is going to create in the heart of the City.”

The street café, to be located at the corner of Grove and Larkin Streets, will be housed in a kiosk, and will offer a variety of food and drink selections as well as movable tables and seating for the public to relax and enjoy recreation activities at Civic Center Plaza.  Currently, the Department offers Zumba classes, youth soccer, adult bocce ball, adult kickball, and volleyball games as well as food trucks in partnership with Off-The-Grid on a weekly basis.  Designed by WRNS, the street café has a light and transparent structure that will preserve the grand views of Civic Center Plaza and allow visibility of the playgrounds when the renovations are completed.  And while it is built to last, the café structure can be removed to make way for another long-term future use in the Plaza.

“The CBD’s mission is to provide essential services, including activation, that complement those provided by City agencies,” said Tracy Everwine, Executive Director of the CBD.  “This project and our partnership with Bi-Rite enhance our work and will provide a tremendous convenience for Plaza-goers.”

“We are thankful for the generous donation and kind support of Helen Diller Family Foundation, The Trust for Public Land, Civic Center Community Benefit District, Bi-Rite and many other city agencies and community partners,” said Phil Ginsburg, SF Rec and Park Department General Manager.  “With their support, our City is making milestones one after another in the effort of activating Civic Center Plaza, making it a fun and lively open space for everyone.”

The street café is a $1 million addition to the already generous $10 million donation the Helen Diller Foundation made in 2013 to Civic Center Plaza community through the Trust for Public Land to fund the design and construction of two vibrant, state-of-the-art playgrounds, at no cost to the City. As part of the multi-year comprehensive community outreach and design process, The Trust for Public Land in partnership with SF Rec and Park Department, conducted a user survey, focus groups and community-wide workshops with stakeholders including parents, educators, children, institutions, and city agencies. The conceptual design for the $10 million renovation was finalized and approved in fall 2016. Members of the Foundation, the Trust for Public Land, city officials, and park advocates joined the Department for a groundbreaking ceremony last February. The gift has also served as a catalyst for a renewed focus on improving and activating Civic Center and the surrounding area.

The street café design will be reviewed by the Planning Department through the application for a Certificate of Appropriateness.  The project is scheduled to be presented to the Historic Preservation Commission’s Architectural Review Committee on August 2nd and if approved, it is expected to be presented to full Historic Preservation Commission on August 16th.  If and when the project design is approved, The Trust for Public Land will be overseeing the construction of the street café.  In addition, the Department is considering a license agreement with CCCBD where CCCBD and Bi-Rite, its selected operator will be managing and operating street café at Civic Center Plaza.  The license agreement is expected to be presented to SF Rec and Park Commission this fall.  The timeline for the project completion has yet to be determined as it is still undergoing a city approval and public hearing process.

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