SAN FRANCISCO – With new equipment to spark imagination, fresh surfaces for jumping and running, and innovative features to explore music and sound, the renovated Panhandle Playground opened amid a community celebration today.
Children from Stepping Stones Preschool whooshed down one of the playground’s two new slides alongside District 5 Supervisor Vallie Brown, and through a ceremonial ribbon to applause from parents, city officials, and neighbors.
“Every child deserves a safe, clean, and welcoming place to play,” said Mayor London N. Breed. “The renovation of the Panhandle Playground is part of our citywide initiative to ensure that every kid in San Francisco has access to a high-quality playground. Thanks to the Recreation and Park Department and the San Francisco Parks Alliance, this playground is a fun and creative space that will be enjoyed by children and their families for years to come.”
Panhandle Playground is among 13 renovations across the city supported by the Let’sPlaySF! campaign, a partnership between the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department and the San Francisco Parks Alliance. The $36 million initiative is leveraging approximately $22 million in public funding with $14.5 million in private support to more quickly transform San Francisco’s most timeworn playgrounds into modern hubs of imaginative play and community connection used by 20,000 children and their parents. Panhandle is the second playground to be completed after Washington Square Playground in North Beach, which opened in January.
The transformed Panhandle Playground includes a sandbox in which children can dig for built-in sea treasures, multiple climbing surfaces, two swing sets, an area for older and younger children, and reservable picnic tables. The use of natural materials like boulders and wood allows the new playground to blend into the area, which is home to 80 species of trees.
“Renovating this playground is one of the best things we can do for the families in our community,” said Brown. “This modernization of one of the city’s oldest playgrounds exhibits the city’s commitment to continuing to serve its families. Community members from different social circles, economic levels, and ages can continue to come together to build new communities around their shared love of this wonderful playground.”
Today’s ceremony also included the unveiling of a memorial bench for Konstantinos “Gus” Vardakastanis, the late owner of Gus’s Community Market who was beloved by the Panhandle community for his generous spirit.
“Parks and playgrounds are essential to the health of neighborhoods,” said San Francisco Recreation and Park Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg. “Play helps children learn to share, negotiate, resolve conflict and develop self-advocacy skills. Welcoming urban spaces allow families to forge strong connections with one another and make neighborhoods safer and more livable.”
Other playgrounds slated for improvement under the Let’sPlaySF! initiative include Merced Heights Playground, Sgt. John Macaulay Park, Alice Chalmers Playground, John McLaren Park Picnic Area and Playground, Buchanan Street Mall, Golden Gate Heights Park, Herz Playground, Juri Commons, Richmond Playground, Sigmund Stern Recreation Grove and West Portal Playground. 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.
The Let’sPlaySF! campaign is ongoing.
The Let’s Play SF! Campaign is a public-private partnership between the Recreation & Park Department and the San Francisco Parks Alliance to support the renovation of 13 playgrounds across the city. The partners are supplementing $22 million of public funds with $14.5 million of contributions from generous donors to improve San Francisco’s 13 most timeworn playgrounds into dynamic hubs for creativity and family life that are surrounded by 20,000 children.
About the San Francisco Parks Alliance
San Francisco Parks Alliance champions, transforms, and activates parks and public spaces throughout our city through innovative partnerships with community
groups, city government and businesses. We believe that building these partnerships to support parks and public spaces leads to stronger, more cohesive communities,
greater physical and mental wellness, and a more sustainable, equitable urban environment. For more information, please visit www.sfparksalliance.org.
About the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department
The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department currently manages more than 220 parks, playgrounds and open spaces throughout San Francisco, including two outside city limits—Sharp Park in Pacifica and Camp Mather in the High Sierras. The system includes full-complex recreation centers, swimming pools, golf courses, sports fields and numerous small-to-medium-sized clubhouses that offer a variety of sports- and arts-related recreation programs for people of all ages. Included in the Department’s responsibilities are Golden Gate Park, Coit Tower, the Marina Yacht Harbor, the San Francisco Zoo and Lake Merced. In 2017, San Francisco became the first and only city in the nation where all residents have access to a park within a 10-minute walk, a direct result of the Department’s commitment to increasing and improving parkland in the city.