Portsmouth Square Improvement Project

Redesigning Chinatown’s Historic Public Plaza and Surrounding Area


The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, in partnership with the San Francisco Planning Department, is undertaking a redesign of Portsmouth Square and the surrounding area, to be funded by Transit Center Impact Fee funds allocated for Chinatown neighborhood park improvements.

Scope of Work

The project features an initial Planning Phase and a subsequent Design Phase. The Planning Phase has already been completed, and consisted of an existing condition and feasibility analysis of Portsmouth Square and the surrounding streets. The site data, program analysis, and project recommendations from this phase are documented in the Portsmouth Square Area Existing Conditions and Feasibility Report. This Design Phase will define the project scope and budget, conduct a broad community outreach process, develop a concept design, produce a conceptual design report, and obtain necessary regulatory approvals. The project will then continue through schematic design, design development, construction documentation, and construction once funding becomes available.

The project will consist of the improvement of all existing park features including plazas, children’s play areas, buildings, pedestrian bridge, landscaping, adjacent streetscape and associated site work. The parking garage and the newly completed restrooms are not included in the scope of work.


Jan. – Dec. 2014    Portsmouth Square Area Existing Conditions and Feasibility Report 
Oct. – Mar. 2016     RFP for Portsmouth Square Concept Design; Selection of Design Team & Award of Contract
Feb. 2017 –  Early 2018   Design Phase 1 (Portsmouth Square Area Concept Design)
Mid 2018 –              Design Phase 2 Begins (Schematic Design)


The plan below outlines the Project Area, including the park and the streetscape along Kearny Street, Washington Street, Clay Street, and Walter U Lum Place.

Portsmouth Project Area










Click here to subscribe to project updates.

Portsmouth Square – July 13 Workshop Summary

Thanks again to everyone who came out to our second community workshop on July 13th. Since then, the design team has compiled the feedback received and incorporating it into initial concepts for our third community workshop in mid-October (date/time and details will be announced later this week). The presentation from the … Continue reading

Visit the Archives

Project FAQs


Portsmouth Square is located in the Chinatown neighborhood at 745 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: the site of the first City Hall and California’s first public school; the rise and fall of the Gold Rush; a staging ground and place of refuge after the 1906 earthquake; and countless festivals, parades, and other affirmations of civic pride. The terraced site includes several hardscape plazas, two children’s play areas, a new restroom building, clubhouse, underground parking structure, various historical markers, and a pedestrian bridge extending over Kearny Street.

Project Goals

The guiding principles for Portsmouth Square Improvement Project:

  • The project site shall be viewed in the context of the overall Chinatown Neighborhood: the renovated park and streetscape should seamlessly integrate with the community context and reflect the needs of the Chinatown neighborhood;
  • Provide an integrated and open park that maximizes usable space, removes barriers, and gracefully connects to the surrounding neighborhood;
  • Provide a safe pedestrian experience;
  • Create spaces that are comfortable, safe, and welcoming for all age groups and abilities; and
  • Create flexible spaces that can accommodate daily recreation activities as well as events.