SF Rec and Park Opens New Park On Site of Former A Parking Lot

New name for Park unveiled after $5.2 million construction

SAN FRANCISCO – The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department announced today the opening of a new park at 17th and Folsom Street. Formerly a parking lot, the site has been transformed into a park, with features and amenities designed by the community members living and working in the surrounding area.  “In Chan Kaajal”, the new name for the Park was unveiled at the park opening. In addition to a name unveiling ceremony, there were many festive activities offered by the members of the community to celebrate the special occasion including Mayan blessing ceremony, percussion drumming, Aztec Dance, and other live performances throughout the evening.
“Where we once had a parking lot, we now have a public open space that will be the centerpiece of this neighborhood,” said Mayor Edwin M. Lee. “Our residents deserve access to clean, safe parks, and this new site will provide a wonderful place for families to gather together and catch some fresh air. What makes this particularly special is that this is a park for the community, designed by the community.”
“Building affordable housing for the people of the mission is my number one goal. This project is an example of the innovation and spirit of the Mission community.  Not only are we adding to our affordable housing stock, we are creating the first new open space in the Mission in a decade,” said District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen whose district includes In Chan Kaajal Park.  “On top of that, 20% of this new housing is for transitional age youth coming out of the foster care system, a community that has severe needs and too often becomes homeless. When the Mission community works together, we can achieve incredible things.”  Supervisor Ronen is also the author of the legislation that will officially name the Park as In Chan Kaajal Park, the legislation is scheduled for approval on Tuesday, June 27th at the Board of Supervisors meeting. 
In Chan Kaajal Park is the first new neighborhood park acquired and built by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department in over a decade in the Mission.  The planning for the Park began in 2008 with the adoption of the Eastern Neighborhoods Rezoning and Area Plan which later allowed the Department to acquire the site with support from the Eastern Neighborhood Impact Fees Fund.  In 2009, the public planning process for the development of the park was done in partnership with People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Justice (PODER), District 9 Supervisor Hilary Ronen, former Chief of Staff to former District 9 Supervisor David Campos, SF Planning, San Francisco Public Works, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, and other neighborhood organizations.  Over 350 neighborhood residents and dozens of local community organizations were involved in multiple design sessions, open houses, street stall displays, and public hearings. The $5.2 million park Construction is primarily funded by California Recreation and Parks Department Statewide Park and Community Revitalization Grant, which the Department received in 2010 that began the design and construction process.
“It is heart-warming to see a concrete area being converted to a vibrant new park on 17th and Folsom.  Designed by the community, this exciting project rose above $2.9 billion in competitive grant requests under the Proposition 84 Statewide Park Program,” said Sedrick Mitchell, Deputy Director for External Affairs, California Department of Parks and Recreation.  “Through this $2.7 million grant, children, seniors, and families – and future generations – will now have a place to play, exercise, and enjoy nature within walking distance from their homes.”          
“I want to thank the community, Rec and Park staff, and everyone else who came together to build this beautiful park,” said State Senator Scott Wiener.  “Turning a parking lot into a beautiful new park makes our city greener and creates community space for families and residents in the middle of the Mission.”
“This project will bring much-needed open space, affordable housing, and community resources to the Mission,” said Assemblymember David Chiu.  “Congratulations to all who worked to make this new neighborhood asset a reality.”
The Park is bound by Folsom Street between 17th and Shotwell Streets. To the north of the park site, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) is planning a 126-unit affordable housing development.  The site was acquired in January 2012 through a property transfer from San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) and currently houses a paid-parking lot and an SFPUC electrical control panel.  The 31,850 square foot neighborhood park now features a central lawn area with outdoor stage ad performance space; a children’s play area; an interactive water feature to commemorate the Mission Creek that once ran through the site; and adult fitness equipment area; a community garden and drought tolerant landscaping and trees to provide wildlife habitat.  
“When they say it takes a village to raise a child, in our case, it took a village to turn a parking lot into a park,” said Phil Ginsburg, SF Rec and Park General Manager.  “We are so proud of our partnership with our elected leaders, fellow city agencies, and communities, we all came together, determined to provide more green and open space in San Francisco.  We are thrilled to celebrate the birth of a new park in the Mission.”
“In Cahn Kaajal Park is a community-inspired design that embraces the history of Mission Creek and transforms what was once an asphalt parking lot into a beautiful green space for people,” said San Francisco Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru. “This wonderful new open space is a testament to the power of partnership among neighbors, City agencies and nonprofit groups.”
During the construction of the Park, through a lengthy community process, In Chan Kaajal (Mi Pueblito) meaning “My Little Town” in Mayan was selected over multiple community meetings and a final ballot vote several months ago.  Over the last two decades, indigenous Mayan-speaking immigrants from the Yucatan region of Mexico have made their home in San Francisco, particularly in the northern Mission and Tenderloin neighborhoods.In Chan Kaajal is in the Mayan language meaning little town, and in Spanish this translates to Mi Pueblito. With the existence of Yucatecan businesses, cultural associations, and social services and organization serving this community is a testament to their presence, and the name represents the contributions and significance of the local Mayan speaking community.
The Mayan name and its Spanish translation, Mi Pueblito, is significant because it resonates with the surrounding Latino population, weaving together the community’s indigenous and Spanish European roots. “In Chan Kaajal (Mi Pueblito)” is a park name submitted by Asociacion Mayab during the community engagement process. 
“Our neighborhoods are vibrant with a rich long-standing tradition of community activism. Longtime families and recent immigrants in the Mission are doing amazing things, like reclaiming underutilized lots and transforming them into community uses like parks and affordable housing,” said Marilyn Duran, Long-time Mission resident and PODER Community Organizer.  “This former parking lot at 17th and Folsom represents the determination of my community to strive for environmental justice and bring in much needed green space to our neighborhood.”
Through PODER’s community organizing campaign PUEBLOTE, which garnered action and support from various City agencies and Commissions, neighborhood families will be celebrating the much needed green space for generations to come. And next year the community can look forward to the groundbreaking and construction of 126 units of low-income affordable housing taking place on the adjacent plot of land.
Moreover, with funds generated by the City’s 2%-for-art program, the San Francisco Arts Commission commissioned local artist Carmen Lomas Garza to create two site-specific artworks for the park fence.  The California Condor and The Great Blue Heron are two cut steel panels that feature the aforementioned birds with wings outstretched in mid-flight. The heron is depicted with a leafless branch, the building materials for its nest. The artworks speak to the natural habitat that surrounded Mission Creek, which once flowed near the park’s site, but has long-been paved over to make way for the developing city.
“Carmen Lomas Garza is a celebrated local artist who is known for her familial scenes of Mexican American life. Her work can be found in museums throughout the country.” said Director of Cultural Affairs Tom DeCaigny. “For the 17th Street and Folsom Park, she has created artworks that are reminiscent of papel picado, a popular Mexican folk art used as decoration during festive occasions. We hope the park users will enjoy this celebratory aspect of her installations and the homage they pay to the city’s natural history.”
About SF Rec and Park Department:
SF Rec and Park overseen by the Recreation and Park Commission, stewards more than 4,000 acres of recreational and open space that includes more than 220 parks, playgrounds, and open spaces, in addition to Sharp Park and Camp Mather located outside of the city limits.  The park system includes 25 recreation centers, 9 swimming pools, 5 golf courses, and numerous tennis courts, ball diamonds, soccer fields and other sports venues.  Included in the Department’s responsibilities are iconic landmarks such as Coit Tower, Palace of Fine Arts, Golden Gate Park, as well as the Marina Yacht Harbor, Lake Merced, and the San Francisco Zoo.  The Department’s mission is to provide enriching recreational activities, maintain beautiful parks, and preserve the environment for the well-being of our diverse community.  More about SF Rec and Park, please visit http://sfrecpark.org.
About PODER:
People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Justice (PODER) is a grassroots organization that works to create people-powered solutions to the profound environmental and economic inequities facing low-income Latino immigrants and other communities of color in San Francisco. Since 1991, with participation from residents in the Mission, Excelsior and other southeast San Francisco neighborhoods, we have won important advances in public health, the availability of affordable housing, access to parks and open space and accountable government.
About Asociacion Mayab
Asociacion Mayab is an organization in the Bay Area whose mission is to create conditions that allow for the optimal development of the Yucatec Maya community in San Francisco.  The Mission and Tenderloin neighborhoods of San Francisco are home to many from the Yucatecan community. “In Chan Kaajal” translates to Spanish as “Mi Pueblito” – and, “My Little Town” in English.
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