SF Rec and Park Reopens the City’s Oldest Park After Its 21st Century Upgrades

SAN FRANCISCO – The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department is thrilled to celebrate the opening of South Park, San Francisco’s oldest park, after a $3.8 million renovation. The park is approximately 34,000 square feet and now boasts a state-of-the-art children’s play area, an accessible walkway, a natural lawn, and new landscaping. In addition, South Park received new park furniture and a major upgrade to its stormwater and irrigation systems. The park, located in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood, is encircled by South Park Street where it runs from Second Street to Third Street with numerous cafes and restaurants along the road. The $3.8 million renovation is funded by both 2012 and 2008 Park Bonds, as well as the Eastern Neighborhoods Impact Fees, voter-supported Prop K funds (through the San Francisco County Transportation Authority), Lease Revenue Bonds, and a generous donation from the South Park Improvement Association (SPIA). San Francisco-based, award-winning practice, Fletcher Studio created the innovative design for this historic park. Today, SF Rec & Park and the community celebrated the opening with a picnic and ribbon cutting.

District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim, whose district includes South Park, shared her excitement about a new and revitalized South Park: “Neighborhoods simply aren’t complete without open, accessible, green space for everyone to enjoy from our families and residents to the people who make San Francisco work every day. This park has been a long time in coming to fruition and would not have been possible without the commitment and persistence of so many – I especially want to thank the South Park Improvement Association and SF Rec & Park for their decades of advocacy to modernize South Park for residents and visitors to enjoy.”

South Park was the creation of an Englishman by the name of George Gordon who began purchasing lots between Bryant and Brannan and Second and Third Streets in 1852. The South Park neighborhood was considered fashionably upscale when it was built. The construction of homes and the oval garden at the center of South Park, which was accessible to residents only, began in earnest in 1854. The original design was that of a picturesque strolling park reminiscent of those found in and around London, and the Park was home to thousands of trees and shrubs. And finally in 1897, the City and County of San Francisco acquired the garden around which South Park was built, and presented it as a public park.

“This renovation and opening has been in the works for a long time, and today we get to celebrate the fruits of our labor,” said Phil Ginsburg, SF Rec & Park General Manager. “From the new playground, to the picnic tables, to the beautiful new pathways, this would not have been possible without an incredible collaboration with the South Park Improvement Association.”

The utter destruction of South Park in the 1906 earthquake forever changed the dynamics of the neighborhood and the park. What arose from the rubble was a working class neighborhood that lasted for nearly 70 years. Along the way, South Park fell on hard times, and it wasn’t until the late 1970s and early 1980s that an influx of entrepreneurial thinking began the decades-long transformation of South Park from an earthquake-damaged area to a developed residential area.

In 1983, a group of park neighbors and business owners joined together to form the South Park Improvement Association (SPIA) to foster park stewardship and pursue funding and other resources to improve South Park. Later, in December 2009, SPIA in partnership with SF Rec & Park, embarked on a community planning process to develop plans for the full renovation of the Park.

“It has been over ten years of community effort to see our park Revitalized,” said Toby Levy of SPIA. “We are so excited to have a unique park that matches our unique community.”

Over the course of four years, SPIA worked to gain community support for a master plan for the site, and advocated for funding for the improvements. In May 2012, SPIA, with assistance from the San Francisco Parks Alliance (SFPA), approached SF Rec & Park with a proposal for partnership to design and fund a major capital renovation for South Park.

“We are absolutely thrilled that San Francisco’s oldest park is getting a much needed facelift,” said Rachel Norton, SF Parks Alliance Interim CEO. “This is a perfect example of what can happen when a group of committed volunteers comes together to improve their neighborhood parks and open space.”

In 2016 the South Park Improvement Association appointed Fletcher Studio to work with the neighbors and community leaders to develop a master plan for the park. The new design helps alleviate major structural issues including poor drainage and slopes that exceed ADA limits while maintaining its vital role as a public space for residents, businesses, and neighboring communities.

“It has been an invaluable experience working with the South Park Improvement Association and the community at large to rethink San Francisco’s oldest public space,” states David Fletcher, Founding Principle of Fletcher Studio, “We are grateful for the incredible amount of trust the community put into us that has resulted in a distinctive design solution we are extremely proud of.”

The design also incorporates a series of long planter walls that can also be used for additional seating.

South Park’s transformation over the years has served an array of residents and community members including immigrants, longshoremen, artists and young professionals. South Park played an important role during the dot com boom in the late 1990’s as a hub for various design and web-related businesses. Today, it still acts as a center for tech-related and design companies as well as eating establishments and retail ventures, amidst the backdrop of a flourishing green space.

San Francisco Public Works provided construction management, environmental oversight, and along with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, will be adding some traffic calming elements to South Park Street.


About Fletcher Studio

Fletcher Studio is an innovative and award winning collaborative practice based in San Francisco. The firm provides comprehensive professional services in Landscape Architecture, Urban Design, and Environmental Planning. The firm is committed to a collaborative and contextual approach to spatial design practice and to the planning of unique and sustainable landscapes, urban spaces, and living infrastructures. Design and planning solutions come from the interaction with the many people, processes, histories, policies, economies and ecologies that are specific to a place. For more information please visit: http://www.fletcherstudio.com/. For renderings of South Park, visit: http://bit.ly/SouthParkDesign

About the San Francisco Parks Alliance

The Mission of the San Francisco Parks Alliance is to inspire and promote civic engagement and philanthropy to protect, sustain, and enrich San Francisco parks, recreation and green open spaces. To learn more, visit: http://www.sfparksalliance.org/


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