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A Digital Journal - San Francisco Public Works

In the Works

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July 2021

Joyous kids bring the new Golden Gate Heights Park playground to life. See story below.

FEATURE STORIES

A Reimagined Park Reaches
New Heights

On a typically foggy mid-July morning, the newly renovated Golden Gate Heights Park made its official debut to a crowd of excited neighbors, City officials and parks advocates. 

The Haight-Ashbury Sparkles with a Streetscape Makeover

Completion of the Upper Haight Transit Improvement and Pedestrian Realm Project brings improved pedestrian safety and enhanced transit efficiency and builds on the San Francisco neighborhood’s vibrant character.

Outer Sunset Streetscape Redesign Brings Wave of Improvements

The Outer Sunset community recently celebrated completion of the L-Taraval Segment A Streetscape Project on Tavaral Street between the Great Highway and Sunset Boulevard. 

Operation Kaboom
 

Public Works crews were on standby the night of July 4 to assist the fire and police departments to break up illegal firework displays.

Cherry Blossom Trees Rooted in Community Passion

After suffering a less than friendly welcome into the Year 2021, the Japantown cherry blossom trees are back, thanks to a community effort that grew overnight.

New Coalition Aims to Boost Civic Pride

This month, Public Works joined with Mayor London Breed, other City agencies, community benefit districts, individuals, businesses and nonprofit groups to launch Shine On SF – a coalition committed to caring for San Francisco and inspiring a renewed sense of civic pride.

An Unconventional New Park for the Tenderloin
 

San Francisco celebrated Safe Passage Park – the City's newest, smallest and certainly one of the most innovative parks that runs adjacent to the sidewalk along the 200 block of Turk Street in the heart of the Tenderloin. 

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A Reimagined
Park Reaches
New Heights

Surrounding trees add a welcome touch of nature to this hilltop urban playground.

Rec and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg leads the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

On a typically foggy mid-July morning, the newly renovated Golden Gate Heights Park made its official debut to a crowd of excited neighbors, City officials and parks advocates. 

The remodeled park came alive on July 20 as dozens of children explored the state-of-the-art playground, while neighbors’ dogs frolicked on the lush new upper lawn area.

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The Public Works project team involved in the park renovation, from left to right:

Jennifer Cooper, Lizzy Hirsch, Winnie Chang, Veronica Chan and Edward Chin.

This complete re-imagining of a beloved public space is all thanks to a project team that worked for years to see the Golden Gate Heights community’s vision come to life. 

Construction on the new playground began in September 2020, but the project was a long time in the making. It started out modestly enough, with plans to install only a new lawn and picnic tables funded through the City’s Community Opportunity Fund. Launched in 2008, the Community Opportunity Fund provides neighborhoods, community groups, park advocates and partners with the opportunity to nominate capital projects for funding. The Golden Gate Heights community did just that, passionately advocating for these necessary renovations to take place. They didn’t stop there. Over the last few years, this initially minor project grew into an almost complete renovation of this hilltop gem of a park.

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The park before renovation.

In 2014, a special task force identified Golden Gate Heights as one of San Francisco’s parks most in need of a full renovation. This task force was convened as a part of the LetsPlaySF initiative, which is a partnership between Rec Park and the San Francisco Parks Alliance. Originating with the 2012 San Francisco Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond, the LetsPlaySF Initiative combines public funds and donations from private sources with the goal of renovating 13 of the City’s most timeworn parks throughout San Francisco by 2022.

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These playgrounds and parks are on the high-priority list for makeovers.

These parks were selected based on the presence of unhealthy chemicals in playground wood, with priority given to playgrounds in low-income neighborhoods with a large population of kids.  LetsPlaySF has touched almost every corner of the City, from North Beach to Merced Heights, and improved the lives of countless families. In fact, there are a total of 20,000 children who live within a 10-minute walk of these 13 playgrounds. These principles are inspired by the many ways that inviting spaces for play can have on children and communities as a whole.


Play, according to Dr. Nooshin Razani, a pediatrician and the head of UCSF’s Center for Nature and Health, ”is how children develop executive function, cognitive abilities and gross motor skills.” Thoughtfully designed play areas can act as a catalyst, actively promoting brain development and nurturing imagination.

Without a doubt, the heart of Golden Gate Heights Park is the 3,500-square-foot playground nestled just above the tennis courts. 

Public Works landscape architects led the design of this new playground. Dealing with limited space, the team worked tirelessly to make sure the design included features and space for all age groups to enjoy, while still following current playground safety standards. The park’s old play structure actually included too much equipment given the size of the playground. The new playground is more spaced out and still features plenty of kid-pleasing attractions.

When approaching the playground, the first thing that catches the eye is a 20-foot-tall, forest green helix-shaped climbing tower adorned with a spiral of ropes and nets. 

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Those who want to play closer to the ground have fun options as well: circular wooden bouncing pads, a climbing wall and classic slides and swings.

Some trees in the area surrounding the park were dying and at risk of falling, so the project team cut them down and repurposed the stumps as seats, borders and climbing elements for young visitors to explore. 

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Accessibility also has been significantly improved, as the park’s main entrance is now ADA compliant and walkways throughout the park have been reworked. Volunteers from the neighborhood even built a new habitat space for the green hairstreak butterflies that visit the park every spring. 

What truly sets this park apart, however, is not the playground features themselves, but the process by which they were chosen. 

In addition to the years of advocacy and countless volunteer hours they dedicated, Golden Gate Heights community members dove deep into the design process. Between December 2018 and May 2019, Public Works and Rec Park held a series of three community meetings where attendees could not only choose the general layout and design they wanted from a handful of pre-composed options, they also were able to decide which specific play equipment to include – from the slide to the climbing tower. To include those who couldn’t make the meetings, we also sent out a community survey for additional design guidance from the community. 


Thanks to community engagement and buy-in, Golden Gate Heights Park now has something to offer for people of all ages. 


“Our challenge was how to make the redesign of this little park work for everyone when there are sometimes conflicting uses,” said Public Works Landscape Architect Lizzy Hirsch, the lead designer on the project. “We saw this as an opportunity to create a space where people can have their own territories for the different uses yet still enjoy coming together in a common place.”

These kinds of projects hold a special significance for us because in a city as densely packed as San Francisco, parks act as spaces for people to congregate, get to know each other and ultimately build bonds that create strong communities. San Francisco Public Works is honored to play a role in the creation of these welcoming spaces.

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The streetscape improvements along Haight Street include new sidewalks, traffic signals, curb ramps, landscaping, lights,

fresh paving and other elements to make the iconic corridor safer and more inviting.

The Haight-Ashbury Sparkles with a Streetscape Makeover

Completion of the Upper Haight Transit Improvement and Pedestrian Realm Project came at a perfect time, as businesses are reopening, and the neighborhood is coming to life again after more than a year of COVID restrictions. 

This transformative project improves pedestrian safety, enhances transit efficiency and builds on the San Francisco neighborhood’s vibrant character.

 

Mayor London Breed, City Administrator Carmen Chu and Sunshine Powers, president of the Haight Ashbury Merchants Association, led a festive ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 28 at the corner of Haight and Ashbury streets.

For more than a century, the historic neighborhood has been a draw for residents, merchants and tourists alike. It holds history – including the Summer of Love – and is graced with iconic Victorian architecture and mom-and-pop shops. It’s a place to wander, meet friends, nosh, shop and enjoy nearby Golden Gate Park and the Panhandle. The streetscape redesign builds on this history and literally brings sparkle and greater reliability to Haight Street – with reflective elements embedded in the new sidewalks and a new roadway; below the surface is an upgraded sewer.

The two-year, $22.3 million project was based on a community-supported vision to improve street and pedestrian safety and to green and beautify the commercial corridor. Construction began in September 2018 and continued uninterrupted during San Francisco’s Stay-at-Home Order, which allowed work to continue on essential infrastructure. This project supported more than 130 construction and electrical trade jobs at a time when putting people to work was crucial. 

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New street trees and colorful flowering plants take root on Haight Street.

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Mayor London Breed led the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the streetscape project.

The project was extensive and complex, incorporating numerous safety features, including 73 new pedestrian-scale lights, new traffic signals at 10 intersections, 60 ADA-compliant curb ramps, 14 sidewalk bulb-outs to increase pedestrian visibility and three expanded bus-boarding areas. Additionally, the renovation and beautification of Haight Street included repaving seven blocks between Stanyan Street and Central Avenue, adding 44 new street trees, eight new sidewalk planters and all new trash receptacles, and constructing approximately 65,000 square feet of new sidewalk. While the street was excavated during construction to install the new sewer infrastructure, fiber conduit was laid along the project limits for future internet connections. 

The Haight Street revitalization serves as a great example of successful collaboration among City agencies in partnership with the community and our elected representatives to enhance neighborhood safety and livability. Public Works oversaw the design and construction management for the project, and worked closely with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the City’s Department of Technology and San Francisco-based A. Ruiz Construction Co.

It took a village to fund this collaborative project. Sources included the San Francisco County Transportation Authority’s Prop. K half-cent sales tax and Prop. AA vehicle registration fees, the 2011 San Francisco Road Repaving and Street Safety Bond, the 2014 Transit Bond, the City’s General Fund and Wastewater Enterprise Renewal & Replacement funds. Many thanks to the finance teams at Public Works and its collaborating agencies that shepherded this work!

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The new decorative crosswalks in the Outer Sunset pay homage to the nearby Pacific Ocean.

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Outer Sunset Streetscape Redesign Brings Wave of Improvements

The Outer Sunset community recently celebrated completion of the L-Taraval Segment A Streetscape Project on Tavaral Street between the Great Highway and Sunset Boulevard.

In collaboration with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Public Works’ landscape architects Tony Esterbrooks, Andrea Alfonso and Winnie Chang re-designed the public right of way to include new tree plantings, new paving to support wayfinding, tile murals by artist Aileen Barr at select transit boarding platforms and decorative streetscapes.  

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Coastal-themed tile mosaics and native plants create beauty around the workhorse Muni boarding islands.

The design themes incorporate boulders, the color blue, the surf and succulents, as well as visually dynamic crosswalks suggesting blue waves, to recognize the neighborhood’s close proximity to the Pacific Ocean. The design aims to provide a more pleasant transit experience and elevate the look and feel of the Taraval commercial corridor. 
 
The companion Taraval Streetscape Project between 46th and 48th avenues was completed in 2017. The next phase stretches from Sunset Boulevard to West Portal. 

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Our cleaning crews hauled away several truckloads of fireworks debris from the streets of San Francisco.

Operation Kaboom

San Franciscans came out in force this year to celebrate the 4th of July, not just to celebrate the birth of our nation but also to revel in the City’s reopening in the wake of the COVID pandemic lockdown. One of the offshoots of the revelry were piles of debris left over from ear-pounding illegal fireworks displays.

We found remains from all sorts of spent fireworks – Roman candles, rockets, ground-spinners, parachutes, chrysanthemums, spiders, comets and a whole lot more. We counted 18 sites across the City that required significant cleanup, with most found in the Mission, Bayview and Ingleside. But other neighborhoods, including the Sunset, Tenderloin and Western Addition, were on our rounds, as well.

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The before-and-after scene of the mess our street cleaners tackled at Egbert and Hawes streets in the Bayview.

Public Works crews were on standby the night of July 4 to assist the fire and police departments to break up illegal firework displays, which can spark fires and cause injuries. Staring at 2 a.m. on July 5, we started clearing the firework detritus from known-hot spots and followed up throughout the day with more cleanup.

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A jagged trunk is all that remained of this once beautiful cherry blossom tree that a vandal destroyed. Photo: SF Chronicle.

Cherry Blossom Trees
Rooted in Community Passion

After suffering a less than friendly welcome into the Year 2021, the Japantown cherry blossom trees are back, thanks to a community effort that grew overnight.

The Japantown community woke up to a heartbreaking scene on Jan. 6: Two cherry blossom trees had been fatally vandalized. The pair of beloved sidewalk trees lived in front of San Francisco’s Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California on the 1800 block of Sutter Street. They stood 12 to 15 feet tall and had some large branches that measured more than 3 inches around.  
 
Surveillance cameras show that someone tore away at the branches over several days until only jagged nubs remained. Two years ago, another nearby cherry blossom endured similar destruction.

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Crews replace the vandalized cherry blossom trees with new ones. Photo: @NC_CBF

The cherry blossoms were the first trees planted after the City’s now-defunct Redevelopment Agency removed trees in the area in the 1960s and 1970s. The cherry blossoms were planted to commemorate the visit of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan in 1994, marking only the second time the Japanese monarchs visited the United States. 

The planting of these and of the many other cherry blossoms that line the streets of Japantown were welcomed with open arms as the cherry blossom tree is synonymous with Japanese culture. It symbolizes ephemerality and their blooming flowers, with an enchanting subtle fragrance, mark the beginning of spring each season to accompany San Francisco’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival.
               
The loss of these two trees hit the community hard, triggering an immediate desire to repair the damage inflicted. A few days after the vandalism was discovered, the Japanese Cultural and Community Center started a GoFundMe page and circulated it widely throughout the Japantown community and beyond. Funds raised would help to purchase and replant two new cherry blossoms to replace the vandalized trees. 

Within days, more than $30,000 had been donated by more than 500 people – far exceeding the original $5,000 fundraising goal. Others reached out to the center separately, offering to replace the trees, and a $10,000 gift was made even before the GoFundMe campaign went online. 
 
The flood of overwhelming support allowed the community to begin the healing process. Public Works landscape crews came in to take down what remained of the trees, ground down the stumps and resized and prepped the basins for the new trees to be planted. We were honored to help. A landscape contractor hired by the center planted the new cherry blossoms this month. 

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Lakeside

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Public Works partners with volunteers throughout the year on greening and cleaning projects.

New Coalition Aims to Boost Civic Pride

San Francisco long has been regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful cities and it takes all of us to ensure our neighborhoods, commercial corridors and parks are clean and looking good.

This month, Public Works joined with Mayor London Breed, other City agencies, community benefit districts, individuals, businesses and nonprofit groups to launch Shine On SF – a coalition committed to caring for San Francisco and inspiring a renewed sense of civic pride.

Initiated by community groups and businesses, Shine On SF aims to be a two-pronged approach to beautifying our City: rallying a city of caretakers by connecting community volunteers to projects and expanding funding and support for cleaning programs and infrastructure, such as the City’s 311 app and the Public Works CleanCorridorsSF program, where we provide an intensive deep cleaning in a different neighborhood commercial area every week.

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Cleaning San Francisco is not new to us – it’s one of our core functions at Public Works. We have crews working around the clock, in every neighborhood, sweeping up litter, hauling away illegal dumping, abating graffiti, steam cleaning sidewalks and a lot more. Our street cleaners remained on the job throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, embodying the meaning of essential workers.

Shine On SF encourages San Francisco residents and businesses to get involved and sign up to clean and green public spaces. This volunteer effort will be coordinated with City agencies, including the Public Works community engagement team. Already in 2021, we’ve worked with more than 1,400 volunteers and more than 70 businesses and nonprofit organizations. With Shine On SF, we will be able to expand our partnerships with neighborhood groups – and expand the community of caretakers of our public spaces. If you’d like to get involved, contact us at volunteer@sfdpw.org.

Meanwhile, enjoy San Francisco’s bounty of beauty and please join us in getting to a place where people don’t think it’s OK to trash our city in the first place. 

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A young visitor to Safe Passage Park makes crafts out of natural materials. Photos: Jeff Tumlin, SFMTA

An Unconventional New Park
for the Tenderloin

What do mini golf, crafting and self-defense classes have in common? 

They all were part of the celebration of Safe Passage Park – the City’s newest, smallest and certainly one of the most innovative parks that runs adjacent to the sidewalk along the 200 block of Turk Street in the heart of the Tenderloin.

 

This 1,800-square-foot ribbon of public space necessitated the removal of curbside parking to provide more capacity for welcoming outdoor activities in the Tenderloin – a dense neighborhood with a large population of seniors, kids and people with disabilities with few parks and playgrounds compared with the rest of the City.
 

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A pop-up miniature golf course serves up fun in an area once used for parking.

This experimental program opens streets to improve safety and foster community. It is an extension of the Safe Passage program, which started more than 10 years ago as a volunteer effort involving neighborhood moms and community leaders and has since been adopted by the Tenderloin Community Benefit District. The Public Works team assisted with permitting the open spaces and provides the area with routine deep cleans.  

The official kickoff of Safe Passage Park took place on July 16 and is in partnership with the mayor, the district supervisor, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the City’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, the Fire Department and the Tenderloin Community Benefit District.

Learn more about Safe Passage park by clicking here.

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Community members and City leaders celebrate the new curbside park.

Thanks for reading!