Proposed Park Bond Would Benefit District 10 Open Spaces
By Liz Melchor
In 2007, Chuck Farrugia was done being mad. McLaren Park, San Francisco’s second largest park, which Farrugia had lived next to his entire life, was being neglected. Five playgrounds were missing. Trails that were once paved flat were overgrown with weeds and had disappeared completely in places. McNab Lake, which Farrugia and his friends had affectionately called “Tadpole Pond” in their childhood, had a covering of moss so thick that the turtles, koi fish, and ducks had disappeared. Yet despite the green space’s poor condition, a 2008 City park bond allocated no funds to McLaren. Faruggia asked why. City Hall told him: you weren’t organized.
Five years and numerous door knocks later, the 2012 park bond — on next month’s ballot — would allocate $12 million to McLaren. Another $22.5 million of the proposed $195 million bond would go to other parks located in District 10’s Bayview-Hunters Point, Dogpatch, Potrero Hill, and Visitacion Valley neighborhoods. Of these funds, $4 million would be invested in rehabbing the Potrero Hill Recreation Center; $2 million is to be dedicated to building a new playground at Gilman Park, located next to Monster Park; and $16.5 million would be devoted to developing four sites along the Blue Greenway, a large-scale project that will one day create a continuous 13-mile trail along the Southeastern waterfront.
The 2012 park bond is the third in a series to hit the ballot. But according to Fran Martin, a San Francisco Parks Alliance board member and Visitacion Valley community organizer, bond funds are “…only a drop in the bucket.” She explained that the City’s park infrastructure is mostly more than 60 years old. “Not even two percent of our general fund goes to Rec and Park. They aren’t putting this into parks for improvements. This is just maintenance. We need this bond,” she said.
District 10’s open space needs have been largely neglected. According to the Department of Recreation and Parks, Golden Gate Park has 52 gardeners for its 1,017 acres. McLaren Park, at 312 acres, has four. “It was pretty sad,” said Farrugia. “At one point they wanted to put a recycling plant here. We didn’t want trucks going through the park.”
In response to the chronic neglect of a cherished community resource, Farrugia started “Help McLaren Park.” At first it had 20 members; it soon grew to 350. The group organizes events every third Saturday to help with deferred maintenance. They wade into McNab Lake and pull out moss once a year. “We have a stronger sense of community in the park, and that is what makes the park safer,” he said.
Over the last few years Farrugia has seen the park change. In 2010, Help McLaren Park received grants from San Francisco Parks Trust and San Francisco Beautiful to erect a kiosk at the Gambier and Burrows streets entrance to help visitors. Farrugia now sees people running with their dogs and walking their children, in places that were previously deserted. “The bond is just the starting point,” said Farrugia, who estimated that the park needs more than $100 million dollars of maintenance. In collaboration with community groups, the Trust for Public Land is designing a Master Plan for McLaren Park, which will help Farrugia and other advocates raise matching funds if the bond passes. For Faruggia, a firefighter with small children, organizing for his neighborhood park has become a second profession, “unfortunately it never ends,” he said.
To the east of McLaren, along the waterfront, the Blue Greenway is slowly unfolding. The project was launched in 2004, with the goal of creating a waterfront trail and bike path stretching from AT&T to Monster Park. “Ultimately, I could walk or ride my bike all the way from AT&T Park to Monster Park. It is a great alternative transit route for, say, people working at Genentech,” said Matthew O’Grady, San Francisco Parks Alliance’s executive director. Along with development of the trail, kayak rentals, windsurfing, and boat ramps would increase access to the bay.
The 2008 bond dedicated $22 million to six sites along the trail. The 2012 park bond would allot $16.5 million to four District 10 trail sites. The largest of those are located in Pier 70, which stretches between Mariposa and 22nd streets. The pier — historically a shipyard and still home to ship repairer BAE systems — will ultimately feature four open spaces: Crane Cove Park, Slipways Park, Machine Shop Courtyard, and Central Plaza. The green spaces will make the industrial space inviting to pedestrians, and highlight the area’s maritime history, putting the cranes that have been used to build ships on display.
Ships being repaired at Pier 70 can be seen from a vantage point slightly north of the pier at another site targeted by the bond, Agua Vista Park. The park, located at 16th street, will connect to Bayfront Park. which was developed with 2008 bond funds. Further south are two other sites included in the bond: Warm Water Cove Park and Islais Creek. Both will receive improved waterfront walkways, plantings, and lighting.
While O’Grady estimated that Blue Greenway completion is decades away — mainly due to the long time it will take to develop the Hunters Point Shipyard area — he believed most of it will be finished by 2025. “It is quite exciting,” he said. “It is one of the biggest developments of open space in many years. It is going to have a huge impact on the whole City.” However, this impact will only be realized if funds are available to support it. “The bond is really, really important not just for the southeast, but for the whole City,” said Martin. “I strongly support it.”
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