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2012 Parks Bond Meeting – Our Chance to Get a Playground or Two

Please attend the 2012 Parks Bond District 6 meeting on Monday, April 23, 2012 at 6 p.m. at the Gene Friend Recreation Center on 6th Street at Folsom to voice your opinion on the lack of any apparent playground projects in South of Market.


Inequality for SoMa Kids Unaddressed in Proposed 2012 Parks Bond Projects

Prepared by Rincon Hill resident Jamie Whitaker


To add upgrades to playgrounds in South Park, plan and build a new, grand playground on the south end of Justin Herman Plaza to replace the underutilized pair of bocce ball courts, and to build a playground in Mission Creek Park.


  • If the 2012 Parks Bond is $185 million as currently proposed (4/21/2012), South of Market property owners from 9th Street and eastward (Assessor’s Volume 25) will be paying $28.1 million of the principal PLUS all of the interest owed on that $28.1 million portion of the $185 million in bond proceeds. This is because SoMa constitutes $22,645,203,343 in assessed property values of the City’s total $149,400,538,426 (or 15.2%) in FY 2011-2012.
  • Over $9 million has been deposited into the Downtown Park Fund by commercial developers who pay $2 per net additional square foot of office space. The only SoMa playground that benefitted in part is the one at Victoria Manalo Draves Park which received less than $500,000 from the fund. Large portions of the Downtown Park Fund have been diverted to Union Square’s shopping district and also used outside of the downtown area for which the fund was originally intended for uses in 1986.
  • In Rincon Hill alone (zip code 94105), a simple comparison of the 2000 Census versus the 2010 Census shows that the total population of kids (19 years and under) has increased by 592% from 53 to 367 – with the biggest jump occurring in kids under age 5, up 950% from April 2000 to April 2010 (from 20 to 210).
  • Also in Rincon Hill, about 600-700 kids spend their weekdays in the various daycare centers located near their parents’ office jobs. While most daycare centers do have some small caged outdoor play area, none offer adequate room to run and exercise for these children. The play areas are privately owned and not accessible by the public.
  • The San Francisco Parks Alliance’s parent Neighborhood Parks Council made the disparity between the west side of San Francisco and the east side of San Francisco (especially Supervisor Districts 3 and 6) very clear in their Green Envy reports in 2003 and 2007.
  • Nine or more of the neighborhood parks that appear on the proposed 2012 Parks Bond projects list are making their 2nd appearances – either receiving funding from the 2000 or the 2008 Parks Bond for improvements.
  • Mayor Ed Lee, several Board of Supervisors members, and even Phil Ginsburg himself as head of the Recreation and Parks Department claim that “Family Flight” from San Francisco is their number one concern – and clearly South of Market’s population of children is increasing markedly while the overall City population of kids has been declining. If we sincerely want to keep families in San Francisco, we need to build playgrounds in SoMa now.
  • Rincon Hill is a neighborhood concept that was intended to minimize the need for use of personal cars to move around the City.  If there is no playground nearby or in Rincon Hill, parents will need to transport their kids to playgrounds by car – adding more traffic to an already congested and polluted downtown San Francisco. Add to that, no bus lines run past 2nd Street into Rincon Hill from other parts of SoMa.
  • 35% of the housing built in the Transbay project area north of Folsom Street and east of 2nd Street will be below market, family housing. As we’ve already seen with the new housing in Rincon Hill and reflected in the 2010 Census data, young couples moving into the area are bound to start having babies soon … and with 5,000 or more housing units to be built, the population of kids residing in Rincon Hill will surely increase by several hundred over the next decade.
  • About 2,500 more housing units will be built in Rincon Hill over the next 2-3 years. Again, we have already seen that young couples moving into these buildings will have children.
  • Recreation and Parks has been let off easy in prior years because the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency has been building new parks in the area (South Beach, Rincon, Mission Creek, Yerba Buena), but the Agency is dissolved and the focus now rests with Recreation and Parks to do more than take SoMa’s property tax and general obligation payments and run to the west side of town.
  • Finally, there’s no good excuse to leave SoMa kids out of a $185 million bond issuance for parks for which SoMa will be paying 15% of the bill. To not add playgrounds in SoMa with the 2012 Parks Bond would be pure discrimination by Recreation and Parks and the City & County of San Francisco in general.



Why South Park?

  • Let’s say it costs $1.5 million – that still leaves $26.5 million of SoMa’s contribution to the principal payment of the $185 million general obligation bond for other uses.
  • The South Park playground equipment is tens of years old. There are gaps in the playgrounds where equipment used to stand but had to be removed as it disintegrated.
  • South Park provides a safe respite from the otherwise traffic sewer-infested sections of SoMa.
  • There is already a South Park neighborhood group who act as stewards of the park.
  • South Park is the gathering spot in the event of a major disaster along the eastern end of SoMa. A playground will help occupy kids who may be separated or who may have lost parents in the disaster.


Why replace bocce ball courts at Justin Herman with a new, grand playground?

  • Let’s say it costs another $5 million – that still leaves $21.5 million of SoMa’s contribution to the principal payment of the $185 million general obligation bond for other uses.
  • Talk about “Family Flight” is cheap and meaningless without a visual representation of the City Family’s sincere desire to welcome and keep kids in San Francisco.  With millions of visitors to our Ferry Building and riding past on our historic F-Market streetcars, a grand playground would put substance behind the politicians’ words.
  • Justin Herman Plaza is a safe walk for most of the 600-700 kids in various daycare centers near their parents’ workplaces.
  • This location would be convenient for most of the Rincon Hill residential buildings’ parents to take their 367 (and increasing in number all the time) kids.
  • The bocce ball courts are extremely underutilized, and we cannot afford to waste precious downtown Recreation & Parks owned property for uses that the community does not demand.
    As a backstory: Recreation and Parks promised the Rincon Hill and Barbary Coast community the use of the concrete pad attached to the bocce ball court grass area for a playground if we could raise the $300,000 we’d need to build and gift it to the Department in fall 2010. In the summer of 2011, the Recreation and Parks Department broke their promise and told us that valet parking for Ferry Building Farmers Market cars was the best use for the Recreation and Parks concrete pad – and they shoved us over to Sue Bierman Park where it will cost nearly $1 million (3x’s the amount to do the same at Justin Herman Plaza) because earth moving equipment (Bulldozers) would be needed to build a playground on a flat surface.
    See this Chronicle article for more background:
  • The Embarcadero YMCA hosts up to 200 kids for summer day camps while school is out, and unlike the nearby private business daycare centers, the Y has no outdoor cage with play toys for the kids to get the mental and physical exercise they need.
  • With The Exploratorium opening up at Pier 15 in 2013, why not have a large playground for kids who may need to burn off energy before or after their visit to this new facility on our waterfront?
  • In 1989’s Loma Prieta earthquake aftermath, people naturally gravitated towards the Ferry Building as a community meeting spot of sorts. Why not have a playground nearby to keep the kids occupied?
  • While the Recreation and Parks Department somehow found $50,000 to re-landscape the grass around the underutilized bocce ball courts, a playground would definitively keep any “Occupy” camp from forming in that location in the future because adults unaccompanied by children won’t be allowed.  Also, even the most strident activist isn’t going to get in the way of innocent kids getting exercise and play time on playground equipment.


Why build a playground at Mission Bay’s Mission Creek Park

  • Let’s say it costs another $5 million – that still leaves $16.5 million of SoMa’s contribution to the principal payment of the $185 million general obligation bond for other uses.
  • Corinne Woods and Sarah Davis from Mission Creek would know the best facts, but it is clear that when 100% of the available housing units come online all at once, younger couples tend to fill a decent portion and they start having kids.
  • Mission Creek Park is the closest thing to a regional park within transit distance of SoMa, and why shouldn’t it have a play area for kids when it meets the needs of almost every other age group PLUS DOGS.
  • The Mission Bay Library has frequently “sold out” book readings for children. Many other San Francisco neighborhood libraries have playground equipment nearby for kids, and why not SoMa’s only library branch too?

Let’s not allow the SoMa kids to be short-changed any longer – let’s get $11.5 million (a mere 6.2%) from the $185 million in bonds designated for much-needed playgrounds in/near SoMa.  The demographics point to growth in children in SoMa since 2000, and the planning projects all point to even more children coming to SoMa.  Let’s end the disparity and inequality in playground access for our kids now.

Thanks for reading.

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