Photograph by Alejandrina Hernandez

Photograph by Alejandrina Hernandez

April 2014

Franklin Square Group Seeks Money for Park Improvements

Keith Burbank

At 7 p.m. on a rainy winter night, 14 people gathered on the fifth floor of Sports Basement at 15th and Bryant streets. Two-thirds of the group live near Franklin Square, and use the park frequently. Their goal: make park improvements.

“We use the park all the time,” said Jolene Yee, a wife and parent. With her husband, Jeff Smith, Yee is leading Friends of Franklin Square, a volunteer group dedicated to nurturing a safe and attractive park. Like the Friends of Jackson Playground, FoFS is applying for a Community Opportunity Fund grant to support park improvements. At the top of FoFS’s meeting agenda was safety.

“Unfortunately, [hypodermic] needles were also found in our playground,” Yee said, referring to syringes found in Jackson Playground. “We are trying to get capital improvements made to address these areas and try and deter negative behavior. 

Bryant Street resident Michael Priddy cited other problems, such as garbage, drug dealing, and human waste in the park. Also of concern are homeless encampments, which popped up on the park’s west side last fall. In January, police closed about 10 campsites at the park. “Since then it’s been pretty clear,” Priddy said. 

The police can’t solve what’s going on there,” Priddy told the group. The San Francisco Police Department’s Mission Station recommends that residents “activate” the park to discourage negative behavior, he said. Ideas for increasing healthy activities include the construction of a dog run, installation of adult fitness equipment, and food trucks. “We are also hoping to really energize the park with potential farmer[‘s] market days,” Yee said. 

The Sports Basement meeting was the second of three gatherings required to apply for the grant. This year the Community Opportunity Fund is making $1.2 million dollars available for park improvements. At most, $500,000 is available to an individual park, which must use the money for capital improvements, work that’s permanently fixed to park property and is an investment in the park’s future. 

Priddy suggested that the group solicit more feedback from the community as to what enhancements it wants to see. If improvements are made, and they don’t attract people, then the group would have wasted its time, he said. In addition to capital investments, meeting attendees discussed trimming or removing the trees on the park’s west side, where the homeless were camping. According to Smith, it costs $10,000 to remove an individual tree; trimming a tree can cost $5,000. “It does create a much darker area of the park, he said of the west side foliage. 

FoFS is considering adding lights to the park, from the corner of 16th and Bryant to the disability ramp on 17th Street. And the group obtained a bid for installing a fence around all or part the soccer fields. Kids playing in the playground, which was installed less than 10 years ago ,are getting hit by soccer balls.

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