Over the next two years, the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department will design and implement improvements to the baseball and soccer fields and lower level off-leash dog play area surrounding the Potrero Hill Recreation Center, located at 801 Arkansas Street. The areas to be renovated will be closed between September 2017 and June 2018.
“The $4 million project is funded by the 2012 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Park Bond,” said Joey Kahn, SF Rec and Parks public affairs officer. “It’s early in the process. Incorporating feedback is always something we try to do.
Rec and Parks hosted the first of its three public meetings in February. The gathering was attended by eleven Potrero Hill residents and several San Francisco Department of Public Works landscape architects. At the meeting, Rec and Parks indicated that since it launched its planning process in April 2015, it’s met with Rec and Parks operations, property management, and permit staff. It’s also conducted tree and infrastructure assessments and a site survey.
Meeting participants expressed concerns about flooding in the north baseball field and asked for better drainage and irrigation in all playfields. Participants would also prefer that existing fencing along Arkansas Street be higher, the pathway at the lower level dog play area be better lit and its overall condition improved, and dead and dying trees be removed.
Rec and Parks presented a number of photographs of the park which showed loose soil and steep pathways in the off-leash dog area on the north end and grading problems in the playfields. In later meetings, Rec and Parks hopes to develop design concepts and select a “preferred option” for its final plan.
According to Kahn, Rec and Parks’ proposed modifications include upgrading irrigation systems on the baseball fields, minor layout changes to maximize the size of the baseball and soccer fields, restoration of the retaining walls and perimeter fencing around the fields, an improved off-leash dog play area that’s connected to the rest of the grounds, upgrades to the park’s infrastructure, and modifications of pathways to improve American Disability Act access. Rec and Parks is also considering enhancing pedestrian lighting.
“Potrero Hill Recreation Center was identified as in need of repair,” said Dawn Kamalanthan, SF Rec and Parks’ director of planning and capital management. “We expect to work closely with neighbors and residents.”
One thing that the renovation does n’t affect is the park’s main building. “That would be about $20 million. This is really focused on the soft scape, the landscape, rather than the built facility. We’re not proposing any dramatic changes in use. As that area becomes more dense, that site is going to feel more pressure. The Potrero Hill site is huge. We’ve done renovations there over the years in different phases. We really rely on connecting with parents,” said Kamalanthan.
Community events, games and practices for flag football, youth soccer, adult softball, and youth baseball, including the Potrero Hill division of the San Francisco Junior Giants program, occur at the playfields. Kahn said groups who use the fields will be notified and directed to alternate sites before closure.
Fiona Hinze, community organizer for the Independent Living Resource Center, San Francisco (ILRCSF), a nonprofit organization which advocates for people with disabilities, said she’s excited about changes that will improve ADA access and the off-leash dog play area. “We are all about creating accessible communities,” said Hinze. “People with disabilities want to go out, have fun, and interact with their friends at public parks. Now we can have equal access to recreation facilities,” she said.
According to Hinze, the off-leash dog play area will provide service dogs a chance to play. “Sometimes people have this conception that service dogs are there only to serve. But it’s pretty clear that they’re also dogs. They need time to relax too,” she said.