Friends of Jackson Park Hire Jude Deckenbach To Spearhead Next Steps For Park’s Development

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For Friends of Jackson Park it is an exciting time.

The group, a grassroots organization founded in 2013 to improve the green spaces in Jackson Park, was allocated $1.6 million in 2014 by the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department. A master upgrade and renovation plan, for how to best spend the recently acquired funds, is currently in development.

Initially, FoJP consisted of a core group of six volunteers. Then, after being alloted $110,000 this year, the organization was able to hire Jude Deckenbach, a nonprofit consultant and longtime Potrero Hill resident, to spearhead its next steps. Deckenbach was hired in July 2015.

“My job with FoJP has been to ask the developers of the projects that are in the vicinity of Jackson Park are in the [City’s] planning commision pipeline to come to the table with Rec and Park, the City, FoJP and Live Oak School, to work together to make Jackson Park into a jewel of the SF Rec and Parks Department,” Deckenbach reported.

“I’m asking the developers for money for the renovations at Jackson Park,” she said. “This amenity for the people who are moving into your project needs to look nice….You guys are all using it as part of your marketing materials. Here is our opportunity to make it great. So come to the table and put your money where your mouth is.”

So far, her efforts have paid handsomely.

“Related California, the developer at the 1601 Mariposa project, [has] committed to giving $2 million toward the renovations,” Deckenbach said. “While they have suggested things that the $2 million could be used for, they have reiterated repeatedly that it’s up to the community to decide.”

The neighborhood has proven quite responsive.

A recent survey, posted on the private social network NextDoor and sent to the FoJP’s email list, elicited “over 250 survey responses in less than two weeks” Deckenbach said.

“People see the importance of the little green open space we have in the neighborhood and they want to make it nice and usable, not only for the current residents but [for] the anticipated residents who’ll be moving into all the projects that are in the [development] pipeline.”

Via the survey, community members were remarkably forthcoming.

“Two of the biggest topics on the table are clubhouse renovations and playground resurfacing,” said Briony Doyle of FoJP, in an email. “There is a wide range of opinion across both issues, and we want to make sure that we represent the community’s concerns.”

Neighbors have also demonstrated a strong sense of hands-on engagement, making October’s Jackson Park clean-up day a rousing success.

“Over 35 people showed up for the seasonal day of service and garden work party,” said FoJP member Kathleen Dodge Doherty, in an email. The effort was spearheaded by Booka Alon, Garden Coordinator for the Potrero Hill Learning Garden at Jackson Park. Entire families chopped debris for ease of decomposition, pruned Black-Eyed Susan vines, cut back perennials and weeded the grass and installed drought-resistant plants.

According to Deckenbach, a community meeting, possibly to be organized by the district supervisor, is in the works to discuss the way forward.

Major near-term concerns consist of: replacing the drinking fountain, making the recreation area ADA-accessible, installing a compost bin at the Potrero Hill Learning Center and resurfacing the playground area which is currently sand-only.

“Many concerns have … been voiced about the detrimental impact of removing sand, both from a health (toxic off gas from alternative surfacing materials) and developmental (eliminating the tactile and communal play aspects of sand) perspective,” Doyle said, in an email. “As a result, we are trying to find design solutions that will satisfy both community desires and Rec and Park requirements.”