Improvements Planned for Warm Water Cove

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Warm Water Cove, tucked away at the end of 24th Street, just south of the defunct Potrero Power Plant, used to serve as a sewage outlet, according to FoundSF. Now it’s getting a makeover, which may ultimately lead to more comprehensive cosmetic surgery.

According to David Beaupre, San Francisco Port senior waterfront planner, his agency may soon install new lighting and site furnishings, such as benches and bicycle racks. “The Port has been considering and thinking about a modest level of improvements,” he said. “We’ve also begun to think about how to re-landscape some of the areas so that it requires less maintenance and more openness.” These inexpensive improvements will likely be implemented by the end of next year, but not before community outreach confirms neighborhood support for them.

In 2012, the Port developed Blue Greenway Design Guidelines, which identified the addition of a small craft launch, open air pavilion, mountain bike/BMX bike training area, skateboard park, and native garden, among other things, at the cove.  The guidelines proposed to expand the park by approximately 2.5 acres to the south, adding new vegetation, lighting, site furnishings, public art, and enhanced safety features.

However, as Beaupre pointed out, the neighborhood has undergone a significant transition since then. “Park users have changed, the community dynamic has changed. We always go back to the community,” he said. “The ideas are conceptual; they help to come up with cost estimates.”

Last year the San Francisco Planning Department launched the Central Waterfront/Dogpatch Public Realm plan. “Dogpatch has been rapidly transitioning into a more residential neighborhood,” said Robin Abad Ocubillo, Public Realm Plan project manager. “That really shifts the expectations that people have about open spaces and streets and sidewalks.”

The Planning Department is coordinating with the Port, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Department of Public Works, and Parks and Recreation Department to determine what improvements should be made to open spaces and streets throughout Dogpatch. Warm Water Cove is one of three green patches – as well as Esprit and Tunnel Top parks – that were prioritized by the Planning Department through a four month online polling effort that lead-up to a public meeting last spring.  As part of the survey, Potrero Hill and Dogpatch residents were asked to review a long list and maps of open spaces, and tell City departments which ones needed the most immediate attention and investment.

At a second spring workshop participants expressed their appreciation for Warm Water Cove’s “naturalistic” landscape, as compared with parks that have a contemporary edge. Community activists like its picturesque, informal, design, but want to explore ways to take advantage of its views.

In keeping with the previous Port plan, it and the Planning Department, intend to almost double Warm Water Cove’s size.  “There’s a whole swath of land along the southeast shore we want to incorporate into a larger park,” Ocubillo said. “At our public workshop in May we looked at the whole site and explored different ways the landscape design could extend into the southern portion, and how 24th Street might be changed a little to make the approach to the park more gracious, while respecting the heavy industrial uses and needs. Right now it’s hard to tell a park is there because it’s at the end of a street.”

Meeting participants generally supported planting native vegetation and adding lighting. The Planning Department used their input to craft a conceptual design, as a basis for more community feedback. The final plan will include cost estimates for the Warm Water Cove, Esprit, and Tunnel Top park projects, with an eye towards being incorporated into the City’s capital implementation plan.

“After the Public Realm Plan is published, the next step for the City departments involves fundraising and financing to get these projects and open spaces delivered to the neighborhood as soon as possible,” Ocubillo said.

“There’s already a dedicated community around Warm Water Cove of longtime residents who volunteered time over the years, who take trash out, and have turned Warm Water Cove into the asset it is today,” Ocubillo said. “It is an asset, and we need to honor all of the work and the perseverance and care that neighborhood residents put into the site by bringing it to the next level with lighting and a planting plan. That’s really important to remember; we’re not starting fresh.”