Jackson Park to Feature Community Center, Elevated Promenade

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Earlier this fall, more than 100 people turned out to view a proposed new design for Jackson Park, which features an elevated promenade around the park, community center with rooftop tennis court and adjacent plaza, large public open space at the corner of Mariposa and Carolina streets, restored clubhouse, new picnic area outside the ballfields, expanded elevated gardens, landscaped bulb-outs at the ends of sidewalks, and safer street crossings. The response from attendees was enthusiastic.

The meeting included presentations by District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen; David Fletcher, landscape architect with Fletcher Studio; Brian Liles and Julie Jackson, principals at Jackson Liles Architecture; and Jude Deckenbach, executive director of the community organization supporting the improvements, Friends of Jackson Park (FoJP).

‘When this park is built, it will be phenomenal. It will be one of the jewels in the City’s crown,” said Cohen.

According to Liles, an important renovation element is ensuring that all buildings are designed to existing safety standards. “We’ve got a beautiful but older clubhouse. We want to update it to current building standards and move it to area of the park that is safer from a soils perspective,” he said. 

“I think the architects came up with an ingenious design that contains new, open, un-programmed space without buying more land or going into the streets. It’s very forward-thinking, very aspirational, but it is the future,” said Deckenbach.

The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department is developing cost estimates for the renovation, with current approximations at $26 million. Monies could come from the state, a general obligation park bond, Jackson Park users – residents, businesses, Live Oak School, and developers active in the neighborhood – and impact fees, as directed, with San Francisco Board of Supervisors approval, by the Eastern Neighborhoods Citizens Advisory Committee (ENCAC). ENCAC is an advisory body for land use decisions and public financing issues impacting South-of-Market, Mission, Showplace Square/Potrero Hill, and the Central Waterfront.

“We’re going to follow up with everyone who came to the meeting and is on the mailing list,” said Deckenbach. “We’re also going to do a big ask of the Mayor’s office, every supervisor on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and members of the Recreation and Park Commission. We encourage the full community of Jackson Park users to make their voices known, including Potrero Hill residents, dog owners, families of students from Live Oak School, Starr King Elementary, Daniel Webster Elementary, International High School, Mission High School, New School San Francisco, and the adult softball leagues, as well as members of other SF social sports leagues who play in the park.”

“Jackson Park currently isn’t one of the five priority projects identified for the parks bond, so we’re asking our community to push to get Jackson Park named. It’s a huge lift for us to move the needle and get on the bond, but we have to make this happen,” said Deckenbach.

If a park bond is placed on the 2019 ballot, as expected, its value and contents will be determined by next summer. FoJP wants residents to voice their support of the Jackson Park plan to the Mayor’s Office, Board of Supervisors, and Rec and Park. If it’s included in the bond, and the measure passes, the City could allocate renovation monies in 2020, with construction starting in 2021.

Over the next 10 years, the City plans to renovate Portsmouth Square in Chinatown, Gene Friend Recreation Center South-of-Market, Peace Plaza in Japantown, India Basin Waterfront Park in Bayview, and Kezar Pavilion in Golden Gate Park. Money for these projects is likely to come from two $185 million parks bonds, one in 2019 from which Jackson Park will request funding, another in 2025.

According to Deckenbach, FoJP has $2 million available to pay consultants for a “shovel ready” project. FoJP also has $4.5 million in pledges from neighborhood developers. Last month, FoJP requested an additional $6 million from ENCAC.   

“San Francisco Recreation and Park Department is committed to working with Friends of Jackson Park to improve this site,” said Tamara Barak Aparton, deputy director of communications and public affairs. “A phasing plan is critical to this project’s success, as it allows us to more realistically secure funding for the overall improvement plan. We look forward to continuing to work with neighbors on park improvements.”

The cost of creating or renovating parks varies widely.  A children’s play area averages $175 a square foot to build; turf in an area such as Alta Plaza North, a Pacific Heights park, costs $7.20 a square foot to install. These expenses are expected to rise to $256 and $10.54 a square foot, respectively, by 2021, a midpoint for many parks’ projects’ construction.

J.R. Eppler, Potrero Boosters president, called the design for Jackson Park “wonderful. It will well serve Potrero Hill and the other neighborhoods that rely on the park. I think the elevated promenade is an interesting and unique design element. There is something similar with the space built into the hills at St. Mary’s Recreation Center. I also like the bulb-outs. They’re an important pedestrian safety feature. The extensions of the park along the sides are significant. They’re a way for us to get as much space as possible.”

After the presentations were completed audience members wrote notes and stuck them to the boards containing drawings of the design. Suggestions included, “More dog space,” “Please expand the open grass space,” “exercise equipment as at new Mission District park,” and “Monkey bars, swings, bigger playground,” with another resident writing, “Yes x 2” next to the note about the playground. 

“I like that it’s going to be a center for the whole community.” said Kopal Goonetileke, a parent and Hill resident. “I am excited that the community center will be a plaza where kids can do indoor sports. I also love the promenade. I think it will allow kids to be more free, a bit more independent.”

“I love it. I want it to be here this year, not in 10 years. I liked the multilevel aspect of it and the fact that it goes out to the edges. I want to see more park usage, more greenspace,” said Andrea Mravca, an Arkansas Street resident.

“It looks like it has a lot of good spaces to work out. I like the dog runs. I have a dog I can’t bring to Jackson Park right now,” said Jordan Hamel, who lives on 23rd Street.

“I like everything about it,” said Dave Raynor, an Arkansas Street resident. “My son loves the playground that’s there now. I also coach his soccer team at the park.”

“I think it’s beautiful. I love all of it. I just hope we get $26 million to fund it,” said Jennifer Jimenez-Cruz, a Texas Street resident.

Brad Coley, a Connecticut Street resident, was pleased that the meeting went well. “There’s a lot of very deep thinking about what this park should have. We have many community-oriented people here who believe in it,” he said. 

Robyn Majdrakoff, a Recreation and Park employee, came to the meeting because she teaches dance twice a week at the Jackson Park clubhouse. “The clubhouse is in great need of love and improvement. Also, the space is underused. All we have going on here are the afterschool program, the dance classes, and Tiny Tot basketball. There’s no classes for teens, adults, or seniors. I love being the only program here. I’ve had Jackson Park to myself these past eight years. But down here there’s not really a place for people to gather. We need Jackson Park to expand so more people can enjoy the space,” she said.

Deckenbach said FoJP is working to guide residents through the advocacy process. “On our website we will provide residents with a step by step process of what they can do. There will be contact information and talking points. This project is for the community, by the community. Feedback, engagement, and involvement are all necessary,” she said.