Planning for Better Parks, Streets in Dogpatch and Central Waterfront

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The San Francisco Planning Department wants suggestions on infrastructure improvements to make in Dogpatch and the Central Waterfront. The effort is part of the Central Waterfront/Dogpatch Public Realm Plan, launched last year, which is being conducted neighborhood by neighborhood.

“A public realm plan is one phase of a much larger delivery arc,” explained City planner and project manager Robin Abad Ocubillo. “The job is to scope projects, develop concept designs and cost estimates. Once the latter happens, we can start looking for funding and get the program into the City’s capital implementation plan. That funding will pay for civil engineering, landscape architecture; the nuts and bolts that make it happen. Without a public realm plan these streetscapes and parks don’t have a focused or streamlined way of getting into the capital implementation plan.”

For plan purposes, the Central Waterfront and Dogpatch are identified as Mariposa Street to the north, Islais Creek to the south and Pennsylvania Street to the west. Planners have examined improvements throughout that area, including such simple ideas as installing stop signs or marking crosswalks.  The City has designated six neighborhood areas for more radical redesign, segmented into two categories:  parks and street corridors.

The Planning Department has already received substantial public input related to Esprit Park, Tunnel Top Park and Warm Water Cove, which is located at the end of 24th Street. “What is really special about Warm Water Cove is it is really the only place in Dogpatch where you can get out to the Bay shoreline,” said Ocubillo.

There has been universal support for creating a natural landscape at Warm Water Cove, as opposed to paved walkways and sculpted gardens, particularly at the 24th Street entrance. “The natural aesthetic of the space is something we want to maintain and also to augment,” said Ocubillo. “We want to choose plant species that are native and adaptive to our climate so that over time, after becoming established, the park will sustain itself.”

Additional suggestions for the area of the park that wraps around to the south have included developing a skate park, a meadow and an adult fitness area, the layouts of which are under discussion.  Planners want the space to be well lit at night, and to create a safer entry feel, including installing a sidewalk and additional plantings. “There is a really big missed opportunity as to how you approach and enter,” said Ocubillo. 

Suggestions related to Esprit Park have similarly emphasized maintaining a natural feel, as well as adding a community garden, play areas and dog run.  According to Frank Kingman of Friends of Esprit Park, a major issue that needs to be resolved is a longstanding conflict between dog owners and other users. “It has become a de-facto dog park, and a lot of children are reluctant to come to the park because of the dogs there,” he said.

Opinions among dog owners are split as to whether an off-leash area should be created. Kingman wonders if such divisions, like those in Duboce Park, are possible in the smaller Esprit.

He cited irrigation as another issue to be resolved, as well as a reforestation plan to replace trees that are in poor health. “There are a lot of dead redwoods on the west side of the park,” he said.

Similar suggestions – community garden, play area, dog run – are being discussed for Tunnel Top Park, where City planners are principally serving as facilitators, providing professional designers to support work by nearby residents. The park, at the top of a Caltrain Tunnel at 25th and Pennsylvania Streets, was erected just last year by those living nearby, paid for through fundraising efforts. “It was created by the heart and soul of community members and residents around the park,” said Ocubillo. “Less than a year ago it was a dumping ground.”

The focus of another major realm plan category – streets – has been on the northern and southern parts of Minnesota Street and 24th Street, from Minnesota to Warm Water Cove. According to Ocubillo, all three roads have different issues to resolve. Minnesota Street North features all-industrial blocks and all-residential blocks, bordering Esprit Park in the middle. In that sense it serves as a microcosm of Dogpatch.  “If we can solve some of those problems on Minnesota Street North we know we have a template to solve other issues in the area,” explained Ocubillo.

Site lines and pedestrian safety are among problems being examined.  Ocubillo explained that between 20th and 22nd streets there’s a drop in elevation, making it difficult for cars to see walkers.

In contrast, Minnesota Street South is predominantly industrial, with few sidewalks. Planners want to improve pedestrian safety without interfering with loading docks. The intersection at 24th Street was particularly singled-out by Ocubillo. “There are really bad pedestrian safety issues and also dysfunctional vehicular patterns at that site,” he said.

How to balance safety and industrial needs is also being studied on 24th Street. In addition, the corridor is being evaluated as part of the Green Connections Network, another Planning Department initiative that seeks to upgrade streets along designated routes to ensure safer and seamless bicycle and pedestrian travel. Under the plan, Warm Water Cove theoretically could be connected to Douglass and Clipper streets in Diamond Heights.

Also under the realm plan, the Planning Department is assisting in the 22nd Street Greening Plan. According to Susan Eslick, founder of the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association, the idea is to comprehensively re-do 22nd, with new trees, lighting, sidewalk repairs and benches from Pennsylvania to Third streets.

The public outreach process for the realm plan will wrap up at the end of 2016. Planners will then proceed to develop detailed designs.