The San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department will begin renovating the Potrero Hill Recreation Center, at 801 Arkansas Street, this spring. The facility will remain open, on its regular schedule – Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. – throughout the process.
Changes will include installation of natural turf on the baseball and softball fields, with improved grading, drainage and an irrigation system, as well as creation of an accessible pedestrian path along the fields’ perimeter. Baseball equipment and furnishings will be added, and a fence erected along Arkansas Street.
In partnership with the Potrero Hill Neighborhood Transportation Plan – a San Francisco County Transportation Authority community-based transportation plan for southern Potrero Hill – lighting will be improved along the Walking School Bus Route pathway.
“Potrero Hill Recreation Center renovation features will include site work and upgrades to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards,” said Joseph Griffin, Rec and Parks Department communications and public affairs associate.
Rec and Parks will also create a sand dog play area, and make improvements to the off-leash dog zone located on the facility’s upper northside grounds, including “…pathway grading and paving,” said Griffin. The completion date for the improvements hasn’t yet been determined.
“We’re certain that the renovations will proceed as planned. The Recreation Center is a very important resource to the community. It is able to serve so many people, whether those are people playing sports to groups holding special or community events. The Center has a very broad reach,” said J.R. Eppler, Potrero Boosters president, and a candidate for District 10 Supervisor.
William Phillips, a resident of the 600 block of Arkansas Street, was surprised to hear about the many changes scheduled for the facility. “I could support that. This is all fabulous,” said Phillips.
“The Recreation Center is a nearby resource and a jewel of the community,” Thu Banh, Bridge Housing senior manager for community development, said. “It’s been underutilized in recent years by public housing residents. Anything that makes the Center better and more welcoming is beneficial.”
According to Banh, several years ago Potrero Annex-Terrace residents advocated for better lighting in certain spots along the Walking School Bus Route to Daniel Webster and Starr King elementary schools. The pathway starts at 1095 Connecticut Street, with Walking School Bus Route “bus drivers” splitting participating children into two groups divided by school at a midpoint in the route.
The Walking School Bus is sponsored by the Healthy Generations Project, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing stress in young children. “Rec and Parks held community meetings to get input. Several residents came and gave testimony. (The) path can be very dark, especially during the winter months. The Daniel Webster students walk through the Recreation Center to get to the elementary school. The fact that (more of the) path will be lit makes the walk safer for them,” said Banh.
“There is a lot of support for formalizing areas as appropriate for off-leash dog use,” said Eppler.
Adrienne Arieff, a Hill resident and dog owner, welcomes the dog park renovations. “I would totally use them,” she said.
Nicky Jacobson, founding member of Toes & Paws for Greenspace, a nonprofit that promotes inclusivity for people and dogs at Potrero Hill and Dogpatch parks, said members of her group regularly participated in public discussions on the renovations. “(One of our concerns) is the area to the north of the main, fenced-in baseball field. That area needs to be designated as an official off-leash dog play area. We have a petition signed by over 100 people requesting that. That number includes residents and business owners,” said Jacobson.
Jacobson is concerned about the off-leash dog play area located close to Arkansas Street, at the bottom of the hill. “A walkway is going to be connected to the stairs where Connecticut Street dead-ends. They are redoing that pathway. It makes no sense to have pedestrians and the off-leash dogs in the same area. It will just lead to conflict,” said Jacobson.
According to Hill resident Ray Vaughn, who has been walking his dogs near the Center for 20 years, communication is key to effective resolutions regarding space. Vaughn said over the years friendly interactions between dog owners and other facility users have “converted” Hill residents and visitors to welcoming dogs. “There’s nothing like a couple of people walking dogs to make the area a little safer,” he said.