Former Trash-Strewn Lot Becomes An “Off-Ramp Park”

IMG_1881.jpgSixth and Brannan Park. Photos: Michael Rhodes

San Franciscans don't often spend their days contriving ways to spend more time near freeway off-ramps, especially when proximity to freeways can be a risk to your health, but the city's newest park along the I-280 exit at Sixth and Brannan Streets may make you think twice about it.

City leaders officially launched the park with an opening ceremony this afternoon, and with the success of the Pavement to Parks program, which reclaimed underused street space for public parks and plazas, the Department of Public Works and Caltrans have now embarked on a series of upgrades across the city on what we'll unofficially dub, "Off-Ramps to Parks."

"Creating beautiful, livable, vibrant, and sustainable spaces is an important part of our work, however, we cannot do it alone," said DPW Director Ed Reiskin. "These types of partnerships are critical in an era when we are seeking the most efficient way to clean and beautify the city."

On this sunny Wednesday afternoon, it appeared the demand for green space was strong -- even along a freeway off-ramp. Several groups of people lounged along the paths, and the hum of the exiting cars could almost be mistaken for the babbling of a creek (the exhaust of the cars was less mistakable, though a strong breeze and the trees helped mitigate that.) The park includes walking paths, new trees, flowers, and other landscaping upgrades like boulders, which serve as the only seating at present.

"Before, it didn't have all the greenery. All it had was a bum," said Megan Bluxome, an art student who used to live nearby, but hadn't returned to the area recently. "It looks like it's not part of the city, a very short natural walk -- right next to the freeway."

"It's an escape," she added.

Bluxome was lounging on the decorative boulders with a friend, Ken John. "It needs a bench -- or more comfy rocks," said John, who quickly pointed out the major upgrade had made him prone to demanding even more.

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The park, which runs as a linear strip between a newly built apartment building and the off-ramp, was paid for and coordinated by DPW's Street Parks Program, Caltrans' Adopt-A-Highway Program, UMB Construction, and a group of neighbors who wanted to see less graffiti and illegal dumping in the space.

Over the summer, more spaces along freeway off-ramps will be cleaned up and greened by participants in the Jobs Now program and DPW's Summer Youth Landscaping Apprenticeship Program, including the Eighth and Harrison street off-ramp, the entrance to I-280 at Cesar Chavez and Kansas, and the Mission and Duboce off-ramp.

While the intersection of Sixth and Brannan may always be an unpleasant space to be a pedestrian, in a part of the city that lacks green space, the new park provides a small refuge.

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