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Posts from the Parks and Rec Category


Park Areas Under Central Freeway Downsized to Retain Caltrans Parking

Left: The original vision for the conversion of a Caltrans parking lot into a dog run, basketball courts, and a playground. Right: The final plan, which will build only the dog run in order to retain most of the parking lot. Images: Department of Public Works

A plan to convert parking lots under the Central Freeway near Duboce and Valencia Streets into a skate park and dog run is moving forward, but it won’t include basketball courts or a children’s playground as originally envisioned by residents.

Because the city will have to lease the land from Caltrans, which owns and collects revenue from the existing parking lots, city officials involved in planning the long-delayed parks projects say budget constraints left them with no choice but to allow the state department of transportation to retain a large section of the parking lot at the expense of park space.

“The City Parking Area is a vital revenue component to making the entire lease structure with Caltrans feasible; thus helping to fund the projects and keep them moving forward,” wrote Gloria Chan, a spokesperson for the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, in a February email to residents. “Without this revenue, we would not be able to plug the funding gap needed for these projects.”

D6 Supervisor Jane Kim introduced legislation this week to establish agreements between Caltrans and city agencies to move the project forward, and construction on the skate and dog parks are expected to begin this summer. She praised the project planners, but made no comment on the downsizing.

The SF Examiner reported details of the deal last month:

Under the terms of the lease deal, Caltrans will receive $10,000 a month for 20 years, with rent increasing by 2 percent every year. The Recreation and Park Department — the agency in charge of maintaining the park — will pay $85,000 a year for the site. Public Works will pay $66,000 a year.

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Rec and Parks Department Launches Park-to-Park Bike Rental System

Phil Ginsburg and Mayor Lee lead a convoy of Parkwide bicycles. Photo: Aaron Bialick

San Franciscans hungry for the arrival of a public bike-share system next spring can now get an appetizer with the launch of a new park-to-park bike rental concession linking popular recreational destinations throughout the city.

“Parkwide,” a new bike rental company developed in collaboration with the Recreation and Parks Department, today announced the launch of five sites throughout the city where users can pick up and drop off rented bicycles.

“This is the launch of what will eventually blossom into a park-to-park, and maybe someday a street-corner-to-street-corner network of bike rentals,” said SF Recreation and Parks General Manager Phil Ginsburg.

The service may be most suited to the needs of tourists, but it is expected to provide easy access to bicycle rentals for residents and visitors alike without the need to return the bikes to their original location. Parkwide is not bike-share by any stretch, but the multiple pick-up and drop-off locations lend it a bike-share-esque quality.

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“Tortured Path” of North Beach Library Project Comes to a Close

One proposal for re-purposing Mason Street as a park between the new North Beach Branch Public Library and Joe DiMaggio Playground. Courtesy Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects

Nearly two years after San Francisco reclaimed a short block of Mason Street in North Beach as a trial plaza, the SF Board of Supervisors yesterday approved the environmental impact report for the planned expansion of the North Beach Public Library.

The unanimous vote came as a relief to the majority of neighbors and some city supervisors who were eager to see the project come to fruition after being stalled by a handful of opponents.

“The tortured path of this project is in many ways symbolic of the dysfunctionality in land use in San Francisco,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener. “We have a highly popular, beautifully designed project to replace an outdated and inaccessible structure with a beautiful, usable and accessible new library; to create additional, much-needed open space in a densely populated neighborhood.”

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Golden Gate Park JFK Bikeway Project Delayed Until December 2011

A rendering of the JFK Drive bikeway. Image: SFBC

The expected construction of a physically-separated bikeway along a stretch of John F. Kennedy (JFK) Drive in Golden Gate Park will now come no sooner than December, according to a report from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA).

“All parties involved in the project recognize that they underestimated the complexity of the planning and design process…and agree that additional planning and design work is needed to move the project forward,” said a resolution [pdf] adopted by the SFCTA Board today which granted further planning funds to the SFMTA, the agency overseeing the project.

It was originally expected to be completed in December 2010 but the SFCTA now projects a full year of delay in the implementation schedule, with several different timeline and cost scenarios laid out. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC), which has been working with the various city agencies to prioritize the project, had hoped to see the project done by this spring.

One reason for the delay, according the report, is an expansion of the project’s scope. Initially, it only involved the section of JFK Drive from 8th Avenue to Transverse Drive, but it now includes bike facilities along the more complicated stretch east to Stanyan Street at end of the park.

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Technology and Impotence

oil_spill_may_17_nasa.jpgNASA satellite image of Gulf oil spill, May 17, 2010.

The BP oil spill goes on. And on. We watch the oil on live web cam pouring into the Gulf of Mexico. And we watch. Political rage is muted, practical responses even more distant. What to do? How do we “take action” on something like this? How can individuals meaningfully respond to this catastrophe? Stop driving? Boycott one brand of gas? Stop buying things made of plastic? Let’s not flatter ourselves. A few folks I know are planning to go to a local ARCO gas station (owned by BP) to protest, which will surely be a big moment for the minimum wage employee in the cash booth, and probably an irritant to the half dozen or more motorists waiting to fill their cars.

The numbing impotence we feel is painfully calibrated to our inability to affect what’s happening. Consumer choices we might make will have zero impact on this disaster, and can’t shape the larger dynamics of a globe-spanning, multinational oil industry either. Just listen to Democracy Now on Friday morning to hear how Chevron has destroyed thousands of square miles of the Nigerian delta in its incessant exploitation of the oil there, or how the Ecuadoran Amazon too is covered in vast lakes of spilled oil.

The deeper questions about technology and science are far from our daily lives. The world we live in is embedded in complex networks of technological dependencies, which none of us have chosen freely. Nor do any of us have any way to participate directly in deciding what technologies we will use, how they will be deployed, what kind of social controls will be exerted over private interests who organize and run them for their own gain, etc. (supposedly the federal government regulates them in the public interest, but that is clearly false as shown YET AGAIN by this disaster). The basic direction of science is considered a product of objective research and development, when it has always been skewed to serve the interests of those who already have economic and political power. Public, democratic direction for science and technology is not only non-existent, we really don’t even discuss it as a possibility!



Poof! San Francisco’s Mason Street Has Become a Temporary Park

surface5small.jpgCross sections of tree stumps for seating on Mason Street. Photo: SurfaceWork
A coalition of community volunteers, pro-bono landscape architects and personnel from several city agencies this weekend swooped in to North Beach to transform the roadway of Mason Street between Columbus Avenue and Lombard Street into a temporary park in conjunction with the two-month street closure for a traffic study. The resulting open space combines elements from various city agency supply yards to bring trees, plants, and picnic tables into an area that just last week was exclusively used by cars.

The Mason Street trial closure is meant to test in real time what the traffic models and transportation engineers predict will result in minimal traffic disruptions should the city decide to close the street permanently. The traffic studies are required for environmental review of the expansion plans of the North Beach Branch Library, with one of the build options compelling the removal of the roadway to transform it into park space.

"Everyone thought there would be a real advantage from moving away from computer models and theories," said Julie Christensen of the Friends of Joe DiMaggio Playground, a public playground that abuts Mason Street here. "We said if you are going to have this road closure for two months, and there is so little public space in the area, why not create a new public space?"

"I think we had three weeks to prepare once they decided on the closure date," said Christensen. "What do you do with a tight deadline, you look to your strengths. Rec and Park and DPW bent over backwards to put their staff at our disposal to get this done."



SF Approves Trial Closure of Mason Street In North Beach

Picture.jpgMason Street triangle will be future home of North Beach Branch Public Library. Photo from corner of Lombard St and Columbus Ave. Courtesy: Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects.
San Francisco's traffic managers last week approved a trial closure of one block of Mason Street in North Beach from August 1st to September 27th to test what their models tell them: that they can close the street permanently to allow expansion of the North Beach Branch Public Library and the park at Joe DiMaggio Playground. Mason Street currently serves as a direct route to Fisherman's Wharf from Columbus Avenue and detractors are concerned that traffic will worsen on adjacent streets and that drivers will have difficulty understanding the change.

Despite the protestation from a few community members at last week's ISCOTT meeting and concern from Fisherman's Wharf businesses that the timing could be better, the city decided to test the closure at the height of tourist season to measure peak traffic rather than waiting for an off-peak period when results might not represent similar travel demand.

"The whole point of this analysis is to demonstrate the worst-case scenario, traffic at peak periods," said the Planning Department's Andres Power, who was responsible for ushering the trial through the city's maze of agencies responsible for street closures. "Ultimately it would be a disservice to do it in November. If the catastrophic failure [some are predicting] happens now, it would be better to know."



Seeking Accountability for Poor Curb-Ramp Installation on Park Presidio

park-presidio-curb_1.JPGPhoto: Susan Vaughan

In early April, Caltrans contractors replaced the sidewalk curb ramps along Park Presidio, but left without ensuring a smooth transition between the clean, new curb ramps and the road pavement.  Instead, they filled in the spaces between the curb ramps and the roads with bumpy, uneven black asphalt – or they left unfilled gaps. While a minor difference in grade may not appear to be a problem for most pedestrians, it is a major burden for visually and mobility impaired users trying to access bus stops along Park Presidio and its cross streets. At the least it's an unacceptably sloppy job, though the new curb ramps could be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“Accessible routes of travel are required from the new curb ramp through the crosswalk, even if the item is
still under construction," said John Paul Scott of the Mayor’s Office on Disability. "The asphalt should be suitably patched even if the milling and resurfacing of the street is to be done later.”

Park Presidio is a part of California State Route 1, but this particular project is a joint project between Caltrans and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Estimated to cost $18.4 million, its purpose is to upgrade signalization and curb ramps in order to improve traffic flow and enhance pedestrian safety from Lake Street past San Francisco State University.  It is scheduled for completion by the summer of 2010.

Adding insult to potential injury, Ghilotti Brothers, Inc., the sub-contractor hired by W. Bradley Electric, Inc. to complete that portion of the job, was supposed to only do alternate diagonal corners at each intersection.

“It didn’t happen that way,” said W. Bradley Electric Project Manager Brian Finley.  “There was scolding going on with the contractors.”