It’s been in a the planning stages for awhile, but the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department announced yesterday that the 4.5-acre Russian Hill Open Space took a big step toward becoming and official park. Rec and Park approved a conceptual design to transform the former reservoir, which has languished behind a chain-link fence and barbed wire, or otherwise been off-limits for about 60 years.
Bounded by Bay, Hyde, and Larkin streets — Francisco Street cuts through it as a path, not a paved road open to vehicular traffic — it’s been sitting there since 1941, when the SF Public Utilities Commission ceased activity. But SFPUC didn’t relinquish the site until 2014, when Rec and Park paid $9.9 million with the intent to develop it. In a press release, the agency states that the nonprofit Francisco Park Conservancy will raise the necessary $25 million to create a proper park, which will cost an additional $150,000 per year to maintain. Right now, it only gets a periodic mow — from goats the city hires.
Right now, it’s not a pretty place. It sort of looks like a a dry, shallow public pool or a concrete section of the L.A. River. But eventually, there will be a “multi-use main lawn,” children’s playground, dog park, community garden, paths and terraces. The steep slopes along Russian Hill’s north face are to be planted with native species to make it a better habitat for birds and insects. And you better believe there will be people Instagramming the hell out of it, since the views are panoramic.
A completion date has not been announced, although the ultimate fate of the site has been a subject of some contention. Neighbors had been fighting the idea of high-rise condos going in since at least the mayoralty of Willie Brown, and probably a lot farther than that.
While parks of any size going into built-up urban neighborhoods are relatively rare, this is a unique site in that there isn’t much green space of this size anywhere east of Van Ness Avenue. For comparison’s sake, the 4.5-acre park is about twice the size if Victoria Manolo Draves Park in SoMa (2.5 acres), and significantly smaller than either Alamo Square (12.7 acres) or Dolores Park (15.94 acres).