To track our full journey and all selected sites, see the map below. Individual pins on the map contain photos and site specific notes.
On our first day we set out to see the Hayes Valley, Castro District, and Mission District to assess their viability as potential sites for the project. Along the way we stopped at parks, parklets, and community gardens.
We began our journey walking from the McCall Design Group offices in the Financial District down into the Hayes Valley. In general, the Hayes Valley had the most mini parks and community gardens compared to any other community that we visited. Of the two parklets we visited, both were well maintained and had lots of places to sit; however, neither was well populated and both felt like extensions of the commercial tenants preceding them. In contrast, Patricia’s Green, a small park on Octavia and Fell Streets was full of people sitting, playing, and exercising. Despite being surrounded by commercial tenants, the Green clearly engaged the community and attracted a diverse crowd.
Further down the block we visited our first community garden, Growing Home Community Garden. The garden spanned several plots of land that connect the street to nearby residences. This garden was well maintained, colorful, and organized. It was part of a program that engaged the homeless community with the nearby residents to maintain the garden and share the crops. It was clear that the community loved the space; it was decorated with art and had a petition outside for the public to sign in order to prevent the city from selling the plot for development.
Moving into the more residential area within Hayes Valley, we found the Page Street Community Garden nestled between residential lots. Unlike the Growing Home Community Garden, single plots are assigned to individuals who can choose to cultivate them any way they choose. We spoke to one of the members, Carla, who explained to us that she was on the waiting list for 3 years to obtain her plot and that as long as the plot is maintained she can keep it. She chooses to grow fava beans and buckwheat among other things and is able to harvest those crops for food. The added food source also allows her to be able to occasionally feed guests.
Next, the Koshland Community Garden was the largest and most mixed use garden we saw. There was a large edible garden, education space, and a playground, all of which were populated. It was evident that there were community programs in place for both children and adults. Unlike the individual plot style at Page Street, this garden had large spanning shared plots. Deep into the garden, was an outdoor stage/classroom area where we witnessed a training session for the summer interns. Along with internships, offers classes and fellowships. This garden was on a steep hill and to compensate, the plots were raised and terraced to allow for better soil and to accommodate the topography.
After visiting a few more sites in the Hayes Valley and a parklet in the Castro, we ventured on to the Seward mini park to see the slides. We were attracted to the site after hearing about the popularity of the concrete slides. Upon arriving we concluded that the slides were a fun way to interact with topography and the site was surrounded by a community garden and nestled between residences, much like the intra-blocks we are studying. The entire time that we were there, families brought their kids to come play on the slides. Despite having a small playground in the mini park, the slides were the clear star of the show.
After seeing the Seward slides, we moved onto to the Mission to see various parks and parklets. We saw many parklets within the Mission, none of which were in use. Many offered places to sit, and some were well designed, but many were not as well maintained as the parklets in the Hayes Valley or the ones we saw the next day in North Beach. Unlike the parklets we saw elsewhere, some parklets here were non- commercial, specifically the Deepistan National Parklet, which was a welcomed change from the extended café seating at other parklets.
In the end, the day gave us much insight as to how different communities use public, open space and several different strategies to address potential problems such as topography, poor soil, and the balance between public and private space. We saw public open space being used as a point of connection between different age groups, socio-economic classes, and different uses which we felt enriched the experience of the community.
Follow our blog to hear all about our findings on our second day.