Rincon Hill residents want city to open park

June 5, 2013 8:51:51 PM PDT
In a part of San Francisco where apartments and condos are springing up everywhere, neighbors say something is missing: parks. There is a nice new park on Harrison Street in Rincon Hill, but red tape is keeping neighbors from using it.

Though 6,000 families already live in Rincon Hill, you won't hear any kids outside playing. There is a park, but there's hardly anyone in it, mostly because it's surrounded by an 8-foot fence.

Neighbor Jamie Whitaker started a petition that in one day has already almost reached 100 signatures. He knows the park was always supposed to be public when it was built along with the high rise apartments. But negotiations between the developer and the city have been slow and in the meantime the park remains private, for residents only.

It's the only green space around.

There are no parks, because it used to be railroad tracks and warehouses, and we need, we need a park," Whitaker said.

Unlike most land deals, the sticking point isn't the price. When they built the apartments the owners also agreed to build the park and then give it to the city for free. The trouble is, the city says even at that price, they can't afford to take it.

"Understandably, the Recreation and Park Department is reluctant to take ownership at this point, because they have not had an identified funding for maintenance of the park," San Francisco Planning Director John Rahaim said.

Rahaim says Rec and Park is already strapped and can't afford what neighbors estimate is about $24,000 a year to keep the park clean and safe. He says the city wants it to be public and they're exploring other options, like paying the owner to keep maintaining it in return for letting the public in.

"There are other similar spaces in the city that are privately owned but have a public easement on them," Rahaim said.

There are still questions like insurance, but Rahaim says a deal could happen in the next few months.


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