Ambitious plan could change the face of historic Dogpatch

Dogpatch could soon pave over its oil-stained past with green streets and parks.

An ambitious public space proposal set to go before the Planning Commission Thursday lays the groundwork for a network of pedestrian friendly, tree-lined streets and open spaces intended to support the neighborhood’s swelling population.

Dogpatch, originally a shipping and industrial hub, has transitioned in recent years to a mixed-use district, home to small firms, artists, craftspeople and, increasingly, hopeful residents.

The population in the neighborhood has doubled over the last year, according to Bruce Huie, president of the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association, but key infrastructure has not kept up with the booming population in the waterfront neighborhood.

“It’s always been green space,” Huie said of the community’s pressing concern. “We needed a larger network of green spaces that didn’t exist.”

The problem is set to worsen as Dogpatch continues to grow. An increase of 800 rental units in the neighborhood and the construction of new buildings at UCSF to house an additional 800 students has exacerbated the need for more public space, Huie said.

The Central Waterfront-Dogpatch Public Realm Plan, an amendment to an existing Central Waterfront Area Plan, includes a number of projects, most notably improvements to Esprit Park, Warm Water Cove and the open spaces under several overpasses.

Today, Esprit Park is the only large green space in Dogpatch. The proposal would make it bigger, adding 4,500 square feet to its northern meadow over the next two to three years. The plan also addresses existing drainage issues and allots space for fitness activities, including a jogging path and a parcourse.

The proposal also seeks to take advantage of space under overpasses currently used as informal parking lots. The areas beneath overpasses at 18th Street, off of Indiana Street and 20th Street, off of Minnesota Street, have been selected for repurposing by the community. Exactly what will fill the space is undecided, but proposals include turning it into a skate park similar to the popular Under the Bridge Skatepark on Stevenson Street in SoMa, according to SF Planning Department records.

Most ambitious among the proposed changes is the rejuvenation of Warm Water Cove. Located at the east end of 24th Street, the cove is still flanked by warehouses from the Western Sugar Refinery that operated into the 1950s, monuments to Dogpatch’s past that may soon overlook an outdoor amphitheater, a dog run or even a hammock garden.

Huie said infrastructure and population growth need to develop together.

“I don’t think you can divorce the two,” he said. “You need to have amenities available to people.”

Most residents agree, but some think the plan focuses on the wrong things.

“Trees are nice, but I don’t know if that’s what the community needs,” said Mc Allen, a 10 year resident of Dogpatch.

For Allen, the neighborhood is still a quiet community. One where he can walk around the block with a favored coffee mug in hand and his children can run freely in Woods Yard Park. He worries, however, that his children may not have the same opportunities he had.

“I dream of a future where my kids can find a place to live,” Allen said. “We don’t build enough housing to support even just the biological growth in the city, let alone everyone moving in.”

The opinion, he admits, conflicts with much of the neighborhood, which largely supports the plan. In Dogpatch, if a developer comes to the community with a proposal, it’s often sent back for improvements an average of five times, according to Allen, a former Dogpatch Neighborhood Association board member. But the Dogpatch Public Realm Plan didn’t suffer that purgatory.

The process was much more fluid than past proposals, largely because the community outlined what the city should prioritize and how the character of the neighborhood should be preserved.

Highest among community priorities was pedestrian safety, something both Huie and Allen agree on. The plan calls for a network of robust pedestrian walkways, or green streets, that will connect open spaces, public transit and dense residential centers.

The proposal also addresses the lack of sidewalks and street lighting in South Dogpatch, and has proposed four mid-block passages to make the area more navigable.

Some longtime denizens say Dogpatch is changing too quickly. Allen’s neighbor, a 30 year resident, wishes all the construction would stop.

But people will keep moving in, and Huie expects the population growth to remain consistent for at least the next year.

Other longtime residents welcome change in San Francisco’s former industrial hub and want to see everyone enjoy it.

“I think Dogpatch is a place that can easily give back,” said Allen. “We don’t need to keep it from anyone.”

Picture 1 of 22

Mc Allen walks near the renovated American Industrial Center buildings in Dogpatch on Wednesday, June 27, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Ian Williams
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Ian Williams

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