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Outer Sunset’s temporary Playland park continues to draw mixed opinions

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Matthew Cowdrey skates at Playland at 43rd Avenue on Wednesday. Some neighbors are not too thrilled with the skatepark aspect of Playland. (Joel Angel Juárez/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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A playground sprung up from a blacktop lot in the Outer Sunset in May, but some neighbors say it’s not all fun and games.

The temporary Playland park transformed a 1.25-acre empty asphalt yard into a playground, community garden, basketball court and skate park, and an artists’ courtyard will open next month. Volunteers built modular elements, and the park is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to about 4 p.m.

Pavement to Parks, which manages the project, recently unveiled new efforts to assess the experiment, including surveys of neighbors and park users and an online survey that closes Friday. The Planning Department has not yet tallied survey results.

“There are some growing pains about how we manage a space like this … but we’ve also heard an overwhelming response about the beautiful transformation of it,” said Sue Exline, a senior planner with the Planning Department.

One supporter is John Funke, who has lived across the street from the site since 2012 and has engaged neighbors in the project for the last two years.

“Through this process I’ve really gotten to know my neighbors and I really enjoy talking to every one of them, even the ones I differ from,” Funke said.

But elements of the park have also raised concerns from some neighbors, especially about the skatepark.

Sanjiv Singh can see the park from his back windows but says he no longer opens them due to noise. The plans were implemented with only the “illusion of consensus” from the neighborhood, he said.

“The survey process was deeply flawed. … It was set up to minimize negative input about the park,” Singh said.

The site is in a largely residential area, nestled midblock between Judah and Irving streets and 42nd and 43rd avenues. The only permanent structure, a former school, is now used weekdays by the nonprofit Children’s Book Project, and the San Francisco Unified School District owns the property.

If the park gets more funding, Funke hopes to install noise-reducing elements like a buffering wall and dampening materials under the skate ramps.

Funke calls it the noise of a thriving community, but adjacent neighbor Delia Zhao’s family hears it differently.

“The skatepark portion of the project affects my family deeply and disproportionately,” Zhao said. Her father is terminally ill and his afternoon naps are interrupted by the sounds of skateboards.

“We have been repeatedly brushed off, even as ‘skate elements’ became a full-blown skatepark with poured concrete. All of us who live next to the [site] have been extremely clear that this is ‘not working’ for us, yet we see no action,” Zhao said.

The concrete was approved by the Planning Department and SFUSD and can be removed, Funke said.

The skatepark’s popularity means the neighborhood needs a permanent skate facility, Exline said, but a better site has not been found.

“Even the neighbors who think I’m all about the skatepark, I’m really not. I’m all about the neighbors,” Funke said. “I don’t deny that I love the skatepark aspect and I want it to stay, but if we can’t make it work, we can’t make it work. [But] we’d love it to stay around as long as we can.”

For now, Playland is hosting free classes like gardening workshops, group workouts and community yoga, with room for the community to propose other classes, said Maria De Alva, one of the park’s project managers from the Planning Department.

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