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Panhandle Playground to close for soil testing and renovation preparation

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A sign at the Panhandle playground lets people know about a short-term closure in preparation for renovations. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

The Panhandle Playground will close for three days beginning today to conduct soil testing and measurements for a complete renovation set to begin next spring, officials said.

The $3.2 million renovation, $2 million of which is funded by The City, is slated to begin in spring of 2019 as a part of an initiative to renovate parks that have unhealthy wood or are in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods that are dense with children.

The playground was given a “D” grading by the San Francisco Parks Alliance in 2014 after it was learned that the play structures contain arsenic-treated wood, which is no longer legal to manufacture in the state.

The playground will be closed through Saturday to analyze the soil in the area, according to Recreation and Parks spokesperson Connie Chan.

“We don’t know [what’s in it], that is why we are testing it,” Chan said.

Diane Moananu, a 58-year resident who brings all but three of her 37 combined grandchildren and great-grandchildren to the Panhandle Playground, hopes The City can fix the park she has been coming to since she was a child.

She said there have been posters in the bathrooms warning parents to thoroughly wash their children’s hands and feet after they play in the sand and she has heard other parents talk about lead contamination in the playground’s sandbox.

“The sand is contaminated with lead,” Moananu said. “So they need to do it, but this time get it right.”

Aside from health concerns, Moananu said she is happy that her favorite playground, which she refers to as a “haven,” will be renovated.

“It is almost like a spiritual tie, the energy here is so nice, it is so calm,” she said. “It just feels more safe.”

City workers will also use the three-day closure to retrieve accurate measurements of the site for the renovation, like a clean sandbox, that The City is attempting to fit into the space.

New seesaws, slides, swings, a “musical path” lined with different instruments, climbing structures and sound reflectors are among the 14 “play elements” The City is working to put into the 7,000-square-foot park set for completion in winter 2019.