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SF plans makeover of historic Portsmouth Square

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A woman stretches on the bars of the Porsmouth Sqaure Bridge in San Francisco’s Chinatown neighborhood Monday, June 1, 2015. (Michael Ares/2015 S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco officials are planning an ambitious makeover for Chinatown’s historic Portsmouth Square that will touch on nearly every aspect of the park.

Portsmouth Square, considered the “heart of Chinatown,” was the site of San Francisco’s first City Hall and California’s first public school. It was used as a staging ground and place of refuge following the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire, and has hosted numerous festivals, parades and other attractions.

Today it boasts plazas, children’s play areas, a pedestrian bridge, various buildings and landscaping. Most recently, its public restroom underwent a $2 million renovation — which included adding new stalls and family restroom — funded by The City’s 2008 Parks Bond.

The Recreation and Park and Planning departments are leading the renovation effort, and architect firms SWA and MEI have been awarded the contract as design team for the planning and concept design phase.

The renovation of Portsmouth Square marks the latest improvement of the more than $30 million The City has spent on park projects in Chinatown in recent years.

In 2012, city officials reopened the Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center after its $21 million renovation, and last year Rec and Park allocated $10 million to renovate Willie Woo Woo Playground and Clubhouse, for which construction is expected to begin by the end of this year.

“Families in densely populated neighborhoods such as Chinatown need open spaces where they can congregate with one another, take part in community activities and stretch out their legs and exercise,” Mayor Ed Lee said in a statement. “We look forward to maintaining our open space commitments with this latest effort to improve Portsmouth Square.”

Portsmouth Square is located at 745 Kearny St. in Chinatown. The project will be paid for with Transit Center Impact Fee funds allocated for Chinatown neighborhood park improvements.

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