A slice of China for Golden Gate Park

A traditional Chinese garden — complete with pavilions, waterfalls and rock sculptures — may soon border Spreckels Lake near Fulton Street in Golden Gate Park.

The San Francisco-Shanghai Sister City Committee is hoping to break ground on the garden by next year, opening it to the public in 2009 or 2010. A Chinese garden has been in the works since San Francisco and Shanghai became sister cities more than 25 years ago, but it has been put on hold year after year because of a lack of space and funding.

However, the City’s Recreation and Park Department has now approved a 1½-acre site to the northeast of Spreckels Lake on Fulton Street between 31st and 32nd avenues, department spokeswoman Rose Marie Dennis said. Committee members were interested in the nonlandscaped space because local residents already heavily utilize the area.

“This will be a place that local residents in the immediate community, not just tourists, can come and stroll around the garden, maybe have a cup of tea in the pavilion,” said Carolina Woo, chairwoman of the garden subcommittee.

Final designs and size of the garden are still up in the air, but the committee and the Recreation and Park Department plan to hold a meeting Tuesday to work out the details. Members of the committee will also head to China in September to outline the funding plan with Shanghai’s government leaders.

“The actual scope of work, what will be planted there, how things will be designed and the final concept for what this place will ultimately look like is far from determined or decided on,” Dennis said.

A few years ago, committee members were ready to build a Chinese healing garden on the UC San Francisco campus. The plan fell through, however, after members decided the area was too small.

Renderings of the proposed Golden Gate Park garden, which will be modeled after Shanghai’s famous Yu Yuan Garden, feature a placid blue-green pond surrounded by walkways and bridges. Waterfalls, pavilions, rock sculptures and trees will fill the area enclosed by a classic Chinese wall.

“In most gardens in China, there are places where people can sit, but they’re also for people to observe the beauty from different angles, so there will be a good option for walking,” said James Fang, chairman of the San Francisco-Shanghai Sister City Committee.

While the total estimated cost of the garden has not been determined, Fang said it would likely be in the millions. He said the committee plans to raise funds for the initial costs, as well as the ongoing maintenance expenses. “This will not cost The City a nickel,” he said.

arocha@examiner.com

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