Opponents to proposed Huntington Park fence may earn reprieve

A group of neighbors who say the planned installation of a 6-foot-high fence around the perimeter of Nob Hill’s Huntington Park is mostly unpopular with residents may have bought themselves some more time to make their case.

The Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee is scheduled to vote today on the proposed $1.4 million Nob Hill Association public-park project, which includes both the fence and a new playground. But after meeting with some nearby residents, board President David Chiu, who represents the area, said he intends to ask the committee to vote only on the playground portion of the project and hold off on the fence.

While the association, which raised project funds, says it followed a community process that showed broad neighborhood support, other residents say they never heard about the fence plan until a March 24 article in The San Francisco Examiner.

Project opponents have since launched an online petition that had collected 188 signatures by Friday afternoon. Supporters say the proposal is for both historical significance and to address safety concerns.

Chiu, who has expressed support for the fence, said he decided to ask those involved to participate in one more community meeting, though he contended that there was already a “significant community process.” A date has yet to be set, but the meeting is expected in the coming months.

Greg Galanos, an association member leading the project, said in an email that the meetings with Chiu and opponents were productive and “we look forward to gathering more neighborhood input.”

Among the opponents is artist and gallery owner Chris Farris, who used to bring his now-14-year-old daughter to the park. “It destroys the open, welcoming, inviting feeling of the park,” he said.

The perimeter fence would include 224 feet of the original Huntington Mansion fence, which survived the devastating 1906 earthquake, and an additional 672 feet fabricated to match. It would be flush with the wall people often sit on, and gate structures 12 to 15 feet in height would close off the park’s four entrances between midnight and 5 a.m.

Farris argues that there is nothing historic about the fence in relation to the park.

“The park is 99 years old and there never was a fence here,” he said. “It harms the historical integrity of the park.”

He claims no one can provide any evidence why the fence is necessary for security and believes it could actually make the park less safe.

But he said of the expected postponement, “If everything goes as planned, I think it will be great to have the rest of the people in the neighborhood be informed and have their say. I think that’s what was missing here.”

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