Park project moves ahead as others idle

Swift work is under way to transform a parking lot at 17th and Folsom streets into a park to provide open space for the neighborhood, but questions remain as to why other projects have been moved to the back burner.

City planners spent months mapping three elaborate designs, grand pictures of what the property could look like, eventually landing The City a $2.7 million state grant to move forward with development in the Mission district.

The 0.8-acre site — in an area identified as high need for open space — is currently owned by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, and a key step to moving forward with the project is for the Recreation and Park Department to use about $2.3 million to purchase the land.

Rec and Park has about $8 million set aside — a percentage of a reserve that has been specifically saved for several years for this purpose — and park officials say it will likely pay for the land.

Doling out the funds for the Folsom Street site, however, will be scrutinized by a group of 23 open-space fund overseers appointed by the Board of Supervisors. At their next meeting, the watchdogs are going to evaluate a list of about a dozen pending open spaces — some more than a decade old — and question whether they deserve the same attention the 17th and Folsom streets project is being given.

Rec and Park officials, however, acknowledge that the agency has a laundry list of projects.

“We’re responding to a number of long-standing mandates,” said Dawn Kamalanathan, the department’s capital program manager. “The way that our current acquisition process works, it’s kind of reactive.”

For example, residents in the Bayview district requested that Rec and Park consider a 0.165-acre lot at Third and Hudson streets, which is privately owned and currently on the market for $750,000.

That land is under consideration for purchase by the department.

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com

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