Park set to bloom in Mission District

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerGray to green The lot at 17th and Folsom streets will soon be home to a park and housing.

Instead of paving paradise and putting up a parking lot, the Recreation and Park Department is planning to unpave a parking lot and put up a paradise.

A 31,850-square-foot parking lot at the northwest corner 17th and Folsom streets will be ripped out and replaced with a park featuring native plants, a greenhouse, butterfly gardens, 50 fruit-bearing trees, an amphitheater, a grassy area, and an interactive exercise and play area. The park also will feature bilingual and trilingual signs telling the history of the indigenous people who once inhabited the area.

Although the idea was first initiated a decade ago, the designs were developed in tandem with the community and submitted for a state grant in 2010. In 2011, the Board of Supervisors unanimously supported the development.

“It’s been a community-driven vision to have a park in an area that is particularly underserved,” said April Veneracion, legislative aide for Supervisor Jane Kim in District 6, where the park will be located.

Rec and Park received the grant, funded the development and is currently in the community engagement phase.

“What stands out most to me is that the community wanted not just someplace to play, but someplace to learn,” said Sarah Dennis Phillips, a planner for the project. “It also includes a focus on sustainability, with a demonstration garden to demonstrate water conservation and offer native habitat.”

The park will also feature a large community garden.

“There are lots of houses that have multiple families living in one unit, with limited access to gardens and healthy food,” said Oscar Grande, a community organizer for People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights, who are involved in the planning process. “One of the ways we can combat against obesity is creating a community garden where we can begin working together on the plots, growing food collectively.”

“We are looking at this as The City’s first environmental justice park,” Grande added. “We can’t just focus on bettering the environment in our surrounding community. The focus is making this a community space where environmental justice can happen in a fun and educational way.”

Phillips said the gardens will be dominated by shared-use plots, rather than given over to individuals as many community gardens are, and will increase access for children and others.

And half of the site will be used to provide housing for the area.

“This park, along with the planned affordable housing on the site, gives us an opportunity to meld many of those needs into one project, providing a healthy spot for families that will have a transformative effect on the safety and economic development of the area around it,” Phillips said.

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