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Mission Bay Kids' Park Playground,
San Francisco

RHAA Landscape Architecture + Planning


San Francisco's Mission Bay Kids' Park Playground is at the triangular corner where Long Bridge and China Basin streets meet, and adjacent to the large MB360 Apartments complex (right). Mission Bay is the east side of the city, just south of downtown.
Marion Brenner Photography, and Tom Fitzgerald Photography (aerial)


The kids are definitely enjoying Landscape Structures' 'Omni Spinner' (foreground), while a mom uses a 'Solitary Spinner' (right) as a chair.


Wide sidewalks and LED pedestrian lighting cut through the park to provide a safe passage for families in the nearby housing to visit the playground, or just to walk the dog. A bioswale of grasses, Siberian elms and security fencing border the playground.

Centered in a new redevelopment area of San Francisco, Mission Bay Kids' Park responds to the lack of playground space for approximately 800 children in a dense residential neighborhood. The park evolved from a demand by local mothers' groups for a playground that could meet the needs of children of all ages for active play. The park provides a safe place for their children to play and explore in an urban environment as well as a place for the community to gather and hold events. In the response to the large need for play, two thirds of the park is playground, while outside the playground is a lawn, picnic area and plaza for all users.


Local artist Neil Curry used willow branches to create a fanciful center maze that includes a hut, arches and walls.


Two-thirds of the playground has natural elements and was designed with the themes of water, exploration and discovery in mind. Sand play in the tot area, a perennial favorite, is juxtaposed to modern equipment like the 'We-saw' (very top), a gently rocking seesaw with 4 bucket seats.

The developer received partial funding for the park via grants to ensure important features of the park would be included. The project management group that oversaw the construction self-purchased all the site furnishings and play equipment, which eliminated contractor mark-ups and allowed the park to be built for less than it would traditionally cost. This savings were passed on to the design and allowed pieces like the willow structures and large play pieces to be built.

Connecting children with nature in a heavily used urban environment was a challenge. The playground educates and connects children with nature in several ways. The major focus was to develop a central nature exploration area. Tree sculptures made from locally salvaged logs display growth rings and natural forms. A hut, arches and walls were made by a local artist using willow branches to create a fanciful center maze. A stone streambed connects the willow maze with the adjacent hill. In addition to the nature exploration zone, children are connected by the gardens designed to attract butterflies and birds. Another subtle message is delivered by pavement inscribed with the animals of the local area.


The playground's picnic area has a fescue grass mound, a lawn, seating boulders, a dry streambed of river rock and bolted down traditional style picnic tables.


The school age play area offers large open and enclosed tower slides that incorporate climbing walls. Cushioned landings are courtesy of poured-in-place safety surfacing with understated two-toned colors. The project management group that oversaw the construction self-purchased all the site furnishings and play equipment, which allowed the park to be built for less than it would have traditionally cost.

The design strives for maximum sustainability on all levels. Play equipment, site furnishings and matting are primarily from recycled materials and were chosen for their durability. Irrigation is with recycled water. Plants used are low water use, native and adapted, as well as being nontoxic and safe for children.

Mission Bay Kids' Park provides a much needed respite in this urban environment, a place for children to play and families to spend time together. The park is the major playground for the community and acts as a hub and gathering place for residents who live nearby. The dedicated play space provides a place for children to be active. The unprogrammed spaces allow children to be imaginative and foster learning and exploration. Recreational spaces and seating provide places for picnics and family gatherings. Direct access to the park from adjacent housing and wide sidewalks that border the park provide a safe passage for families to visit the park. Pathways in the park afford residents a place to stroll and to take their dogs for a walk. An entry plaza at the corner of the park allows flexible space for community events.


Client: Mission Bay Development Group
Luke Stewart, director of design and planning

Landscape Architect
Cordelia Hill, principal in charge
Tom Fitzgerald, project manager
Keith Sattler, project manager (construction administration)

Freyer & Laureta, Inc.
Rich Laureta, civil engineer

The Willow Farm
Neil Curry, Willow Structure Artist

Play Equipment
Ross Recreation Equipment
Recreation Republic (Kompan)

Play Surface: Play Pour installed by Playgrounds Unlimited
Fencing: AAA Fence

As seen in LASN magazine, September 2017.

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November 13, 2019, 7:56 pm PDT

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