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Park in 'The City'

By Jenny Boyle, regional editor

San Francisco kids will soon get to enjoy a playground unlike others in their neighborhood.

In late 2003, Jessica Green, a landscape architect in San Francisco, was searching for a way to contribute more to her community. A chance discussion with an acquaintance gave Green the opportunity she was looking for. It seems her friend had been asked to perform some pro bono design work for a neighborhood park that was due for a facelift.

"He didn't have any time, so he handed me the project manager's card," says Green. "I called her up and she said, 'Oh, thank goodness!'"

Members of the San Francisco Neighborhood Parks Council were relieved because the original firm that had agreed to do the work fell into an insurance problem and had to pull out of the project. A Community Design Day had already been held, and Green used the ideas from that meeting as a basis for her own design.

Nearly 100 hours were spent preparing the design for the Rossi Park Playground renovation. Construction on the $1.4 million facelift is expected to begin in the fall.--Image courtesy of Jessica Green

"I also had to do research on what other kinds of playgrounds were already built because the community members didn't want something that was exactly the same as something else they could take their kids to," she says. "I didn't realize...the parents would drive their kids to other neighborhood parks to give them a variety."

Green looked at six different area playgrounds to ensure that her designs did not duplicate anything at those sites. She developed three different concepts to bring to the community for a vote. They included an "urban" design, with loud colors on concrete and metal components; a San Francisco-themed design that featured a mini version of the Filbert Street Steps, a cable car turnaround and a Victorian play structure; and the design that was ultimately chosen, a "natural" concept that incorporated wood play structures and native plants.

"The community members involved in the project had a sensitivity to the environment and that came out in their response to the natural theme," says Green.

The design designates play areas for both preschool and older children, and follows San Francisco's tough requirements for ADA accessibility.

"The only surfaces allowed are resilient surface or sand," she says. "You can't put the two together because one degrades the other, so we designed a separate area for sand play, which is also accessible."

A boardwalk will connect all parts of the playground together and the entire space will be filled with non-toxic, native plants.

"Too often, dangerous and toxic plant materials are planted in children's playgrounds," she says. "I avoided things that had thorns and things that--if they were eaten by small children--would make them sick."

Green also chose plants for their play value, including deer grass, for pulling; and soft grasses, like purple needle and fescue, for sitting. The fescue requires just one community clean-up day a year for maintenance, thanks to its slow growth.

Speaking of the community, Isabel Wade, the executive director of the Neighborhood Parks Council, says everyone is pleased with Green's design. Neighbors have raised $25,000 through the sale of donor bricks and tiles, and construction should begin later this year.

In all, Green spent about 100 hours preparing the design for Rossi Park, and she enjoyed every minute.

"I felt that none of my donated time was wasted on this project," she says. "The community groups were the most amazingly supportive and the most enthusiastic I've ever worked with. It was a wonderful feeling."

The San Francisco Neighborhood Parks Council

The Neighborhood Parks Council (NPC) is a coalition of community-based park groups actively involved in improving neighborhood parks throughout San Francisco. Since 1996, NPC has grown to include 120+ park groups and 4,000 park volunteers, establishing itself as San Francisco's premier park advocacy group.

About the Landscape Architect:

Jessica Green has relocated to Portland, Ore. to be a
LEED consultant at Green Building Services.

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December 10, 2019, 6:55 pm PDT

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