George Christopher Park Opening: Mayor’s Press Release, GPA Blog, Photos and Project Spotlight

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Wednesday, April 28, 2021
Contact: Mayor’s Office of Communications, mayorspressoffice@sfgov.org

*** PRESS RELEASE ***

LONDON N. BREEDMAYOR

MAYOR LONDON BREED ANNOUNCES REOPENING OF

REMODELED GEORGE CHRISTOPHER PLAYGROUND

Kids welcome new play equipment and nature exploration area in the Diamond Heights park
following renovation.

San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed today announced the reopening of the newly
renovated George Christopher Playground in Diamond Heights. Mayor Breed was joined by
Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, the Recreation and Park Department, Public Works, and kids
from Noe Valley Nursery School and Eureka Valley Arts to cut the ribbon on the $5.2 million
renovation of the site, located above the northeastern rim of Glen Canyon.

The new play area at George Christopher Playground features structures for both big and
little kids and includes swings, a whirl, and an imagination garden with a bridge, playhouse,
and stepping stones. A dry riverbed nature exploration area supports imaginative play. New
safety surfacing has also been installed.

“Safe, engaging playgrounds and accessible parks are essential for the health of our
children and our communities,” said Mayor Breed. “We’re investing in our children, families
and seniors by updating neighborhood gems like George Christopher Playground so they can
continue to shine. Thanks to the support of so many neighbors and organizations over the
years, this community now has a wonderful new space to enjoy.”

The renovation of the beloved 6.8-acre park also includes improvements to its pathways,
landscaping, lighting, drainage, and irrigation systems. An improved design focuses on safety
and connection of the park’s elements. A small amphitheater has been transformed into an
accessible plaza with views of the playground. Fencing has been expanded around the east
side of the clubhouse, which houses Noe Valley Nursery School. The clubhouse restrooms
have been reconfigured to a new single user accessible restroom, a gender-neutral, multi-user
restroom has been made more accessible, and a ramp has been installed from the playground
to the outside restroom.

Steps from the updated playground, two pieces of mid-century play equipment have been
preserved as a climbable modernist sculpture garden. Concrete Saddle Slide by sculptor
Jim Miller-Melberg and metal Pleasure Dome by sculptor David Aaron were part of the
playground when it opened in 1971 and are examples of the experimental Creative Play Design
movement of the 1950s and 60s. A third piece in the garden is a replica of Miller-Melberg’s
concrete sculpture Playwall.

1 DR. CARLTON B. GOODLETT PLACE, ROOM 200 SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA 94102-4681 TELEPHONE: (415) 554-6141


Christopher Park Playground Opens After Remodel Link:

https://www.glenparkassociation.org/christopher-park-playground-opens-after-remodel/
 
By Brynna McNulty, Friends of Christopher Park

APRIL 29, 2021 BY BRYNNA MCNULTY, FRIENDS OF CHRISTOPHER PARK

Playground photos courtesy of SF Rec & Park

George Christopher Playground in Diamond Heights has reopened after a near
two-year, $5.2 million renovation and park improvement project. The 6.8 acre park
is tucked between the Diamond Heights Shopping Center and the northeastern rim
of Glen Canyon. The park improvements include a new playground, resurfaced
pathways, lighting, drainage, and irrigation systems. The clubhouse restrooms
have been reconfigured into a new single user accessible restroom and a gender
neutral multi-user restroom.

The project, which broke ground in late 2019, was shaped by feedback gathered
through neighborhood meetings, community surveys, electronic voting, and
outreach at the “Where in the World is Christopher Park? Festival,”
a free community event to raise awareness for this park.

With improved accessibility and visual connection between spaces as guiding
design goals, the park amphitheater has been transformed into an accessible
plaza with views of the playground, and a ramp to connect the playground to
the new accessible restroom. Pathways connecting the Little Red Hen Community
Garden and Christopher Park have been resurfaced. The tennis court will be
resurfaced and new lighting installed as a future project phase.

The renovated playground features play areas for both big and little kids and
includes swings, climbing structures, a whirl, and an “Imagination Garden,” a
concept developed by landscape architect Jasmine Kaw, who led the SF Public
Works design team for this project. Nature-based play enthusiasts from the Noe
Valley Nursery School, located in the Christopher Park Clubhouse, asked Rec and
Park to draw upon the natural surroundings of Glen Canyon in the new playground
design.

This was a fit for Kaw, who is a member of San Francisco Children and Nature, a
citywide collaborative working to expand opportunities for nature connection in
parks, schools, and neighborhoods. Kaw explains,

“We were excited to integrate a nature exploration area within the playground
footprint, with child friendly plants, a dry riverbed, logs, tree stumps and loose
natural parts to encourage imaginative play, especially for the younger age set.
This is a first for a city park where a large natural play space is directly adjacent
to two structured play areas, giving children more play choices.”

Big Kids play area
South facing view of Big Kids play area. Imagination Garden in foreground
Imagination Garden on right
Sculpture Garden from original playground

Community advocacy created an additional opportunity for creativity in Kaw’s
design, when members of Friends of Christopher Park requested the preservation
of three beloved play structures. This request came as the SF Planning Department
completed design plan review and environmental impact analysis for the project.
The Planning Department took an interest in the original playground and
amphitheater, in part because its 1961 schematic design was by one of California’s
foremost modernist landscape architects, Robert Royston.

Steps from the updated playground, two pieces of mid-century play equipment have
been preserved as a climbable modernist sculpture garden. Concrete Saddle Slide 
by sculptor Jim Miller-Melberg and metal Pleasure Dome by sculptor David Aaron
were part of the playground when it opened in 1971 and are examples of the
experimental Creative Play Design movement of the 1950s and 60s. A third piece
in the garden is a replica of Miller-Melberg’s concrete sculpture Playwall.

The Planning Department completed a thorough review of the architectural
significance of the playground, which included the playground structures
community members were asking Kaw to save.

Friends of Christopher Park researched these artists and were fascinated to learn
that their “play sculptures” were part of the experimental Creative Play Design
movement of the 1950s and 60s. This information laid the groundwork for
community advocacy to save the historic play sculptures.

Friends of Christopher Park requested a safety inspection for the sculptures and
sought support for their preservation from District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman
who, together with prior support from former Supervisors Jeff Sheehy and
Scott Wiener, ultimately secured an additional $552,000 in funding for salvaging
the vintage play sculptures and making pathway improvements, ball field fence
replacement, and new tennis court lighting.

Original play structure

Rec and Park Project Manager Lauren Chavez worked diligently to provide
remaining funding through Rec and Park deferred Maintenance and Open
Space funds.

Thanks to the good work of local contractors Treaty Construction, Kaw’s excellent
design team and Rec and Park’s dynamic project management team led by Chavez,
two original and one replica of the mid-century play equipment comprise a
climbable modernist sculpture garden just steps from the updated playground.
Friends of Christopher Park is delighted that current and future generations will
enjoy these play sculptures, and is grateful for the experience of working with the
project team, the Diamond Heights Community Association, and the Office of
District 8 to make the new George Christopher Playground exceptional.

Mayor London Breed presents Certificate of Honor to Betsy Eddy as
co-president of Diamond Heights Community Association.
Sup. Mandelman on left. Photo: Josh Aberant

Mayor London Breed is fired up about the new playground. 

The usual crowds for a ribbon cutting ceremony weren’t in attendance due to
Covid-19 concerns. But Mayor London Breed, District 8 Supervisor
Rafael Mandelman, and  Rec and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg,
were among the city dignitaries who brought spectacular weather to the opening
festivities. And excited kids from Noe Valley Nursery School and Eureka Valley Arts
eagerly tried out all the new fun stuff.

“George Christopher Park has been called the best kept secret in San Francisco
for its views and trails that connect to Glen Canyon. Now its playground is among
the most innovative and fun in San Francisco,” said Ginsburg. “This space has been
beloved by the neighborhood for decades, which was reflected in the community’s
enthusiasm guiding this project.

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