Noe Valley Voice September 2003

Compromise the Name of the Game at Upper Noe Recreation Center

By Liz Highleyman

A year after it started, planning for the renovation of Upper Noe Recreation Center is finally nearing completion. Recreation and Park Department project director Keith Kawamura presented the latest designs at an Aug. 20 meeting, the fourth held to gather input from the neighborhood.

Among the planned improvements to the 1957 park--bordered by Sanchez, Day, Church, and 30th streets--are upgrades to make the existing buildings more seismically sound and bring them into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, new landscaping, a revamped children's play area, and an expanded dog run.

As expected, the dog area elicited the most attention from the 30 residents (and one dog) attending the meeting. To replace the park's current 10,000-square-foot dog run--consisting of a narrow L-shaped strip--plans call for a rectangular dog play area of nearly 12,000 square feet at the Church Street end of the park. Phase 1 would include about 7,800 square feet, with an additional 4,000 square feet to be added later during Phase 2.

At earlier meetings, residents locked horns over how much space the dog run should occupy, with some arguing that the dog area should not expand at the expense of the ball field. To address this, the latest modification to the plan reduces the 30th Street dog run entrance area from 15 to 10 feet wide, allowing for more room for ball fans along the field's first-base line.

With the ball field, tennis and basketball courts, and children's play area retaining their present dimensions, the extra dog space will come mostly from currently unused space along the park's Day Street edge and behind buildings on Church Street. While some residents continued to express concern about a couple of feet here or a misplaced tree there, most seemed fairly pleased with the new layout.

"Rec and Park is trying to meet everyone's needs," emphasized Kawamura, "but we only have so much space."

With the dog issue out of the way, more than half the meeting attendees exited en masse, leaving architects Paul Travis and Scott Burbank to explain the building renovations and other site modifications to the dozen or so people remaining.

The children's play area--the subject of extensive discussion at meeting three-- will gain a set of Kompan modular wooden play structures and a new safety surface to replace the existing sand. The new plan, noted Burbank, incorporates the neighborhood's "loud and clear" demands for stroller parking and seating, with separate play areas for preschool and older children.

But what about the 'tweens? At the third meeting, and again this time around, parents representing a group called NoeSk8s asked planners to consider turning the mostly unused patio on Sanchez Street into a skateboarding area. The skateboard fans said they weren't asking for anything fancy--just a simple ramp. The city planners promised to explore the request, and also noted that a skateboard task force is working on the issue of skating facilities citywide. One possible solution: a mobile structure that rotates from park to park.

Addressing another big neighborhood concern, Burbank clarified that while the driveway for maintenance vehicles would be moved, no new curb cuts would be made--so no parking spaces would be lost.

Kawamura hopes to receive Rec and Park approval of the conceptual plans in October or November, to be followed by at least a yearlong design and bidding process.

If all goes well, actual construction could begin in the spring of 2005 and take a year to a year-and-a-half to complete.

The Upper Noe renovations are funded by a March 2000 ballot measure, which approved a $110 million bond and Open Space funds to upgrade parks throughout the city. Rec and Park will hold four community workshops in September to update San Franciscans on the capital improvement program. The meeting for districts 7, 11, and 8--which includes Noe Valley and Glen Park--will take place Sept. 22 at 6 p.m., at the Pilgrim Community Center at 446 Randolph Street. h