Noe Valley Voice March 2005

The Buzz at Upper Noe Rec Center

By Valeria Vegas

Upper Noe Recreation Center, the block-long city park at Day and Sanchez streets, seemed dreary and forlorn last month. Pounding rain turned the ball field to mush and kept kids away. Still, there was a lot of activity surrounding the park. Here's the scoop.

No Programs on Sunday

First, the bad news: The recreation center--the complex of buildings, that is--is now closed on Sundays. The rest of the park, including the outdoor children's playground, will remain open.

In January, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department announced plans to shut down the center on Mondays, dropping the seven-day-a-week schedule to six in an effort to save money. But after a plea from concerned parents, the closing day was changed from Monday to Sunday, effective March 2005.

"We would rather have the rec center open on Mondays instead of Sundays, because there is children's programming on Mondays," says Alison Eastwood, a Day Street resident and mother of 18-month-old Fionnuala.

Originally constructed in 1957, the rec center complex houses a gym with a stage and climbing structure. It also is the home of regularly scheduled arts and crafts programs for children and adults.

Better Drainage for Dog Run

Neighborhood pooches should be glad to learn that the dog run at Upper Noe was closed for renovation on Feb. 14. The fenced-in canine play area, located at the back of the park along 30th Street near Church Street, was expected to remain under construction until the middle of March, according to Teresa O'Brien, parks supervisor at Rec and Park.

"But I think they'll be finished with it quicker than that," says O'Brien.

A new drainage system will be installed so that the dog run and baseball field will not flood. Ten truckloads of soil will be removed and replaced with decomposed granite--tiny rocks that are not quite cement but which create a solid foundation. Then new dirt and sod will be placed on top.

Renovation Still on Docket

Meanwhile, despite citywide budget cuts, the promised renovation of the park's major buildings and children's play area is still on the agenda.

Keith Kawamura, project director at Rec and Park, reports that his department is slated to begin upgrades at Upper Noe by April of 2006 and to complete the renovation by late 2007. The project is funded by a combination of neighborhood park bonds and Open Space funds totalling $10.4 million.

"The conceptual design, approved by the Rec and Park Commission in December 2003, was vetted through a community public process including four community meetings," says Kawamura. "We have started the Design Phase, in which we refine the design and prepare the final construction bid documents. We should complete this in December 2005 and advertise for contractors' bids."

As part of the project, the city plans to provide fresh landscaping and a new playground. It will also bring the buildings up to current seismic standards and into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Parents Dreaming

Park neighbors, many of whom are members of the residents' group Upper Noe Neighbors, are hoping the city's plans aren't set in concrete.

Last month, Eastwood, along with Valley Street resident Olga Howells and Julie Tonroy of Dolores Street, drafted a proposal under the guidance of Supervisor Bevan Dufty, outlining the improvements they would like to see at Upper Noe.

"Noe Valley is a desirable destination spot for families in San Francisco," says Eastwood. "[But] Upper Noe Rec is not desirable. The climbing structures are unsafe; the playground is cruddy--it's ugly. Upper Noe Rec has so much potential."

Besides better equipment, the proposal lists several other wishes: a community garden, a reading area for the children, a water play area, and park-sponsored classes in crafts, music, or cooking.

Howells says the strategy is twofold. "The parents are getting organized to try to do some improvements to the center prior to the renovation, and hopefully have a say in the renovation--small things like changing tables, like small, tiny tables for the kids, that kind of thing. Small things like that would make a huge difference to us, the parents and children."

In late February, Eastwood and Howells met with Dufty to discuss how to go about bringing their ideas to Kawamura and other officials at Park and Rec.

They also received some good news: The sand in the children's play area was set to be replaced at the end of the month.

If you would like to add your ideas to their proposal, or feel you have resources to offer, e-mail Alison Eastwood at

For more information on the programming available at Upper Noe Recreation Center, call 695-5011.