Tamara Aparton, SF Rec and Parks
Shashi Jivan, Mercy Housing
San Francisco, CA-- Visitacion Valley and Sunnydale residents are one huge step closer to having a recreation center and gym in their kid-heavy community, thanks to many years of advocacy from neighbors, commitment from the City and community partners, and support from both donors and voters.
The San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission Thursday approved the concept design for the new Herz Recreation Center Project, which includes a new 11,500 square foot recreation center with an indoor basketball court, a multi-purpose room, restrooms, and an office. Outdoor improvements include a plaza, new adult fitness equipment, improved lighting and landscaping.
SF Rec and Parks is partnering with Mercy Housing, Related California and the Boys and Girls Club to build the new recreation center, which will be designed to fit cohesively within the existing park landscape. The design will connect the park with the Sunnydale community and a planned 25,000 square foot community center, The Hub, to be developed as part of Sunnydale HOPE SF. The Hub will offer childcare services and additional recreational facilities. Together, the two centers will provide an inclusive, safe, friendly, family and youth focused place for neighborhood residents and visitors.
"This is an incredible project for the Sunnydale community, and I've been a supporter of this project long before I became Mayor,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed. “This type of facility for our young people and families is long overdue and a critical part of our support for the community. This is a great example of public and private partners working together to make a difference in our City."
Commissioners on Thursday also recommended the Board of Supervisors authorize the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department to accept a $10 million pledge of philanthropic support from a major capital campaign launched by key community partners. The private funds will double the $10 million in public funding from the 2020 Health and Recovery Bond passed by San Francisco voters in November.
“Every neighborhood in San Francisco deserves access to safe, modern, and beautiful recreation facilities,” said San Francisco Recreation and Park Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg. “In Sunnydale and Visitacion Valley, it’s absolutely essential. This is a vibrant neighborhood that unfortunately has been scarred by violence. Having healthy, fun things to do doesn’t just decrease crime, it helps relieve stress and even heal trauma.”
The Recreation and Park Department has made significant investments in the neighborhood over the past decade and a half, including opening the renovated Coffman Pool complex in 2008 and the McLaren Bike Park, the City’s first park devoted to bike skills, in 2017. A renovation of the Herz Playground is in the works through the LetsPlaySF! initiative, a partnership between the Recreation and Park Department and the San Francisco Parks Alliance to transform San Francisco’s 13 most timeworn playgrounds into dynamic hubs of creativity and family life.
Neighborhood families grow their own food among the 41 plots in the renovated McLaren Community Garden, funded by the 2008 and 2012 park bonds. The Herz Clubhouse hosts violence prevention groups, job readiness classes, and a Community Hub in which children get help with distance learning. The Department’s Requity Program conducts scholarship outreach to ensure families in public housing take advantage of youth sports and other programming.
The Sunnydale/Visitacion Valley community has long needed opportunities for safe, indoor recreation. The community has one of the highest number/percentage of youth under age 18 of any neighborhood in San Francisco and has long struggled with crime.
Long-time community leader Drew Jenkins is one of many local residents that sees the gym as critical to meeting the needs of young people. As Drew noted that “We have been pushing for a gym since I was a teenager back in the 90’s. My brother and our basketball teammates went down to City Hall in our uniforms to advocate for an indoor gym for hoops leagues and other sports but nothing ever happened until now.” (see attached photo and list)
With the momentum of the HOPE SF rebuilding effort, residents teamed up with Mercy Housing, Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco and Related California to push the project forward. In addition to rebuilding the housing, Mercy Housing and Related are partnering with the Boys & Girls Club and Wu Yee Children’s Services to spearhead a $60 million effort to create a community HUB for the neighborhood. In addition to the public recreation center, the HUB will include a 25,000 square foot community center that will triple the capacity of Boys & Girls Club and a doubling of early childhood education slots in the neighborhood.
“This public/private partnership is rightfully focused on equity and quality of life issues in a community that has historically gotten very little attention. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the new rec center and expanded programming for youth and families will uplift people in profound ways and literally help transform lives. I could not be happier for the youth of Sunnydale and Visitacion Valley”, said Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco President Rob Connolly.
The $487.5 million Health and Recovery Bond passed in November funds priority investments in mental health and homelessness, parks and recreation spaces, and essential public infrastructure.
HOPE SF is an ambitious cross sector initiative whose purpose is to transform San Francisco’s most distressed public housing sites into a vibrant, mixed-income communities. At Sunnydale, Mercy Housing and Related are partnering with the housing authority and MOHCD to replace 785 dilapidated public housing apartments with replacement apartments as well as new affordable and market rate homes.