The Francisco Reservoir was built on San Francisco’s Russian Hill in 1861 to provide water to the densest part of a rapidly-growing city. It was replaced in 1940, and despite numerous development proposals over the years, the site remains zoned “P” for Public Open Space—this in large part thanks to the efforts of neighbors and former Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier.
In 2011, four neighborhood associations—Aquatic Park Neighbors, North Beach Neighbors, Russian Hill Improvement Association, and Russian Hill Neighbors—came together to form the Francisco Reservoir Working Group. The alliance produced a proposal to transform the defunct reservoir site into a new public city park.
With the assistance of Supervisor Mark Farrell, the Francisco Park proposal has passed through the city’s Recreation and Park and Public Utilities (PUC) Commissions. The Recreation and Park Department has authorized expending $9.9 million from the City’s Open Space Acquisition and Park Renovation Fund for transfer of the property from the PUC. Meanwhile, the Francisco Reservoir Working Group has received pledges of $9 million against the $11 million target for planning, constructing the park, and endowing future maintenance.
Although to the casual observer the city’s northern waterfront area appears to have a lot of green space, there is an unmet need for recreational opportunities for children in Chinatown, Russian Hill, and nearby neighborhoods. It is expected that Francisco Park would primarily serve seniors, schools, and children from Chinatown, North Beach, Russian Hill, and the booming Polk Street neighborhoods on the east side of Van Ness, where green open space is sparse. The Sierra Club, the Parks Alliance, and other green groups support the park’s creation.
There has been token opposition to the Francisco Park proposal from housing advocates who want this site with its splendid views used for housing. But the adjacent Fontana Towers, built in the 1960s are a constant reminder of inappropriate development in view corridors.
The proposal goes to the Board of Supervisors for final approval on July 22. Look to the Yodeler’s web edition for updates on this issue. Those interested in learning more about the Reservoir are encouraged to go to www.franciscoreservoir.org/email-registration and sign up for the newsletter.