Master plan for Alta Plaza: ‘Go lightly’

Improvements at Alta Plaza Park can proceed now that a plan has been adopted.

Improvements at Alta Plaza Park can proceed now that a master plan has been adopted.

A MASTER PLAN for Alta Plaza Park was approved by the Recreation and Park Commission on April 21, clearing the way for long-awaited improvements.

The plan would repair crumbling asphalt pathways, replace aging furnishings and replant, with new drought-resistant landscaping, the entrances to the hilltop park created more than a century ago by John McLaren, the visionary who also guided the creation of Golden Gate Park.

“Go lightly,” said landscape architect Jeffrey Miller, who developed the plan at the behest of the Friends of Alta Plaza Park, a neighborhood group founded in 2004. “This was the message: Maintain the park as it is. Maintain the beauty and simplicity of this park.”

A decade ago, the Friends raised the money to renovate the playground and tennis courts atop the park. Then, to conserve water and stop leakage onto the sidewalks, the city installed a new irrigation system and replanted the terraces on the south side of the park.

“It became apparent there has to be a sequence of things,” said Judith Maxwell, who lives near the park. “We learned that when the no-mow grass was put in but the leaks weren’t fixed.”

Commission president Mark Buell recused himself from the hearing “because I live within about five feet of the park.” Buell and his wife Susie Tompkins Buell live in the penthouse of the 2500 Steiner Street tower on the northeast corner of the park.

Others lauded the Friends for their extraordinary public outreach during the last decade while the plan was being developed.

“You set a new standard,” said commissioner Meagan Levitan, a real estate agent who is active in the neighborhood.

“It’s been a long road for the Friends of Alta Plaza Park,” said Phil Ginsburg, director of the Recreation and Park Department. “It is not lost on us how much you care about this piece of open space.”


  • Joey Kahn

    I just wanted to check in about your article regarding Alta Plaza. I have the understanding there was some misinformation about funding.

    At this time, design for the north side of the park, the North Side Water Conservation Project, has begun. The project is funded through the SFPUC Large Landscape Grant Program and the voter-supported 2012 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond. The scope of the project includes replacement of the old and inefficient irrigation system and installation of low maintenance, drought resistant landscaping as laid out in the master plan.

    In conjunction with this work, SF Rec & Park will install French drains around much of the park’s perimeter to eliminate the water leakage onto the sidewalks, together with replacing badly deteriorated north side pathways, funded through the city’s general fund.

    Construction is scheduled to commence in the fall of this year, with an estimated completion in Spring 2017. At this time, there is a lack of funds necessary to fully complete the entire north side. Friends of Alta Plaza Park will be reaching out to the community to help fund the $1.5 million shortfall.

    Joey Kahn
    San Francisco Recreation and Park Department