Report ranks SF parks among the best in the country. Access to them is not as good.

A new report ranks San Francisco’s park system as one of the best in the country, as long as you’re not a low-income resident.

The nonprofit Trust for Public Land has launched its 10th annual ParkScore Index, which assesses park systems in major metropolitan areas across the United States based on factors such as per capita park spending. , size, accessibility and equity.

Although San Francisco took sixth place overall nationally – rising two places from previous years – members of the nonprofit say the city’s non-white, low-income residents do not do not enjoy easy access to these urban oases.

Although better than many urban areas, including Oakland, the report found that neighborhoods in San Francisco with a high concentration of residents who identify as people of color had 56% less access to parks than neighborhoods. white. This was calculated by measuring the space available in the park within a 10 minute walk.

“Everyone knows that there are disparities in the distribution of parks. At the end of the day, it’s not fair and it’s not fair, ”said Will Klein, project manager for parks research for the Trust for Public Land.

Overall, most San Franciscans can find a park, playground, or green space within a 10-minute walk of where they live. The city was the first to achieve this feat in 2017, and since then only Boston has earned the honor.

But the Golden Gate Park and Presidio strip is located in the northwestern part of the city and surely tips the scales, as the former borders six neighborhoods and the latter borders five. Nearby Presidio Heights has a predominantly white population of affluent residents. Inner Richmond, which touches Golden Gate Park, also more white people live there than people of color.

The nonprofit added the fairness measure this year as a nod to racial reckoning in the country and to point out ways to improve park systems.

In fact, San Francisco performed better than other metropolitan areas in the country; Across all park systems examined, non-white residents had an average of 44% less park access, and low-income residents had 42% less park space. San Francisco was more even than other cities in the Bay Area, such as Oakland.

Still, there is still a lot of work to do to close the gap, as the implications go far beyond who has a park nearby, said Alejandra Chiesa, Bay Area program director for the Trust for Public Land. Chiesa said accessibility to outdoor spaces allows residents to benefit both physically and mentally. Some medical experts have found that exposure to the great outdoors can reduce stress hormones and blood pressure.

“Parks are an important part of healthy, livable communities. A fair society and community are essential for a healthy city in general, they cannot be divided, ”said Chiesa. “Someone shouldn’t have all the access, while others don’t. “

This is something residents and leaders alike feel clearly. Robert Morrissey, a 69-year-old resident of Tenderloin, sat on a bench at Alioto Mini Park on 20th Street and Capp in a matching camouflage-print tracksuit, pecking at his food.

Morrissey said he visits the Mission mini-park at least every other day, after picking up food at Pete’s Bar-B-Que. “Anything I can think of as a park is great, but the bigger the better. It’s so good for the psyche and the environment.

The pandemic may have further accentuated the role of parks and social equity. As one of the only places to safely socialize and exercise, those with access to expansive outdoor spaces were a step ahead of those who didn’t. The grassy fields of Mission Dolores have hosted extracurricular in-person classes or learning modules for Zoom-tired students.

But others have provided much-needed space to organize outdoor Covid-19 testing and vaccination sites. The first major Covid-19 mass test by UCSF and the Latino Task Force took place in Garfield Square on 26th Street.

“Parts of San Francisco have been used for a Covid-19 response, for the distribution of free meals and PPE,” Klein said. “I think this is a testament to the trust people have in the local parks and the parks agency.”

So, with the benefits of expanse in mind, Klein and Chiesa still challenge the country to disseminate the wealth of space to low-income communities. In another finding of the report, low-income neighborhoods in San Francisco had about 55% less park space than high-income neighborhoods. While the Mission has its fair share of parks and green spaces, and even a few big ones like Mission Dolores and Bernal Heights Park, it also has plenty of playgrounds and “mini” parks, like Alioto and 24 and York. .

The spacing can make these parks more crowded at times, but that doesn’t really bother Adela, who says she’ll just leave and go to another. As the nanny of a one-year-old and the mother of a seven-year-old, she visits the playgrounds and parks every day, and feels lucky that there are several at the Mission; four days a week, she goes to Mission Playground, which is booming with running kids and a live band on a June afternoon.

She and her other nanny friend, Hiliana, used to hang out with Dolores but moved on to the playground because little nannies Hiliana is getting older and wants to run and jump everywhere. We let them play, except the sandbox. It’s dirty, ”Adela explained.

While the Mission has plenty of places to play, it’s a bit of a different story in the Bayview, said Hiliana, who is also a mother.. While there are “outdoor spaces” within walking distance, they aren’t as inviting to kids and don’t feel as safe to hang out. “I’m not taking my kid there, there can be crazy stuff,” she said.

That could change soon, according to the San Francisco Department of Recreation and Parks, which, through a spokesperson, said its next biggest project was India Basin Shoreline. It will be located in the heart of Bayview and will transform a former brownfield site into a waterfront park with waterfront trails and recreational activities. June 17, and part of the park should be completed by spring or summer 2022.

“It will connect social housing residents to a clean and restored shoreline. It’s completely community-shaped and it’s truly an example of environmental justice, ”the spokesperson said in an email.

The Ministry also recognized the gaps in access to the park. The spokesperson said that nearly “80 percent of his capital dollars” last year went to projects in Equity Zones, which are neighborhoods with the highest concentration of at least one population. vulnerable. In total, approximately $ 239 million will come from the 2020 Health and Recovery Bond, and “nearly all” projects will be in equity zones.

“Institutionalized racism has shaped the country’s history and park systems are not immune,” the spokesperson wrote. “We are working to undo this story and create the most accessible and equitable public park system in the country.”


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