SF targets space under freeways for new parks

San Francisco will soon have more open space for recreational use.

AB 857, sponsored by Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Oct. 15, which will allow The City to lease up to 10 parcels underneath highways from Caltrans at 30 percent below market rate to create parks and open spaces for the public.

Ting said Wednesday at City Hall:

“It’s very exciting to work with our city so that we can make these underutilized parcels of land into parks, into open space.”

The City already has a 20-year lease with Caltrans for the SoMa Skate Park and Dog Play Area under Highway 101 at market rate for $4.8 million. Ting said without the passage of the bill, The City could have faced expensive lease agreements with CalTrans in the future.

Mayor Ed Lee said:

“…In a city as concentrated as San Francisco, how do we creatively and innovatively use space that is kind of dead and inviting to a lot of negative activity into really open, creative, vibrant spaces.”

Lee said a prime example of changing a space known for negative activity was at Mission Creek, where the public can now play basketball, tennis, volleyball, go kayaking, and bring their dogs.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, a supporter of the bill, said one of things officials are doing is rededicating car-focused land into open space for the public:

“Whether it is the Pavement to Parks Program with Jane Warner Plaza in the Castro or the Noe Valley Town Square where we turned a parking lot into a park.”

The City has already identified a number of Caltrans parcels as potential sites to lease, including the Alemany Interchange where Highway 101 and Interstate 280 intersect and off ramps on I-280 to Balboa Park and City College of San Francisco.