Finally, the Glen Park Recreation Center is getting what the neighbors really wanted – a makeover for the old building. We attended a meeting held by SF Rec & Parks’ Capital Planning about this phase of the project. About 30 people came, including Supervisor Scott Wiener.
Why the project is needed:
1. The old building doesn’t have a front entrance, and isn’t integrated with its surroundings. The new building will do that: It will have a Significant Front Entrance.
2. It’s a historic building, and it’s old and run down. The bathrooms are on the floor below.
3. The auditorium’s stage has become dead space because it’s not really being used as an auditorium.
4. Needs have changed over the years, and a redesign will make the building more useful.
Karen Mauney Brodek made a slide presentation. That’s available HERE as a PDF: Glen-Canyon-Park-6-13-13-community-meeting-presentation
WHAT WE SAID
The San Francisco Forest Alliance made the following comments at the meeting, addressing not addressing the specifics of this plan, but more the process and decisions.
1) The plans always focus on the building, but not on the trees and vegetation. People care about trees, and they have said their concerns were dismissed during the community process.
2) There’s a need for transparency. In Phase I, all through the community process, we were told that only about 10 trees would be removed. The project description said the project would be only in the recreational area of the Park. Instead, we found out only after the entire community process was over that first, about a third of the project was in the Natural Areas, and second, around 60 trees were being cut down and replaced with native vegetation.
3) There’s a need for cost-effectiveness. People have pointed out that Phase 1 won’t provide recreational values or aesthetic improvements commensurate with the costs. We hope this won’t be as much of an issue in the current project. We also hope that SF RPD actually does keep the Rec Center open; there have been cases where they did a grand renovation and then closed it down. JP Murphy is a poster child for that.
1) Karen Mauney-Brodek said that there’s only one tree within the project envelope, and that’s being preserved. She said there were no plans to cut down trees for this project.
She left a loophole though; she said the landscaping hadn’t really been decided, and if there were changes, they would update us.
(This is in fact the kind of thing we find troubling: Trees are an afterthought.
Plans for preserving the trees must be built into the initial plans for these projects.)
2) Scott Wiener said that the capital project people weren’t responsible for keeping the rec center open, but that SF RPD does its best to maintain programming in the face of their shrinking budget. He also said that the capital projects come in on time and under budget.
(We understand the operational budget issue. But surely, it makes no sense to do a major reno if the club house is closed after that.
As to the under budget and on time part, yes, but that isn’t quite what we were getting at. We think that the structure of the first part of the project – the tennis courts, new playground, and Grand Entrance – have given little bang for the buck. Here’s an assessment from past President of SFForest Eric Miller:
“But what else are we getting for our $ millions?
- Are we actually getting an extra tennis court? No.
- Are all the tennis enthusiasts satisfied with the orientation of the new courts? No.
- What about additional facilities – perhaps something like a couple of low-maintenance concrete outdoor racquetball courts – even half a basketball court? No.
- An inspired design that preserved a few landmark old-growth park trees? Obviously, no.
But RPD did ensure we taxpayers purchased a native plant garden as part of the project and ensured all those pesky mature “non-native” trees were eliminated. I would wager that regular citizens, even those totally ambivalent about park trees, are likely to prioritize other uses for our taxes than fulfilling what amounts to a rather extreme native plant agenda…”
Even the new playground may not be as excellent as hoped – it will be larger, probably safer, but will it have better amenities? We don’t know. The steep staircase and bushes that lined its upper reaches were a magnet for adventure play, and we’re not sure whether the new playground will be merely a blander replica of every other playground in the city.
Meanwhile, the felling of 60 trees, and excavating and shoring up the hillside so the tennis court could be moved to create the Grand Entrance is hugely expensive. However, we are hopeful there will be less waste and bad design in this part of the Plan.)
THE NEW PLAN
The rebuilt Rec Center will have an expanded footprint.
- A multi-purpose room goes in where the playground used to be.
- A class-room block is added onto the West side.
- The auditorium and the gymnasium will be renovated.
- The stage area will become an “active recreation space” possibly with a climbing wall.
- A “Teaching Kitchen” will be added.
- So will some new bathrooms. One set of bathrooms will be accessible from outside even if the Center is closed.
- A Significant Front Entrance will be created, with a staffed “welcome desk.” This is NOT a receptionist, there’s no budget for one nor is there likely to be. The Plan was vague about who would sit at that desk, though someone said that would be the de facto office of the Director of the Rec Center. (The actual admin offices shown in the plan are for someone else – SFRPD employees of some kind. It wasn’t entirely clear.)
- The fireplace, which is a historic feature, will be renovated (though not as a wood-burning fireplace) and the chimney stabilized by putting a concrete cylinder inside. There are no cost estimates for this.
TWO SIMILAR OPTIONS
The SFRPD essentially sought feedback on two rather similar options. (Clicking on the pictures makes a larger version come up.)
Plan 1 would have the kitchen next to the auditorium. The exterior bathrooms would be between the new multipurpose room and a steep staircase. Someone pointed out this makes them isolated, not visible from the playground, and thus, potentially unsafe. This was seconded by someone who had taught pre-school, and felt the placement in Plan 2 was safer.
Plan 2, below, has the kitchen in the classroom block. It would have a somewhat larger footprint because the bleachers would be moved to an addition on the north side of the building to accommodate restrooms where the bleachers are now. This would have the disadvantage, someone pointed out, that people would have to walk across the court (and maybe through a game) to reach the bleachers.
Some people proposed a hybrid solution: Keep the bleachers where they are; have the interior toilets where they are in Plan 1; have the kitchen where it is in Plan 2; and the exterior toilets in Plan 2. This would leave the problem of where to put the two offices, but since they don’t seem to be directly associated with the management of the building, perhaps they could go at the end of the Multipurpose Room where the toilets in Plan 1 are.
While we have no problems with the entrance as its been planned (though we wonder about the “welcome desk” ) we do not think that the “entrance” that was created by killing trees to move the tennis courts justified that design. Had SFRPD been willing to accept the input of the many tree-lovers who are still mourning the significant trees removed for a concrete pathway, it would seem a better design could have been developed.