San Francisco Gets Creative With Empty Lots

Neighborhoods can look forward to new parks and sustainable structures

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Proxy on the Hayes Green, by envelopeA+D

    What to do with excess asphalt and gravel? San Francisco is thinking outside the box when it comes to making use of unused space.

    With the economy in hibernation, it's harder than ever to fund construction in empty lots. And that's not the only problem: occasionally, the city is over-enthusiastic with its paving and has made some streets and intersections wider than necessary. Now some creative designers are reclaiming space that had been previously thought unusable.

    Back in July, the Chronicle's John King proposed some novel temporary uses for SoMa lots: sculpture gardens, street food plazas, dog parks, a tree-lined grove. Now those daydreams are becoming a reality.

    There were big plans for housing along Octavia Boulevard, but with funding hard to find, construction is at least three years away. So into the space will go "pop-up retail" in the form of attractive temporary structures hosting local merchants. The Mayor's Office of Economic Development has also been approaching growers about installing a community farm. Elsewhere in the city, a fence around a Rincon Hill lot will be transformed into a canvass for artwork by local designers from Rebar Group.

    Meanwhile, the "Pavement to Parks" project has nearly finished converting a disused intersection at San Jose and Guerrero into a park, and the City Design Group has proposed yet another attractive park at the south end of Dolores. Castro residents are over the moon for the new plaza at Market and Castro, so the program is expected to meet little resistance elsewhere in the city.

    San Francisco boasts a rich history of public space triumphing over derelict pits and ugly parking lots -- and with projects continuously popping up all over the city, creative solutions to unused space are never in short supply.