Push to make reservoir in Russian Hill a park is renewed 

Neighbors are hoping to turn the Francisco Reservoir, which hasn’t been used in more than 70 years, into an inviting public open space. - ANNA LATINO/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Anna Latino/Special to the S.F. Examiner
  • Neighbors are hoping to turn the Francisco Reservoir, which hasn’t been used in more than 70 years, into an inviting public open space.

Momentum is again picking up on a long-discussed proposal to transform a dilapidated water reservoir on Russian Hill into a new public open space.

Located on a hillside that overlooks Alcatraz Island and sits just a few blocks from Fisherman’s Wharf, the Francisco Reservoir is a wooden-roofed structure that hasn’t been used since the 1940s. Owned by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the reservoir is barely visible from the street, hidden by a tangle of overgrown trees and fencing.

For years, residents in the neighborhoods near the reservoir have pushed for a public open space there. In 2008, an architectural team drew up plans for a multilevel garden and park to replace the reservoir, but the proposal never moved beyond a conceptual phase.

However, with the backing of Supervisor Mark Farrell and the involvement of local community groups, there is a renewed push to create soccer fields, an amphitheater and natural forest areas at the site.

Funding for any project at the reservoir, located between Hyde and Larkin streets on Russian Hill, would most likely have to be privately funded, but Farrell said local community groups have expressed a strong desire to make the plan a reality.

“There are obviously some logistical issues, but the residents in this community know this is a once-in-a-generation project,” Farrell said. “Right now, people drive by this piece of property and dismiss it. This could be a transformative project for the neighborhood.”

Four local neighborhood associations have formed a working group to discuss fundraising options. Tina Moylan, president of the Russian Hill Neighbors, said the project would cost about $20 million, but the fundraisers would be seeking $25 million, in order to have $5 million for maintenance.

“This has been a creative, collaborative and inclusive process,” Moylan said. “And it’s going to happen.”

Before any project could begin, the Recreation and Park Department must first acquire the property  at a standard market value. Rec and Park director Phil Ginsburg said the department has been discussing purchasing the property for nearly a decade.

“This has the potential to be a really special piece of open space in The City,” he said. “But there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.”

Tyrone Jue, spokesman for the SFPUC, said the agency is open to discussing different uses of the reservoir. He noted that the agency recently sold a property at 17th and Folsom streets to Rec and Park for a similar project.

Rec and Park will discuss the potential of purchasing the site at its capital committee meeting Thursday.


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