This year, San Francisco Parks Alliance reflects on the history of the organization and its predecessors, whose work has benefited people and places in every corner of San Francisco.
Friends of Recreation and Parks (FRP) emerges to bring more resources and attention to San Francisco parks. Their primary function is to serve as the philanthropic partner and fiscal agent for the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department (SF Rec & Parks).
During this decade, FRP raises $50,000 for the Children’s Playground, $3,000 for a bench program, and installs maps throughout Golden Gate Park.
Friends of Recreation and Parks is founded by a group of visionary San Franciscans and a $50,000 grant from the philanthropist Walter Shorenstein. Together, they hope to cultivate community involvement and investment in the city’s parks.
First membership drive yields 350 members.
The Open Space Tax is established, enabling SF Rec & Parks to purchase open space and spend money on park improvements.
Friends of Recreation and Parks creates the Golden Gate Park Guides program to share the Park’s history with visitors.
A creative board of directors and a staff member give the organization staying power. With administrative support of over $1 million, Friends of Recreation and Parks become a community change-maker.
Friends of Recreation and Parks welcomes its first paid staff member.
$117,000 is raised to refurbish Golden Gate Park’s Dutch Windmill.
Golden Gate Park Carousel is renovated and reopened to the public.
The inaugural San Francisco Landscape Garden Show takes place. General admission is $5 and $135,000 is raised from over 20,000 visitors.
$50,000 is raised to renovate the Sixth Avenue entrance to Golden Gate Park, now known as the iconic Sixth Avenue Skatin’ Place.
Significantly increasing its budget and membership, Friends of Recreation and Parks demonstrates its capacity as a catalyst for positive change. The Lila Wallace Grant allows for a remarkable partnership between the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department and local residents.
Throughout this decade, FRP collaborates with other park groups, further engages with local politics, and expands its programming for at-risk children. Undertaking its largest project to date, FRP also launches the Campaign to Restore the Conservatory of Flowers.
Friends of Recreation and Parks helps renovate Golden Gate Park’s Shakespeare Garden.
Advocacy for the Golden Gate Park Bond raises over $76 million for the park.
Friends of Recreation and Parks helps repair the Palace of Fine Arts Lagoon.
A windstorm causes $3.5 million in damages to the Conservatory of Flowers.
The Neighborhood Parks Council, a non-profit coalition of neighbors involved in improving their parks, is founded by Isabel Wade.
The Neighborhood Parks Grants Program is established and over the next five years, the program awards 93 grants totaling nearly $400,000 for community-led park projects.
Friends of Recreation and Parks raises over $3 million to renovate the Alvord Lake area of Golden Gate Park.
Hillary Clinton visits the Conservatory of Flowers to announce a $5 million grant to launch the Campaign to Restore the Conservatory of Flowers.
New dog drinking fountains are installed throughout city parks.
Public support for parks and recognition of their vital role in maintaining healthy communities is solidified across the U.S. with bond legislation and dedicated taxes. Friends of Recreation and Parks collaborates with various groups on the local and national levels to ensure focus and funding in support of urban parks.
The Campaign for the Neighborhood Park Improvement Bond passes, raising $110 million for neighborhood parks.
The Neighborhood Park Grants program awards approximately $256,000 to over 65 community organizations.
The Conservatory of Flowers reopens after the fundraising campaign to rehabilitate the Conservatory raises $25 million, thanks in part to FRP.
ParkScan.org launches, allowing park visitors to report problems to SF Rec & Parks through their cellphones. Although retired after the creation and introduction of SF 311, the application remains in use today by the city of Portland.
Street Parks Program is formed in partnership with the Department of Public Works. The program turns unused city land into small parks, gardens and neighborhood gathering spaces.
Following the Conservatory Campaign’s great success, FRP changes its name to the San Francisco Parks Trust and revitalizes its commitment to parks.
A team of volunteers, led by Jessie Audetter and Alice Xavier, raise money to beautify a trail on 16th Avenue in Golden Gate Heights known as the Tiled Steps Project.
Golden Gate Park’s Marx Meadow opens a 12-hole Disc Golf Course.
Mayor Gavin Newsom launches the Blue Greenway Task Force, responsible for envisioning the 13-mile continuous public waterfront trail along San Francisco’s Southeastern waterfront.
The Koret Children’s Quarter, which was built in 1888 and is considered to be the first public playground in the US, reopens after renovation.
San Francisco Parks Trust helps lead the 2008 Parks Bond, securing $185 million for the city’s local parks and public spaces.
Neighborhood Parks Council and SF Rec & Parks announce The Playgrounds Initiative, intended to improve 10 of the city’s worst playgrounds, including: Dolores Park, Hunters Point Recreation Center, Palega, and South Park.
The parklet at 17th and Market becomes the first GroundPlay project, a partnership with SF Planning to build temporary installations that transform underused public spaces into engaging community places.
San Francisco Parks Trust raises $325,000 towards Project Recreation, an initiative to renovate recreation centers, including: Hamilton Recreation Center, Harvey Milk Recreation Center, Midtown Terrace Playground, Sunnyside Conservatory and Sunnyside Playground & Clubhouse.
The 2010s brought a merger, a greater appreciation for parks as critical for mental and physical health, expanded programming, and an increased emphasis on all public spaces to receive the same attention as urban green spaces.
The growing need for a citywide parks non-profit leads to the merger of San Francisco Parks Trust and Neighborhoods Parks Council, creating the San Francisco Parks Alliance.
SF Parks Alliance poll finds: 65% of residents use their parks at least once a week, 91% say parks are very important to quality of life, and 89% say parks are a significant contributor to the City’s beauty and a reason why they live here.
The Street Parks program completes its 100th project—Hidden Garden Steps, a beautiful tiled stairway located at 16th Avenue and Judah Street.
SF Parks Alliance leads the campaign for the 2012 Parks Bond, securing $195 million in funding for the improvement of local parks, playgrounds and recreation centers.
SF Parks Alliance partners with the Trust for Public Land to quantify the impact of SF parks on the local economy. The report, The Economic Benefits of San Francisco’s Park and Recreation System, found that SF parks generate tax revenues and business activity approaching $1 billion, annually.
Together, SPUR and SF Parks Alliance advance the Blue Greenway Task Force directive by launching a two-year master plan.
SF Parks Alliance and SF Rec & Parks launch the Let’sPlaySF! Campaign to raise $13.3 million to transform 13 of San Francisco’s highest-need playgrounds.
Lincoln Park Steps, located near the Lands End trail, is completed by the Friends of Lincoln Park Steps and SF Parks Alliance.
SF Parks Alliance hosts the 10th Annual Party for the Parks, raising over $500,000 for the city’s parks.
SF Parks Alliance publishes Still Seeking Green, a report that ultimately inspires the drafting of Measure B.
SF Parks Alliance initiates and leads the campaign for Measure B, which passes and provides a critical baseline of future funding for SF Rec & Parks.
Noe Valley Town Square is created, a major undertaking in a neighborhood with limited open space.
San Francisco becomes the first U.S. city where every resident lives within a 10-minute walk of a park, a new gold standard for cities across the country.
The Tennis Coalition, SF Rec & Parks, and SF Parks Alliance initiate a campaign to upgrade Golden Gate Park’s legacy tennis courts.
Athens Avalon Greenspace, a hillside garden located in the Excelsior, is completed with a stunning tiled staircase created by artist Iran Narge.
South Park, SF’s oldest park, is fully renovated.
Mountain Lake Park Playground reopens after a major multi-year renovation.
The Conservatory of Flowers is lit up for the Summer of Love’s 50th anniversary. The popular floral-themed light show extends its illumination with seasonal themes, indefinitely.
SF Parks Alliance launches Sundown Cinema, an outdoor movie series that reaches over 10,000 residents across iconic SF parks, and features films that celebrate each location’s unique character.
SF Parks Alliance merges with Place Lab, a non-profit that uses innovative ways to maintain and fund public space.
SF Parks Alliance celebrates its expanded work with a new mission statement: San Francisco Parks Alliance champions, transforms, and activates parks and public spaces throughout the City.
Local music lovers enjoy Due South in McLaren Park’s Jerry Garcia Amphitheater. Launched by SF Parks Alliance, this free concert series welcomes celebrated artists and draws new people to an amazing and underutilized local park.
SF Parks Alliance launches the Citywide Public Space Initiative in partnership with the Office of Economic and Workforce Development to supplement City services with community-driven activation and public space beautification.
The Phil Arnold Trail, a scenic path that cuts through the eastern corner of Golden Gate Park, is built in partnership with Friends of Oak Woodlands. The trail is dedicated to Phil Arnold, a longtime city park and trail advocate and founding SF Parks Alliance Board member.
San Francisco’s Crosstown Trail, a 17-mile hike cutting diagonally across the city and connecting a network of existing trails, is completed.
Eagle Plaza, a new public gathering space in SoMa that transforms an underutilized street into a plaza that celebrates leather culture and the LGBTQ community, breaks ground.
While 2020 brought many unexpected challenges, SF Parks Alliance still found ways to bring art, joy and funding to the city’s parks and public spaces—many of which saw record levels of use throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2021, we continue to champion, transform, and activate parks and public spaces across San Francisco—focusing on the city’s highest need neighborhoods and benefiting the local businesses that depend on people coming together in these spaces.
Golden Gate Park celebrates its 150th anniversary. Although the celebration did not go as planned, the park saw a 600% increase in usage throughout the year.
Five baby bison were added to the Golden Gate Park herd including Sesqui, named for the park’s sesquicentennial.
The Heart Your Parks campaign is launched in place of the annual Party for the Parks gala. The campaign celebrates and raises critical support for parks across the city.
Entwined, an art installation by local artist Charlies Gadeken, transforms Golden Gate Park’s Peacock Meadow into an enchanted forest of lights.