Safe Passage Park
Location: Tenderloin District, San Francisco/
typology: Activation, Public/
year: 2021/ /
Empowering a transformational change in the midst of a pandemic
Safe Passage Park (sPark) is the first major project underway as part of TL Transforms, an initiative to build community power and agency in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood through the collaborative creation of physical streetscape improvements and programming. The Tenderloin is the most densely populated and culturally diverse neighborhood in the city. It also is home to the highest concentration of children and multigenerational families, and was among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 virus. sPark was born out of a need for children, families, and seniors to have room to safely navigate Tenderloin streets and to engage in social, educational and health-enhancing activities in the midst of the global pandemic.
Envelope and Studio O worked alongside the Tenderloin Community Benefit District (TLCBD) and a cohort of city departments, community organizations, and resident leaders, to plan, design and build this block-long park along the entire 200 block of Turk Street. Using a phased approach of prototyping and testing allowed the project team to gain valuable insights and feedback from local residents, organizations, and businesses, tapping their expertise and experiences to inform the project's design and offering of activities. With a focus on youth empowerment and engagement, kids of all ages and their families joined in design exercises at TLCBD’s Play Streets series (a program of SFMTA and Livable City) and through online charrettes. With each cycle of prototyping and testing, we adjusted and revised plans and programming possibilities to fit the community needs and vision.
Community engagement also informs the ongoing stewardship and programming needed to sustain a sense of block safety and community investment. The neighborhood came together on several community build days to bring the physical aspects of the park to life. These volunteer days included painting graphic murals on the concrete k-rails as well as constructing and planting a mobile garden of native flora.
Programming by neighborhood partners activates sPark on a daily basis, bringing resources, games, free books, physical activities, and arts into the public realm. Regular surveys and community input inform the ongoing transformation of the space, and how we can use the learnings from this project to support other areas of the neighborhood.