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San Francisco’s oldest park gets a new facelift

Featured in such films as “Rent” and “Blue Jasmine,” South Park is finally ready for its closeup

A San Francisco playground with a curved jungle gym. Photos by Patricia Chang

Created in 1852, South Park remains one of San Francisco’s oldest yet lesser known parks in the city. Dwarfed by larger competitors (e.g., Dolores Park, Golden Gate Park), the oval-shaped park might get its due after a sweeping makeover 21 months in the marking.

The park was originally built in 1852 as the centerpiece of an exclusive neighborhood, modeled after a square in London. It also once featured a windmill in the center of the park, which pumped water to nearby homes.

Bounded by Second, Third, Bryant, and Brannan streets, South Park has the distinction of not only being the city’s eldest park, but also being used in Hollywood movies. It doubled as the New York City’s East Village for the musical Rent (fake snow and all) and set the stage for Cate Blanchet’s emotional breakdown in the finale of Blue Jasmine.

Behold the new South Park, featuring new grass, tress, and more. Photo by Patricia Chang

After shutting down in June of 2016, the park underwent a $3.8 million renovation, funded by park bonds, as well as the city’s Eastern Neighborhoods Impact Fees. Comprehensive infrastructural and cosmetic upgrades were made.

Helmed by award-winning design firm Fletcher Studio, the new park, which opened to the public on Tuesday, is a sight to behold.

New grass, benches, tables, swooping meadows, and cement walkways were added. The old wooden jungle gym and 1970s-era swings taken out. A new stage area will be used for performances. Drought-resistant trees and plants added.

And perhaps the most striking addition (Instagram-worthy moment, if you will) is the addition of a custom universal play area that boasts undulating forms both in structure and in the mounded surface.

While South Park used to be home to notable San Francisco families, today it’s the center of another kid of elite—both tech-related and design companies call South Park home, with a smattering of restaurants and cafes for good measure. At lunchtime, load of workers can be found milling about on this unofficial playground for the city’s tech brethren.

Be sure to check it out while heading to AT&T Park this season.