[su_heading size=”24″ align=”left”]Breaking new ground in the Mission [/su_heading]

Children, community members and city officials look over eight ceremonial shovels during the groundbreaking celebration of the new park at 17th and Folsom streets. Photo Courtesy of PODER

In what is being viewed as a modest victory in the face of the Mission District’s continued gentrification, community organizers and members of San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department gathered on March 17 to celebrate the groundbreaking of a new park, which will open next year, at 17th and Folsom streets.

“[We] are blooming in the midst of displacement. We’re still here. We are semillas; we are seeds. We are growing. We are thriving. We are struggling sometimes,” said community organizer Oscar Grande from PODER, during the groundbreaking. “We know [this park] is not going to solve all the issues that we are facing in the community, in our neighborhoods, but we have to celebrate those victories.”

Once converted, the 31,850-square-foot space, which is currently a parking lot, will feature an outdoor performance and classroom space; a children’s play area with an interactive water feature, which then recycles the water for subsurface irrigation; adult fitness equipment; a community garden; native landscaping/drought tolerant shrubs and trees; a wildlife habitat; and educational gardens with lighting and accessible pathways.

“I’m so happy that this park is going to be built right in the middle of everything—in the middle of all condos and the fires and all the evictions happening,” said Elsa Ramos, an organizer from 7 Tepees youth program.

The $5.2 million project is mainly funded by the California Recreation and Parks Department Statewide Park and Community Revitalization Grant, which provided $2.7 million for the building of the park. Other funds and grants came from the city and the state.

“We have an important opportunity to build from the ground up in this neighborhood—a neighborhood that is struggling with affordability, with open space—a neighborhood that is often underserved,” said Phil Ginsburg, the Recreation and Parks Department general manager.

The project is the product of a relationship between San Francisco City Hall and more than 300 community members, according to Ginsburg.

“We have to make sure that politicians work with us so that we can obtain what we need in our communities,” said community organizer Araceli Lara. “We don’t have politicians for nothing at City Hall. We need them so that we can work together, so that we can work hand in hand with the community. We need to be together for other things like housing and eviction.”

The groundbreaking was seen as a symbol of unity and victory for the community and the local government, according to Grande.

“We may battle on certain things, we don’t see eye to eye on certain things, but when we do see eye to eye, it’s beautiful,” Grande said. “We are able to invest our public resources, our public dollars in the things that [the] community needs. This belongs to [the] community.”