Franklin Square Park began in 1868, when 4.4 acres between 16th and 17th, Bryant and Hampshire Streets, were purchased for $576,000. Ten years later the Board of Supervisors approved a bill to “immediately borrow $100,000 in gold coin” and park commissioners allotted $12,000 “to immediately grade, fence, plant and improve Franklin Park and conduct water pipes therein.” (Alta California, 1878). The park suffered a temporary loss of identity in 1950 when it was renamed Father Crowley Playground after the original Father Crowley Playground at Seventh and Harrison Streets was demolished to make room for the Bayshore Freeway. Subsequently its original name was returned to Franklin Square and the Rev. D.O. Crowley joined other memorable names in Recreation and Park history. (San Francisco City-County Record, 1936).
As more families were drawn to the neighborhood and into the park, increased complaints about deteriorating conditions and a lack of recreational facilities for small children were heard. At a public hearing in 1969, the Park Commission was offered a renovation plan by the United Neighborhood Association. Its fate remains unknown.
Though the exact year is unknown, back in the 1970s a small playground was constructed in Franklin Square. However, with over 30 years of deterioration, this playground became unusable. Its corroding metal-based structure, rotting wood pillars and polluted sand surface was not only unaccommodating but truly dangerous to children and adults alike. In a 2006 park report from the Neighborhood Parks Council, Franklin Square playground received the lowest safety grade in the city (F) and made it to the top of the “Problem Parks” list. At the same time, the population of families in the eastern neighborhoods increased substantially, with no alternative green space within a 10 block radius.
In consultation with the SF Police Department and other neighborhood organizations, we decided to tackle the playground as the first building block that will bring families together and demonstrate neighborhood presence in the park.
In June of 2006 Friends of Franklin Square began a new campaign with the City to fund the playground’s reconstruction. After several months of constructive advocacy we managed to secure $300K in city funding and the recommendation of Recreation & Parks Department (RPD) for additional budget. In July 2007, with the help of the mayor’s office, supervisor Daly and the support of the entire board of supervisors Franklin Square was awarded an additional $900K in city funding. Together with additional grants the playground project in Franklin Square had over $1.2M in budget and had captured the hopes and excitement of the entire neighborhood. What stands now is a testament to that work. Our new state-of-the-art playground has become a magnet for children from the neighborhood and beyond.
Franklin Square’s Soccer Field
Franklin Square’s soccer field got its start in an appropriation for construction in a 1984 Commission meeting. In constant and vigorous use since it was built, it was approved for extensive renovation and expansion in 1995. Completed and officially celebrated in January of 2004, the enlarged-to-regulation-size field has a new irrigation and drainage system and state-of-the-art synthetic turf that looks like grass, which outlasts all other varieties and is safer to play on. Games at this “permit only” facility are booked by clubs and schools from all over the area.