Great Explorations: Precita ParkPhotos: Laura Thompson/Hoodline
Laura Thompson
Published on July 05, 2016

Occupying three blocks along Precita Avenue between Folsom and Alabama streets, this open rectangular field is flat by San Francisco standards and well-suited for Frisbee, picnics, outdoor cinema and the occasional snowman.

As you enter Precita Park from Folsom Street, the long green lawn is in full view, framed by park benches and Blackwood acacias. Residences and a few cafes line the perimeter and Bernal Hill looms to the south. Families are drawn to this space to walk the dog or relax in the sun while children play in the playground or participate in a park activity. Located on the edge of the Mission District, Precita Park holds a special place in city history as "where it all started" for Carlos Santana, reports Bernalwood. The park is also the site of the first Carnaval in San Francisco, held on February 25, 1979. 

Precita Park in 1896 looking east from Folsom Street. The tree stakes for the original planting of Blackwood acacias can be seen around the perimeter of the park.
Photo courtesy of the San Francisco History Center

In 1894, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors established what was then called Bernal Park at the foot of the north slope of Bernal Heights. In 1973, the park was renamed after Precita Creek, which flows from Twin Peaks out to the bay, now channeled through a pipe under Cesar Chavez Street. If you have ever wondered about the random wanderings of Precita Avenue, here it is explained by Bernalwood.

Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center looking out over the park.

The celebrated mural art studio, Precita Eyes, is located on the south side of the park at 348 Precita Ave. Formed here in 1977, the neighborhood recently came together to save the studio from eviction.

Memorial tiles at Precita Park.

Across from Precita Eyes, and midway through the park, is a memorial to two teenagers who were killed here in 1996. A bench fabricated of metal from melted guns overlooks the park. It sits on a peace platform, in the shape of a dove, made of 900 tiles painted by community members.

School groups play games and socialize in the park.

A fenced playground occupies the east end of the park along Alabama Street. In 1972, the San Francisco Chronicle described the Precita Park playground as having “a free-form slide, bridges, tunnels, a twisted metal spaghetti jungle and a large pig-shaped metal climbing thing: all painted psychedelic colors.” Today, the playground may not be quite as mind-altering, but it has play structures for a range of ages, and reservable picnic tables.

Precita Park playground.

So what about the snowman? For three years running, Bernalwood has reported the mysterious December appearance of a snowman in the park. Keep an eye out for his possible return this winter.

Snowman in Precita Park. | Photo courtesy of Bernalwood

Until then, enjoy summer in the park, including some special events. The 20th annual Urban Youth Arts Festival will be held in the park on Saturday, July 23rd, sponsored by the Precita Eyes Center.

Also: reserve Saturday, September 10th for “Under the Stars in Precita Park,” made possible by Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema. The whole family can enjoy live music and locally produced films while picnicking on the lawn. Check the website for an announcement of the details.

A shady spot in Precita Park.

Getting there: The 67-Bernal Heights Muni bus stops on Folsom adjacent to the park and the 27-Bryant stops along Cesar Chavez between Folsom and Harrison, one block from the park. The paths in the park are wheelchair accessible. There are no restrooms. Street parking is available.