Chinatown's Willie 'Woo Woo' Wong Playground Seeking $10 Million Upgrade

Willie "Woo Woo" Wong Playground, a half-acre park nestled between Sacramento and Clay streets, provides vital open space in Chinatown, the city's most densely populated neighborhood. But these days, it's in a state of disrepair: it's not ADA-compliant, and has plumbing issues and missing bathroom stall doors.

Thanks to the 2012 San Francisco Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond, the playground, which is named for a Chinese-American USF basketball star of the '40s, will soon receive a $6 million facelift. But another $4 million is still needed to upgrade its clubhouse, which hosts after-school programs, a community youth center and the Community Tenants Association. 

Connie Chan, aide to District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin, told us that Peskin has met with the Chinatown community, planning commissioner Cindy Wu, and SF Rec and Park general manager Phil Ginsburg to try to secure the extra funding needed for the clubhouse from the Park, Recreation and Open Space Fund. Developers are required to contribute to the fund to encourage the creation of more open space in tightly packed downtown areas like Chinatown.

"It has been rewarding working with our community advocating for better parks in Chinatown, and we have been making tremendous progress," Peskin told us in a statement. "These park capital improvements are great investments to the health and well-being of our Chinatown community for generations to come."

"[Peskin] has always been an outdoor space guy," Chan noted. "He was a champion of the 2008 Parks Bond and fought for the renovation of what is now the Betty Ong Recreation Center."

Final proposed designs for the new clubhouse. | Photo: SF Rec and Park

Several design plans for the new playground and clubhouse were presented to the community for input in recent months, with the final design receiving approval at a clubhouse planning meeting on November 19th. Now, it's off to SF Rec and Park, where it will be up for approval this Thursday, December 2nd. 

Chan told us that the playground's most notable upgrades center around safety and accessibility. It currently has two sand areas that are difficult to maintain and can be dangerous, she said. The new design will incorporate a softer rubber playground material in their place, and construct a bridge connecting the playground to the clubhouse. The bridge will offer additional covered outdoor space, which can be used for activities like tai chi in inclement weather. 

The tennis, basketball and volleyball courts will remain, but will transform into multipurpose sports courts, creating an opportunity to host soccer and other sports as well. 

If all goes according to plan, the project will break ground sometime in late 2017, and reopen sometime in 2018. 

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Chinatown s willie woo woo wong playground seeking 10 million upgrade