Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Community & Society
Published on February 05, 2018
Renovated Civic Center Playgrounds Open On Valentine's DayThe Helen Diller Civic Center Playgrounds on preview day. | Photo: Lindsay Upson

The Helen Diller Civic Center Playgrounds will reopen on Valentine’s Day, after a year of major renovations, Hoodline has learned.

Upgrades to the 20-year-old playgrounds in the heart of Civic Center Plaza were funded with a $10 million grant from the Helen Diller Foundation, which the Trust for Public Land administered. 

Helen Diller Playground prior to renovation. | Photo: Carrie Sisto/Hoodline

The new structures and lighting go far beyond typical playground equipment, with custom designs by San Francisco-based Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture intended to reflect nature and weather themes. 

The playground upgrade is one of several park investments the city’s Recreation and Parks Department has partnered with the Trust for Public Land to finance and complete, including nearby Boeddeker Park and Clubhouse

New features include a treehouse-fthemed structure with a “cloud forest” of nets, and a rainbow catwalk intended to evoke lenticular clouds familiar to the Bay Area. Kids will be able to climb into play houses in Cumulus City, and swing and balance through Fog Valley.

New tree-house and catwalk play structure. | Photo: Carrie Sisto/Hoodline

An interactive ground light display spans the 140’ by 50’ plaza between the two play areas. The display, titled “Karl,” uses heat sensors and lights to simulate the characteristics of the weather phenomenon. 

Fifty-two light fixtures spread across both playgrounds will create a “Pixel Forest,” with animated patterns integrating the two playgrounds and responding to people’s movements with bursts of lighting. 

Animated light patterns on Pixel Poles connect the play areas. | Photo: Lindsay Upson

The design team is helping the city develop the most efficient operating strategies for the park’s new lighting and play structures, said Connie Chan, deputy director of communications and public affairs at Rec and Parks.

The grant for the playground renovation was expanded to include the development of a café on the corner of Grove and Larkin streets to be run by Bi-RIte and administered by the Civic Center Community Benefit District.

The café is expected to open this summer, offering fresh foods and drinks as well as seating for visitors, according to SF Rec and Parks.  

Rendering via SF Planning

The grassy area in the plaza currently lacks seating, because its benches were removed several years ago to discourage public sleeping. Drug use and dealing is not uncommon in the area. 

The playground renovation is one of myriad efforts by the city to reinvigorate and the Civic Center Commons area. SF Rec and Parks has partnered with SF Planning and other agencies to develop strategies to make the area more inviting for families and activities through art installations and regular programming. 

The playground opening celebration starts at 4:00pm on February 14th, and an interactive light demonstration will be held at 5:45pm.