City seeks input on 3 Civic Center design optionsPhoto: Carrie Sisto/Hoodline
Carrie Sisto
Published on May 23, 2018

The city is asking the public to comment on proposals for improving the streets and public spaces closest to City Hall via a series of online surveys.

The currently available survey presents three options for the open spaces between U.N. Plaza, Fulton Street between the Asian Art Museum and the Main Library, and Civic Center Plaza.

Three themes have been crafted for review:

  • Civic Sanctuary: celebrates the history of the space and civic life and work.
  • Culture Connector: prioritizes the diversity and culture of the surrounding neighborhoods.
  • Public Platform: prioritizes spaces for performances and gatherings.
Three design themes for Civic Center. | Via SF Planning

According to the agencies leading the Civic Center Public Realm Plan, aspects of each of the design themes are interchangeable.

For example, the more structural layout of Civic Center Plaza offers defined ‘rooms,’ including the recently renovated Helen Diller Playgrounds.

Civic Sanctuary design plan. | Image: SF Planning

That framed central spine could be combined with a flexible use space between the museum and the library as proposed in the Culture Connector design, and an interactive water feature as proposed in the Public Platform design.

Public Platform design plan. | Image: SF Planning

Only one of the proposed designs would maintain the existing fountain designed by Lawrence Halprin, which has been in disrepair in recent years.

United Nations Plaza Fountain. | PHOTO: MISTERSF

The other two proposals would redesign the area as either a bouldering and climbing area or as an interactive water feature with leaping water streams.

Major changes to the Civic Center area are still a long time coming. The most updated timeline foresees environmental review of the final design going through summer 2020.

Civic Center Public Realm Plan area. | Image: SF Planning

There are already modifications underway to make the area more enjoyable for neighborhood residents and workers in nearby offices, however.

The two playgrounds in Civic Center Plaza underwent major renovations last year thanks to grants from the Helen Diller Foundation and the Trust for Public Land. The foundation’s grant has been expanded to cover a kiosk that will serve coffee, sandwiches, ice cream and other amenities at the Northwest corner of Larkin and Fulton streets.

The cafe, which will be operated by Bi-Rite, is slated to open this summer.

via SF Planning

The city has also contracted with several community organizations focused on increasing clean-up patrols and neighborhood engagement.

The proposals for the new public realm plan each include plans to reroute and restrict vehicle traffic in the area and uses for Brooks Hall, the long-closed convention hall below Civic Center Plaza.

Proposals include closing Polk and Fulton streets in the design area, and opening retail and community meeting or recreation space in Brooks Hall, which is currently only used for city storage.

City planners will seek further input on the plan’s street design and the future of Brooks Hall in future surveys. A final community open house on the plan designs is scheduled for this fall.