An ambitious, $66 million renovation of Portsmouth Square, the oldest public square in San Francisco, has many lovely additions proposed for the Chinatown park. But the proposed Portsmouth Square Improvement Project’s most popular aspect is what it gets rid of — namely, a hulking, 28-foot-wide, 210-foot-long, concrete pedestrian bridge that hardly anyone uses.
A Chronicle article from September quotes the rare Chinatown resident who uses that bridge. “This bridge has to come down,” said Anni Chung. “It makes the park dark and wet and not desirable. We never use it as part of Portsmouth Square.”
When that Chronicle reporter spoke to Chung on the bridge, the reporter noted that “only Chung and some pigeons were using it.”
The improvement project, and the demolition of the bridge, took an important step forward when the San Francisco Planning Commission unanimously approved them Thursday. The Portsmouth Square Improvement Project also includes plans for a new children’s playground, additional exercise equipment, shade structures, seating areas, and landscaping.
But the project's most enduring improvement is likely to be a slick-looking, 8,000-square-foot clubhouse intended to serve as a gathering place for the neighborhood’s SRO tenant population.
“Portsmouth Square is a very crucial space for our families,” Chinatown Community Development Center organizer Karen Chan told the commission. “For many of you, it may just be a usual park. But for us, it’s more than that. It’s part of our home and our daily lives.
“It’s truly our living room.”
This is not final approval of the project, it was just an approval of the Environmental Impact Review (EIR) necessary for the plan to move forward, and to minimize any appeals opposing the project.
But no one opposed the seemingly popular proposal at Thursday's meeting, and all seven commissioners voted “aye” to approve it. Actually, both commissioners Theresa Imperial and Kathrin Moore voted a “very enthusiastic aye” on the approval.