SF residents, parents at odds over play structure


Sue Bierman Park is more than five acres of green surrounded by high rises just across the Embarcadero, north of the Ferry Building. A 10-year-old law prohibits permanent structures on this open space and some neighbors say that includes a proposed playground.

"We don't have enough land here to cater to every group that selfishly wants it for their own," said Ernestine Weiss, a neighborhood activist.

If 5-year-old Ronan can walk or run through the park, but if he wants to swing or slide, the nearest playground is about a mile away.

"We live around here and there's a lot of kids and families now, so I think it will not hurt if you have a small playground for the kids to do it," said Rain Malka, Ronan's mom.

San Francisco has the smallest percentage of children of any major city. Supervisor David Chiu believes opposition to something like a playground doesn't help.

"That's exactly what has caused us to lose thousands of families in recent years in San Francisco," said Chiu.

Chiu represents the district that includes Sue Bierman Park and sponsored the measure to amend the law. The board passed it on Tuesday, but don't look for a playground any time soon. The parents will have to raise the money themselves, at least half a million dollars, but young park visitors think it's needed.

"I think there should be a playground around here because it's important for kids to get exercise around here," said third grader Lynette Richardson.

"It's just not very good to have nothing, but open space," said third grader Bailey Bolt.

Weiss says she'll continue to fight. She thinks a playground sets a bad precedent.

"That opens the door for everybody else," said Weiss.

Last year, parents tried to stake out a place at Justin Herman Plaza for the playground, but instead the city allowed private developers to build bocce ball courts. That is now where Occupy SF has taken over.

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