New Plans for Reviving UN Plaza

by Andrew Szeto on March 27, 2014

Community groups and city officials met Tuesday, March 25th, at UC Hastings for the unveiling of a pilot program aimed at finding new and alternative uses for the United Nations Plaza space. The program, sponsored by San Francisco Beautiful and the Tenderloin Economic Development Project, will partner with the Neighborland app to crowdsource ideas for uses to “activate” the park. With already successful projects like the Heart of the City Farmers Market and the Off the Grid food trucks utilizing the space, community members believe more can be done to make UN Plaza a safer and more inviting park for all residents and families.

UN Plaza is currently utilized by many of the city’s homeless and has been hard-scaped over with pavement. Collaborators of this new UN Plaza initiative were clear that future projects would try to engage with the homeless community as best as possible.

“It’s important that everybody feel welcomed, engaged, safe, and feel like this is something that is a community asset that we’re all sharing together, that we’re all invested in, and that we’re all committed to seeing flourish and thrive,” said Sunny Angulo, a representative of District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim’s office.

According to Angulo, District 6 has the least amount of public space in the entire city. This project would help alleviate this disparity, and provide residents with public space that the neighborhood needs.

“Activating” spaces like UN Plaza allows for alternative uses that, through environmental design, work to mitigate crime and other unlawful activities. When spaces are “activated” they deter uses that may be predatory or unwelcoming.

SFPD Captain Jason Cherniss believes this this kind of project would help increase public safety around the UN Plaza area.

“The positive activation of spaces is correlated with the increase of public safety,” he said. “I’m a big proponent of positive activation and positive investment in the neighborhood.”

For the next month, the UN Plaza project is seeking to crowdsource ideas for alternative uses for the space. Through a partnership with Neighborland, people can submit ideas online for what they want to see at the space. Ideas already proposed include a pop-up music festival and the planting of more trees.

According to the Project for Public Spaces, UN Plaza is currently listed on their Hall of Shame for being “empty, unsafe, dysfunctional, uninviting, disorienting, and unaccessable.”

Kearstin Krehbiel, Executive Director of SF Beautiful, said that it’s one of their missions to get UN Plaza off the Hall of Shame.

“This is the first step in a long in a community engagement process,” she said.

The contest will be open until April 25th, 2014 and people can submit ideas at their Neighborland webpage.

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