The crowd on the lawn. Photo by Lydia Chávez

After more than a decade of meetings, debates and most recently rain delays, the Mission has a new park at 17th and Folsom streets – In Chan Kaajal Park, a Mayan phrase meaning “my little town.”

Indeed, it seemed just that as local residents, officials and visitors filled the lawn, the playground and the community garden on Friday afternoon to celebrate the opening of the city’s 217th park – the first new park in more than a decade.

“We’ve unpaved this parking lot and put up a paradise,” said Phil Ginsburg the general manager of SF Rec and Park, invoking and inverting the Joni Mitchell song.

No one disagreed. The arguments about parking spaces versus parks were long forgotten. Although ODC’s administration was concerned early on about the loss of parking for its performances, it has since embraced the green space and to show its support, performed for the occasion.

As Tree, a local community gardener who had wanted to see more fruit trees at the new park said, it’s just good to have the green space.

District Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who alternated easily between English and Spanish as she spoke to the crowd of some 150 people, said the park “represents what it means to say yes, we want this for our community.”

Sometime next year, the lot behind the park will be replaced by 126 units of affordable housing.

In addition to the green space, the park also has a stage, drinking fountains for all sizes and iron art work by Carmen Lomas Garza. Only trash cans were in short supply with one near the community garden and another nearly hidden behind the stage.

My little town in Mayan. Photo by Lydia Chávez
District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen. Photo by Lydia Chávez
Daniel Plautz who will be in charge of the volunteers at the community garden. Photo by Lydia Chávez
A plot ready to work. Photo by Lydia Chávez
Friends chilling on the lawn. Photo by Lydia Chávez
The California Condor by Carmen Lomas Garza. Photo by Lydia Chávez

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I’ve been a Mission resident since 1998 and a professor emeritus at Berkeley’s J-school since 2019 when I retired. I got my start in newspapers at the Albuquerque Tribune in the city where I was born and raised. Like many local news outlets, The Tribune no longer exists. I left daily newspapers after working at The New York Times for the business, foreign and city desks. Lucky for all of us, it is still there.

As an old friend once pointed out, local has long been in my bones. My Master’s Project at Columbia, later published in New York Magazine, was on New York City’s experiment in community boards.

Right now I'm trying to figure out how you make that long-held interest in local news sustainable. The answer continues to elude me.

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you for the press Lydia. It was great meeting today at the garden! Volunteer workdays are Saturdays 8-11am !!!

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