Families, fitness enthusiasts, and musing adults turned out Monday for the reopening of Juri Commons, the tiny park hidden in the southwest corner of the Mission.
Kids ate popsicles and blew bubbles, and people young and old who live in the vicinity of the former railroad right-of-way checked out the mini-park’s new features, after doing without the small but beloved green space during the pandemic.
Juri Commons park, which has been closed for a $1.9 million renovation for more than a year, occupies a narrow diagonal strip that starts near Juri Street and San Jose Ave. and ends close to 26th and Guerrero streets.
Its unusual orientation and shape comes from the fact that Juri Commons stands where the San Jose Railroad once ran through the Mission: If you zoom in on a map, you can follow the diagonal line up to 22nd and Harrison streets, angling buildings and forming triangular green spaces along its way.
Designers embraced Juri Commons’ train history when they leveled out the aging park and replaced the cracking walkway: A large mural of a train, which was on display pre-renovation, was refurbished, and rails are embedded in the smooth — and far more accessible — new sidewalk.
“The path was cratered, the irrigation system had fallen apart,” Dave Schweisguth, head of a neighborhood group called the Juri Commoners, wrote to Mission Local in an email. “The center of the park flooded every winter (making the park completely impassable).”
The new walkway is “sooo smooth,” Ludo, five, announced excitedly, sliding around in his sneakers. More than a dozen other children scampered happily around the play area.
But some adult park attendees wondered what had happened to the twisting path that made walking through the tiny park’s prior iteration a bit more dynamic.
“I liked the windy one better,” said Sloane Sandy, Ludo’s mom. “The windy one was more interesting.”
Sandy added that while her younger child had plenty to do, she felt like Ludo would probably outgrow the park pretty soon — and indeed, a sign on the wall of the playground indicated it is designed for children ages two to five.
The new playground includes a set of two small slides, a pair of bucket swings, and monkey bars. The play area adjacent has logs and tree stumps and boulders, described in the San Francisco Recreation and Parks press release as “a nature exploration area where children can exercise their bodies and imaginations.”
Even with the concept of creativity in mind at the design stage, however, in practice, some residents found the park fell flat — literally.
“I was hoping there were going to be more climbing structures and a jungle gym,” said Laura Zimmerman, who was there with her crawling 14-month-old. Zimmerman appreciated the recycled materials, but seemed disappointed by some of the “passive playground stuff.”
“Overview, it’s okay,” said 19-year resident Bill Lambertson. “It seems a little … antiseptic.”
And, while Lambertson said that he’ll still come around, he misses the “pleasing feng shui” of the old park, which he fondly described as “a little wilder.”
Meanwhile, Julissa Mejia said in Spanish that she liked that there was now more space for her two-and-a-half year old to run around. Plus, she said, the green areas are pretty.
The parkgoers who were present on the first day back — although they all lived within a couple blocks of the park — lamented not being involved in any of the planning for the new park, which Schweisguth of the Juri Commoners said involved ample community input.
“Rec & Parks held a series of community meetings when they did the design, which resulted in significant changes to the original design,” said Schweisguth, who said he solicited community input when writing grant applications.
A grand reopening was held on Monday, and attended by Mayor London Breed, District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, and representatives of various organizations like the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department, the San Francisco Parks Alliance, and the Juri Commoners.
“Juri Commons may be a small park, but it plays a big part in the lives of the many neighbors who visit daily,” said Mandelman. “After these renovations, Juri Commons is even more accessible for everyone who comes here to play with their children, walk their dogs and enjoy this urban oasis in the Mission.”
Juri Commons is the ninth of 13 playgrounds the Let’sPlaySF Initiative will renovate in San Francisco, according to San Francisco Parks Alliance CEO Drew Becher.