A grassy area of Juri Commons park.

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. 

Two children swing at Juri Commons on the day it reopened.

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.” 

Families try out the new playground at Juri Commons.

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. 

A bike at the Juri Commons playground. In the background, the sign reads “This Playground is Designed for Children 2-5 Years of Age.” Photo by Eleni Balakrishnan.
New exercise equipment at Juri Commons.

Eleni Balakrishnan

Eleni is our reporter focused on policing in San Francisco. She first moved to the city on a whim over eight years ago, and the Mission has become her home. Follow her on Twitter @miss_elenius.

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6 Comments

  1. I cannot understand how this cost $1.9 MILLION?!

    I am all for upgrading our green spaces and I am right down the block from this, so glad to see an improvement, but public spending is out of control…

  2. The Invisible Hand of Robert Rauschenberg erases yet another beloved line to San Frans past.
    Ikearchitecture aesthetic, like Starbucks nudges out memory. “What was there?”, one asks of themselves. Anodyne, antiseptic, yet conversely whilst viewing you ponder if your tetanus vaccine needs updating. Edges and unremitting merciless efficiency of CAD lines from point A to B supercede any enigmatic notion or meanderings of mind or Nature. The Theme Parking of our Nation’s vernacular urban design is complete. Only the Orange Haired Mad Midway Barker is missing….

  3. How does the 1.9 million get allocated? Is there a way to get a breakdown of who got the money and for what? If this was my backyard, I could have done all of this work for about 100K, maybe 200K on the high side. How much went to planning and how much went to the company that supplies the labor, cement, etc…?

    Someone got full pockets on this one….

  4. I know upgrades are inevitable, but I’ll miss the old space. It was rough (not a good scene at night, no lights) but in an organically good way. We spent many hours here pre-reno… and sometimes if we hit it right, would be able to pick a few blackberries from the bush that used to be there! Windy path was definitely charming… it was like taking a short walk (perfect for littles) through a mysterious, hidden secret garden. *sniff

  5. I want to see for me self, but I’m feeling the voices that ask how could this have cost TWO MILLION DOLLARS, and the guy that said the old park trail had a good feng shu.

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