American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2007 Professional Awards
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(Photo: Hargreaves Associates)
(Photo: Hargreaves Associates)

(Photo: Hargreaves Associates)

(Photo: Hargreaves Associates)

(Photo: Hargreaves Associates)

(Photo: Hargreaves Associates)

(Photo: Hargreaves Associates)

(Photo: Hargreaves Associates)

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Hunters Point Waterfront Park Project, San Francisco, California
Hargreaves Associates, San Francisco, California
client: Arc Ecology

"Terrific and totally on target. Particularly nice use of the word 'justice.' Landscape architects must start communicating this way to make a difference--it's very replicable. Some of the best computer-generated graphics we've ever seen."

— 2007 Professional Awards Jury Comments

Project Statement

Hunters Point is a decommissioned military base in San Francisco now on the verge of redevelopment with an emphasis on industrial uses by the city. The landscape architects were hired by an environmental justice non-profit organization to analyze development issues and to create concept plans for a park at Hunters Point Shipyard. Reconciling community desires with contentious issues of site contamination and habitat potential, the project resulted in a document that makes a case for a large park as an economic generator, a catalyst for clean-up, and a critical step in achieving environmental justice for this community.

Narrative Summary

Hunters Point is polluted. City policies have concentrated hazardous waste generation and storage sites among low-income housing in the largely African American neighborhood. The five-hundred acre Hunters Point Shipyard received Superfund designation in 1989, due in part to an unlined landfill that contains waste products of naval radiological research and bomb testing – just a few feet away from the bay shore edge and residents’ backyards. The neighborhood suffers significant health problems and job loss as a result of these conditions, but the City has consistently prioritized other areas of the city for investment. When it was decommissioned in 1974, the Navy committed to developing a park on the shipyard to restore community access to the bay, but the waterfront remains inaccessible today.

The clear priority of the Redevelopment Plan is economic regeneration through maximization of industrial development, while public access to the waterfront is limited to a narrow shore-edge park adjacent to the proposed industrial activity. The Hunters Point Shipyard Waterfront Project demonstrates that, if prioritized in the early stages of development, a park can act as a catalyst for high-quality development, thorough clean-up, and economic growth. This project reconceptualizes the narrow shore-edge open space proposed by the Redevelopment Agency as a waterfront park on par with Crissy Field, a large park on San Francisco’s northern shore, providing a balance of passive open space, habitat restoration, and complementary retail and cultural development. It makes an argument for the acceleration of park planning with a high level of community involvement as a first step toward environmental justice in a neighborhood with a history of neglect.

This project was developed as a short-term, grant-funded initiative by an independent environmental non-profit organization to educate and empower the Hunters Point community to intervene in continuing planning efforts by the city. It resulted in the development of four alternative visions for park planning of the shipyard, beginning by exploring the limits and potentials of the park footprint designated by the San Francisco Redevelopment Plan. It expands upon this to demonstrate the increased value of a larger park for economic development, habitat value, and environmental justice. The study was compiled in a book which has been distributed across the city and presented in numerous public meetings.

Shipyard redevelopment is part of a renaissance occurring in Hunters Point. Hunters Point is currently the site of many projects intending to improve environmental and economic conditions there, including a new light rail system connecting the Bayview back to the City, an African American community marketplace, and the restoration of the long-neglected Yosemite Slough. A waterfront park would complement and strengthen these efforts. This project proposes planning of a park early in the development process because it asserts that parks should be a major factor in development, not merely residual spaces. To allow for this reprioritization, we analyzed the major issues that face development:

1. Clean-up analysis: Clean-up is underway in the shipyard, but the landfill remains a contentious issue. The cheapest solution is to complete the cap, but the community is legitimately concerned that capping is not adequate to remove the health risks of the landfill, especially in an earthquake zone where there is risk of liquefaction. Spontaneous fires within the landfill in 2001 made the landfill’s hazards palpable.

A long-standing principle of base closure clean-up is that reuse objectives should drive clean-up standards. Parks set a trajectory for high quality development that would necessitate high standards of clean-up. Clean-up would need to anticipate long-term use by families and pets, as well as water access. Only complete removal of the landfill guarantees this level of safety.

2. Economic analysis: The Redevelopment Plan was approved in 1997, and, while it prioritized job creation, it reflected market conditions at the height of the dot-com boom when there was strong demand for industrial development. As a result, most of the shipyard is designated maritime industrial, a use which currently has little value for job creation.

There are two major economic opportunities engendered by dedicating a greater proportion of the shipyard to park-related uses: to take advantage of economic activity that parks directly generate, and to use park development as a strategy to improve the marketability and value of acreage that retains its designation for industrial and other job-creating uses. A shipyard waterfront park could play a major role in assisting the shipyard to achieve its economic revitalization goals. The park would contribute directly to the shipyard’s economic future by providing jobs and businesses that parks spawn, by increasing adjacent property values, and by generating private investment. A park designated as a regional destination will be able to bolster the economic return on nearby industrial, commercial, and residential land. As a tourist destination, the park’s economic benefits would extend beyond the shipyard and Hunters Point to the city as a whole.

3. Habitat analysis: While industrialized for almost a hundred years, the shore-edge at Hunters Point still supports significant amounts of wildlife. Located along the Pacific Flyway, the site in a restored condition will provide a very important regional habitat resource for these birds and wildlife, and an educational and aesthetic amenity for the neighborhood. Working with an environmental restoration engineer, the landscape architect designed a 20-acre stormwater wetland that would satisfy these potentials, treating stormwater from the site and adjacent neighborhoods. The park would create a critical linkage between several discontinuous shore-edge open spaces, including state park lands and an adjacent salt marsh, exponentially increasing their combined habitat and recreational value.

Design Concepts
The Hunters Point Waterfront Park Project presents four park alternatives which, as they increase in scale from 60 to 167 acres, demonstrate increased potential to fulfill the economic, habitat, and environmental justice goals for development at the shipyard. These goals are:

  1. Reconnect Hunters Point to the water through recreational and cultural use of public trust land.
  2. Link to Bay Trail system and continue trail system along waterfront to increase recreational and commuter use.
  3. Create viable habitat areas by assuring adequate depth of habitat areas and protection from recreational areas.
  4. Maximize flexibility of open areas to accommodate the desires of the community for large and small scale programming, as well as open space.
  5. Attract tourism and regional visitors through variety and uniqueness of park offerings.
  6. Anticipate complementary mixed-use, retail, and cultural developments.

The community has a strong desire for a park that will do more than provide public open space. In addition to typical park offerings: barbeques, food festivals, basketball, playgrounds, live music, and picnics, Hunters Point residents want the park to offer a rich and varied mix of recreation choices, including a community greenhouse, an open mic, rapping contests, job fairs, alternative medicine centers, after-school programs, an environmental monitoring center, and a community learning center. They also desire the park to be a center of community information, hosting political protests and community forums, platforms from which to broadcast community voices, needs unmet by existing facilities.

At each increasing scale, additional recreational, habitat, and cultural development possibilities are added. The largest alternative explores possibilities for alternative energy generation and a large-scale venue/ festival plaza located on historic pier, utilizing the historic re-gunning crane as an icon for the park. At the largest scale, the Hunters Point Waterfront Park will draw visitors regionally, host hundreds of migratory bird species, provide needed athletic facilities, accommodate large public events, create views to complement residential development, fortify the market for job-rich land uses, and anchor a chain of parks that transforms the city’s southeast waterfront and alters common perceptions about Hunters Point.

Community Participation and Environmental Justice
Environmental justice establishes a standard for providing minority and low-income communities’ access to public information on, and an opportunity for public participation in, matters relating to human health and the environment. With these goals in mind, the waterfront park project developed three scales of investigation to assess community needs and goals and to anticipate future changes.

First, a survey was distributed to the entire community. Asking a series of questions about desired park programming and services, it attempted to establish a vision of the kind of park that would satisfy the goals of the community. This process tapped into the heart of the neighborhood by utilizing its youth, the future of the community, through an environmental youth organization to coordinate distribution and collection of the survey responses.

Second, the project organized a series of community dinners to discuss its progress at a Hunters Point restaurant. Over a hundred community members, including artists from The Point artist studios located on the shipyard and life-long community members, attended. These meetings consisted of equal parts presentation by the project and feedback from the community.

Third, youth from a neighborhood organization conducted interviews with nineteen community members to acquire a variety of personal and in-depth visions of the park’s potential, and an organization of community elders obtained similarly detailed feedback from the local watershed council.

While developing a dialogue with the community was critical, equally critical was facilitating communication with the agencies and planning organizations involved in the development decisions. The landscape architect engaged key stakeholders and organizations, exchanging information and ideas with the City’s Redevelopment Agency, the Shipyard Citizen’s Advisory Committee, the Hunters Point Project Area committee, the Shipyard Restoration Advisory Board, the shipyard developer and its architects, the Mayor’s Blue Greenway Task Force, Candlestick Point State Recreational Area, State Parks, and the State Parks Foundation. All who participated supported the development of a park as a key part of improving conditions in Hunters Point.

At this early stage of shipyard redevelopment, when broad development decisions are still being made, it is critical to familiarize neighborhood residents with development issues. This project focused on gathering community input and providing the community with information that will enable it to more forcefully argue for what it desires from development. Through pro bono graphic design services by the landscape architect, the project findings and studies were compiled in a book designed to make information, results, and design options accessible to a range of ethnicities and educational backgrounds. Highly visual, it presents information in both general and specific terms. To maximize distribution and accessibility to a wide audience, the book size was scaled down from typical book format to fit a printing and mailing budget. It was sent to agencies, city officials, community members, and funding sources and has been presented in numerous public meetings.

Project Resources

Landscape Architect:
Hargreaves Associates
George Hargreaves, Mary Margaret Jones, Marcel Wilson, Amy Seek

Far West Restoration Engineering
Roger Leventhal, PE

Arc Ecology
California Coastal Conservancy



Team partner:
Eve Bach, Arc Ecology, Literacy for Environmental Justice (LEJ), Bayview-Hunters Point Community Advocates

Project Affiliates:
Literacy for Environmental Justice (LEJ)
Bayview-Hunters Point Community Advocate




(Photo: Hargreaves Associates)

(Photo: Hargreaves Associates)

(Photo: Hargreaves Associates)

(Photo: Hargreaves Associates)

(Photo: Hargreaves Associates)

(Photo: Hargreaves Associates)

(Photo: Hargreaves Associates)

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