San Francisco officials gathered amongst skateboarders and fitness buffs Wednesday morning to mark the opening of the revamped U.N. Plaza, the main new feature of which is a skate park.
“I’m hyped about this because for me, it’s on my route from the skate club from work,” said Rye Tewksbury, 17, a member of the San Francisco Skate Club. “I can hit a little ‘sesh’ right before I go into BART and go home.”
The new skate park at U.N. Plaza is more open and integrated into the surroundings including the sidewalk and the rest of the plaza than other skate parks in The City, such as the Waller Street Skatepark in Golden Gate Park.
“This park was built by skateboarders for skateboarders,” said Ashley Rehfeld, the skate lead developer on the project. “We had a really important mission to show the city that safe, legal spaces for skateboarding are important and may help reactivate areas that were once maybe not being used for recreation.”
U.N. Plaza’s makeover is part of a larger effort by Mayor London Breed to improve downtown San Francisco. Spearheaded by the Recreation and Park Department, the plan for this part of Civic Center was to tackle some of the concerns that have arisen in recent years over rampant drug use and homelessness.
The skate park, along with other activities now installed in the space, including ping pong, teqball, chess, an outdoor gym and fitness classes, are meant to draw more visitors in, said Daniel Montes, a spokesperson for Rec and Park.
“It goes back to being fun and inviting,” said Montes. “We want people of all ages to come out here — it’s not just for kids or young people, it’s for everyone.”
But not all have been happy with the new space, particularly for its role in pushing the Heart of the City Farmers Market across the street to Fulton Plaza.
A group gathered just before the official relaunch of U.N. Plaza Wednesday morning to hold a “rededication” rally for the plaza’s history and its importance to the community.
“We’re here at the United Nations Plaza seal to rededicate the space and to claim it for peace and justice building,” said Kasey Rios Asberry with the Friends of United Nations Plaza, a community group.
For Rios Asberry and others in the community, there hasn’t been as much transparency and communication in the lead-up to the $2 million revitalization project as they would have liked.
San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin and District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston said they agreed and have since introduced a resolution calling for better communication in the plans for the plaza going forward.
In the meantime, the plaza is open to locals and visitors looking to enjoy games or other recreation.
Martin Hernandez, who works at a restaurant nearby, came down to skate but got caught up in a game of foosball with some others instead.
“It takes you back, you know?” he said while spinning the little players around. “This is like a childhood thing for me.”