This spring, SF Beautiful was awarded a grant from the City of San Francisco to make United Nations Plaza a healthier, more vibrant public space. SF Beautiful led a coalition of local organizations who shared their goals including: The City of San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD), Tenderloin Economic Development Project (TEDP), University of California at Hastings, Art Institute of California, Federal Department of Homeland Security, and the SFPD. They reached out to Tenderloin and Mid-Market residents for their ideas, insights, and resources, and are now programming the plaza with ideas suggested by residents. This initiative is grounded in the philosophy that the people who live, work, and play in UN Plaza know what it needs to thrive.
UN Plaza is a 2.5 acre “park” surrounding the Civic Center BART/MUNI station in the center of the city. The brick and concrete plaza is the only open space accessible for many neighbors in the Tenderloin. It’s also one of San Francisco’s most popular public spaces, with over 50,000 neighbors reflecting, exercising, meeting friends, and passing through the plaza on any given day. The opportunity is that it’s one of San Francisco’s most underperforming public spaces.
The Heart of the City Farmers Market has brought much needed healthy food and economic vibrancy to the Tenderloin and Central Market neighborhoods. Now, SF Beautiful is engaging with locals to implement a series of ideas to activate the plaza with music, arts, recreation, and activities for children and families.
In this program, neighbors’ ideas could be temporary improvements (removed daily), one time events, or recurring events. The budget for implementation, not including labor, was set at $2,500 - $5,000 for each idea. Impact is determined by the estimated number of people that will actively engage with the idea, sense of safety created by the intervention, and extensibility of the idea.
In March, the UN Plaza Coalition hosted a public meeting at UC Hastings with over 200 neighbors in attendance. Neighbors’ ideas and insights were collected from written input, SMS, Twitter, and Neighborland. All of this input was aggregated on the #UNPlaza Project page. It was the first time that an organization used Neighborland as a live ideation and voting tool in a public meeting.
TEDP Executive Director Anh Nguyen live tweeted all of the ideas that were submitted by Tenderloin neighbors. It was a simple, but powerful way to extend the public input in the meeting to a wider audience. Often ideas presented in the oral statements are not captured in the design process, but Anh’s innovative use of Twitter helped amplify neighbors’ voices. Two of the resident’s ideas that were suggested at the pubic meeting, and live tweeted by Anh, became finalists in the program.
For the next 6 weeks, neighbors voted on all of the ideas publicly on the#UNPlaza Project. A panel that included staff from various city agencies lead by OEWD evaluated all of the ideas on the basis of impact, feasibility, and scope. On June 4th, SF Beautiful then took the four finalist ideas and had neighbors vote on them in UN Plaza during a beautiful, sunny, summer day. Over 850 neighbors cast their votes and chose the winners.
Here’s how SF Beautiful describes the first event, a pop-up music concert:
San Francisco is home to a lot of great musicians. Performance stages will be set up for various genres of music performances on a weekly basis. Sipping a summer drink, you can relax on the grass with your friends while enjoying live music!
SF Beautiful is bringing these winning ideas to life this summer in events series called “Pause, Play, Connect.” It’s a community-generated programming and placemaking special event series sponsored by Invest in Neighborhoods and the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, curated by MJM Management Group. It is a first-of-its kind event series on Mid Market that will offer a huge variety of events, easy access to BART, and the best performers and organizers in Bay Area dance, live music, children’s programming, indie film, cultural cuisine, and circus arts. Pause, Play Connect at UN Plaza has something for everyone. Join us!