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Project Name: Rincon Place and Streetscapes

Firm: Pamela Burton & Company

Project Designers: Pamela Burton (Principal in Charge of Design), Dan Colbeck (Project Manager), Robin Carmichael (Senior Landscape Architect)



Located in the South of Market District (SOMA) in San Francisco, the Rincon Park Project helps to add public green space to the dense urban fabric of the Rincon Hill neighborhood. Pamela Burton & Company was initially brought onto the Project to provide design services for a condominium development project, Lumina Luxury Condominiums. The common interests between the condominium developer and the Bay Area Metro Center that is headquartered on the property adjacent to the Project site led to a joint public/private partnership to improve the public spaces shared by the two properties. In order for the Project to better integrate into the urban fabric being created within the Rincon Hill neighborhood, the site area expanded to add a 12,000-sf midblock crossing (Rincon Park) and a total of 1 acre of new pedestrian-oriented streetscape along Folsom, Main, Beale and Harrison Streets. The addition of the midblock crossing/public park provides a community gathering space for both residents, office workers and the neighborhood to enjoy.

The 12,000-sf midblock crossing was turned into a public park that cuts into the urban fabric to expose sedimentary layers of the city and ancient plantings like Gingkoes, Ferns, and Cycads just as early infrastructural moves like the 1869 ‘Second Street Cut’ carved into the original Rincon Hill. Located in a relatively dark, narrow space between two tall buildings, finding pockets of sunlight for plants and people was important to the overall midblock crossing design. Analysis of the sun / shade diagrams helped to determine areas that receive the highest concentrations of sunlight. As a result, the design of the circulation, forms, and spaces of the park concentrate plantings and gathering spaces into these sunny areas. A neighborhood gathering space for residents and office workers alike, the park features an amphitheater, informal boulder seating areas, bike parking, and decomposed granite patio areas with café tables and chairs. The overall design for the park is open enough to maintain visibility from one end to the other for a feeling of security while also allowing for intimate gathering spaces.

As part of the San Francisco Planning Department’s Master Plan for the Rincon Hill neighborhood, the surrounding streets were narrowed, and the sidewalks were widened to aid in traffic calming for the neighborhood. The team designed a series of “Living Space Panels” along the 1-acre of new streetscape made available to enhance the outdoor living experience for residents. These exterior spaces provide a variety of amenities including outdoor café areas, seating areas, bike racks, dog relief areas and large areas of lush planting. New deciduous street trees provide shade and contribute to the urban forest of San Francisco.

With San Francisco’s residential boom over the last decade, allocation of lively outdoor spaces has become essential to new urban developments. The Rincon Hill neighborhood has transformed numerous times throughout history, most recently by injecting pedestrian-friendly and community-based improvements into the previously car-centric neighborhood. Working with the developer and local regional municipal agencies, the landscape design led a joint public/private partnership benefitting the entire community by turning the gray concrete jungle into an urban oasis open to residents, community members and pets.