This large park and playground occupies a full city block in Potrero Hill and offers kids two play structures (for younger and older kids) with a sand area, swings, tennis and basketball courts, and a community garden. Additionally, the city operates two baseball/softball fields, and there is a city-run after-school program in the historic recreation center. There are restrooms on-site.
Jackson Playground is owned by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department.
Muni: #22-Fillmore, 17th & Wisconsin stop
#19-Polk, Mariposa & Rhode Island stop
One of three park reservations made by the Van Ness Ordinances of 1855 in working class Potrero Nuevo. Undeveloped and virtually ignored for decades, the area was made into a playground in the twentieth century. According to a 1912 November issue of The San Francisco Call (a newspaper that once claimed Mark Twain as a staff writer), a Mrs. Chatham gifted 4.5 acres of land to the good people of Potrero Hill in order to construct a playground. A hard-working group of neighbors went to work filling in a large pond and raising money to construct a playground and clubhouse; and thus Jackson Playground was born. This generous gift marks the first of several homegrown endeavors dedicated to making Jackson Playground a place for all generations to enjoy. According to the 1912 paper, it was "the largest and most beautiful playground this side of Chicago." Bay Area Sports Hall of Famer Anthony 'Tony' Lazzeri was among the first to enjoy the park, honing his baseball skills there before going on to play in the major leagues from 1926-1939, including seven World Series. And Lou Spadia, for whom the clubhouse was renamed in 1997, grew up playing ball here before going on to become the General Manager and Team President of the 49ers.
A 1930 map shows a simply landscaped park with a small building, possibly a clubhouse, on the Mariposa Street side. The same map shows what was probably an oval cinder running track occupying much of the park. Very little on it appears in the city records. (Source: San Francisco Parks and Playgrounds: 1839-1990 by Randolph Delehanty, Ph.D., 1992).
While the early 1900s may have been the first time local parents banded together to create Jackson Playground, it was hardly the last effort dedicated to the space. By the 1990s, Jackson Playground had fallen into disrepair; structures were old and unsafe, crime was up, and it was no longer a safe and usable park. As the only accessible outdoor space for many families on the hill, and acknowledged community hub, it was time again to take action. In 1993 a group of neighbors formed the Potrero Hill Parents Association (PHPA), a group that now boasts over 600 members interested in building community and creating a family-friendly neighborhood. One of their first projects was to tackle the decline of the park. Tapping into the Recreation & Parks Deparment's Open Space Fund, as well as private fundraising, the PHPA was eventually able to fund the improvements that we see today, including ADA-compliant structures, new trees and benches, and a low wall embellished with mosaic tiles crafted by neighborhood children under the tutelage of artist John Sarantitis. By all accounts their considerable efforts were a success; May 1, 1999 was declared Jackson Park day the Mayor, as hundreds joined for the ribbon cutting on the new playground.
There is no denying that Jackson Playground provides a green heart to Potrero Hill. On any given day, you will find softball leagues cheering from the bleachers, tennis and basketball players enjoying the courts, picnickers enjoying lunch breaks on the grass, volunteers weeding the organic garden, and scores of kids riding bikes and swinging around the playground.
With thousands more residents expected to reside in lower Potrero Hill in the coming years, the park's usage will surely continue to surge. As such, a new wave of parents and community members have banded together to figure out how best to improve this community hub. Through public meetings, fundraising, and volunteer efforts, the Friends of Jackson Park are developing a community vision of how best to ensure that Jackson Park is a safe, thriving, and happy place that meets the neighborhood's needs.
The San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department offers an after-school program in the clubhouse during the school year, for more information visit their website.
The clubhouse is also used by HoopsterTots on the weekends and is available for private rental via the Rec & Park Department: (415) 831-5500.
Friends of Jackson Park: Jude Deckenbach, firstname.lastname@example.org