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Archive for the ‘Parks’ Category


Sutro Heights mansion houses a recluse… and homeless in its backyard

The two homes belonging to Wing King on 48th Avenue near Sutro Heights Park

Many readers will recall the early morning fire that burned on the hill below Sutro Heights Park in late January. At the time the SFFD determined that the fire had been set, most likely the result of a campfire from a homeless camper.

At the time, we had an email from a Sutro Heights resident about the owner of the property and his reclusive ways. He’s not well-liked in the neighborhood due to the poor condition of his property, and for his unwillingness to secure his property to prevent homeless encampments.

Chris Roberts, a reporter at the Examiner, published a story on Sunday about the owner, whose name is Wing King.

You may not realize anyone lives at 641 48th Avenue, but King, a licensed physician who last practiced endoscopy at UC San Francisco, does occupy the home. Visitors to the front door are instructed to write via email rather than ring the bell, and security cameras hover over the entrance.

King owns two homes on the lot, and according to the Examiner article, he uses one to live in, and the other for storage. Both homes have large back lots that border on the edge of Sutro Heights Park, and they are a favorite enclave for homeless campers and partying teenagers.

According to the Examiner article, the SFFD has had to come out multiple times to extinguish fires in the backyards:

Firefighters have doused blazes on King’s property five times since 2004, according to records. Once they climbed over a fence that “collapsed inward” in order to reach a small brush fire. A homeless encampment went up in August 2010. In February 2012, a man claiming to be a cop himself told police he was clearing the property. Other times, dried-out leaves and branches — the organic fuel available is ample — smoldered or blazed, once in a firepit in October.

It’s unclear what can be done to force King to maintain his property, but it doesn’t appear that a lack of funds is the issue, as he’s willing to fork over money for lawsuits and fines:

He has been sued regularly over the years, but not because of neighborhood fire risks. Rather, the suits are related to real estate dealings, mostly — his mother in Hong Kong, former business partners and a bank that extended a $1 million line of credit. He lost that large case — as he did The City’s lawsuit for nine false 911 calls made between December 2005 and July 2007 — by failing to show up to court.

King does appear to have some communication with the outside world. He called his neighbor, Frank Choy, on the night of the January fire. But Choy, and other neighbors’ patience is running thin as the properties continue to deteriorate and attract the wrong element. The Examiner article mentions that neighbors may be mulling over a lawsuit against King.

Read the full story at SFExaminer.com

UPDATE 3/19/13: The city has fired the first shot, giving King 15 days to prove that the homes are occupied or he faces penalties of up to $7,000 per home. [via SF Examiner]

Sarah B.

The January 19, 2013 fire that erupted at the back of King’s properties, as seen from Great Highway and Balboa.

5:03 am | Posted under Fire, Parks, Safety | 14 comments

Bright1Fitness offering group classes in Mt. Lake Park, Presidio & GGP

Bright1Fitness members workout in the shadow of the Golden Gate during a Saturday class

Last weekend, I tried out a new group fitness class that is starting up in Mt. Lake Park, the Presidio and Golden Gate Park. It’s called Bright1Fitness and it’s headed up by Brighton Miller, a Richmond District resident and personal trainer.

Miller has been a fitness trainer for 5 years, including work as a group fitness instructor for local bootcamps. She chose the Richmond District to base her business because it’s close to home and the surroundings fit in well with her philosophy on how to make fitness more fun.

“I love to use our amazing city as a gym – hills, stairs, beaches, parks – which is all right in our own backyard here in the Richmond District,” Miller says.

I attended the 9am class last Saturday, which meets at Immigrant Point in the Presidio, just above Baker Beach (and a quick walk up from the 14th or 15th Avenue gates near Lake Street).

It was a crisp, clear day and we started out with a vigorous warm-up jog that took us down stairs through eucalyptus trees, along a trail to a bunker overlooking the Pacific, further down some stairs to the practically secret Marshall Beach, and then back up to the road. I was huffing and puffing while taking in the gorgeous vistas – but so was everyone else.

“One of the benefits of a group outdoor class is that you’re motivated by the people around you,” Miller says. “I’ve seen people in my classes discover new talents because they were pushed by others to try new things.”

After our warm-up run, we each grabbed a “sand bell”, which are neoprene bags filled with pounds of sand (in this case filled with the very best local sand from Ocean Beach). Miller has them in 15, 20 and 25 pound increments for every fitness level. Sand bells are often compared to kettle bells but they are way more versatile – and less dangerous if you whack yourself in the leg or accidentally drop it on your toe. 😉

We slung the sand bells on our shoulders and walked down to the bunker which offered spectacular views of Baker Beach and Lands End to the left, and the towering Golden Gate Bridge to our right. This is called working out with one of the best views in the world.

Miller’s workouts always include a high intensity, short interval section which is designed to increase your endurance and build strength. The workouts are comprised of a set of exercises that you do for repetitions or for time, trying to complete as many sets as you can over a 10-20 minute period.

At Saturday’s workout, we had four things to complete in each round: pushups, squat thrusts (with the sand bell), sand bell swings, and horizontal pulls on the railing of the bunker. After completing those, we had to run down 80 stairs and back up, then rinse and repeat. We had to do three sets in total – 20 repetitions of each in the first set, then 15 in the second, and 9 in the final set.

I was sucking wind for most of the workout, but I was motivated by the group, especially the guy next to me who made it all look pretty easy. And even though it was a tough workout, everyone completed it because they could go at their own pace.

“My classes welcome people with various fitness levels, so the workouts are designed to be challenging for everyone – but not impossible,” Miller says. “I want people to feel like they’ve accomplished something, and that they had a good time doing it.”

Miller says her coaching style was best described by one of her clients – “warm yet demanding”. She’s not a drill sergeant barking orders, but she’ll push you to work hard and encourages a supportive environment in class.

After the high intensity section, we did a few exercises to target our core (abdomen), including a distracting yet effective plank that had us moving the sand bell up and back a straight line while we were in the push-up position. After a couple of rounds of that, we walked/jogged back up from the bunker to Immigrant Point, where we cooled down and stretched.

Another benefit to group workouts seems obvious but it’s worth mentioning – meeting new people, many of them from my own neighborhood.

One woman lived close by in the Presidio and was there to get back into shape after taking time off from working out. Another was a personal training client of Miller’s who wanted to supplement her solo workouts with a group class. A married couple joined the class so they could workout together.

“I also like the group dynamic because I push myself so much harder than I do when I workout on my own,” the husband said.

Bright1Fitness’ outdoor group fitness classes are offered at a variety of locations and times, including morning classes in Mt. Lake Park (6am, 7am) and the Presidio (10:30am), evening classes in Golden Gate Park (6:30pm) and Saturday mornings in the Presidio (9am). Miller also offers personal training.

Bright1Fitness offers a range of price packages, depending on how often you want to come out. Rates start at $120 a month for 2 classes per week. You can take your classes in the same location, or split between one or more locations.

Plus, through March 15, Bright1Fitness is offering an additional 20% off the first month to readers of the Richmond District Blog. Just mention the blog when you’re signing up (new signups only; discount is limited to first month only).

So no excuses, readers! If you had a New Year’s resolution to get fit and it seems to be slipping away, here’s your chance. Your first class is free, so why not come out and give it a try. And if you do decide to sign up, you get 20% off.

Thanks to Bright1Fitness and my classmates from last Saturday for a great workout – I’m looking forward to more “push-ups with a view”!

Sarah B.

8:15 am | Posted under Classes, Golden Gate Park, Health, Parks | 3 comments

Tile painting fundraiser for newly renovated Cabrillo Playground, Sunday

Examples of tiles that have been painted for the project

Cabrillo Playground is currently undergoing renovations which include remodeling of the historic clubhouse as well as a complete overhaul of the children’s play area, creating separate play areas for pre-school and school age children.

Work will also be done to the picnic area and sport courts, paths will be repaved, new lighting will be added, accessibility improved and new landscaping installed. The playground is expected to re-open this summer.

This Sunday, the Friends of Cabrillo Playground are hosting a fundraiser where donors can create tiles that will be inset into the concrete seat walls of the new playground.

You can purchase and paint a tile to be included in the project. Tile sizes available are 3 1/2″ rounds, 4″ squares and 8″ squares, with donation costs starting at $25.

The theme for the design is “the ocean”. Come with your own design or get inspired by some of the sample tiles and images that will be at the workshop. All materials are provided at the event. Helpful Tips & Guidelines (PDF)

The tile painting workshop runs from 11:30am until 2:30pm at the Richmond Recreation Center, located on 18th Avenue between California and Clement. All ages are welcome.

Sarah B.

A conceptual rendering of how tiles will be inset into the playground’s seat walls

5:10 am | Posted under Events, Parks | 4 comments

Lands End’s “Eagles Point” overlook up next for renovations; info event Saturday

A drawing of the new Eagles Point lookout; the current platform (inset)

One of our favorite lookouts in the neighborhood is from Eagles Point, at the entrance to Lands End near 32nd Avenue and El Camino. It’s a spectacular overlook of Baker Beach and the grand Golden Gate Bridge.

The Parks Conservancy and National Park Service are in the early stages of design for a new and improved lookout that would be located a bit further down the trail. Other planned improvements include stabilizing the trail, improving its surface, and removing unsafe or diseased trees.

This project will replace the existing deteriorated viewing platform with a new view point. The new view point will be accessible, easier to maintain, and set back within the trail alignment. The view point design includes benches for sitting and enjoying views of the Golden Gate. A small concrete curb will protect the viewpoint’s outer edge. Non-native, invasive trees will be removed from the viewshed. The trail to the new viewpoint will be resurfaced and regraded to meet The Draft Final Accessibility Guidelines for Outdoor Developed Areas (AGODA) standards. Native vegetation will be planted in areas disturbed by tree and overlook removal and adjacent to the new viewpoint.

Stop by the current Eagles Point trailhead this Saturday, January 12 at 10am to check out the designs for the new lookout, and to ask any questions you have about the project. Or visit the project website for more information, or download the plan (PDF).

Work is scheduled to begin in Fall 2013.

Sarah B.

5:33 am | Posted under Lands End, Parks, Recreation | 4 comments

Fulton Playground re-opens with a colorful celebration

Argonne students try out the new climbing structure at Fulton Playground. Photo by SFDPW

Even though the sun didn’t RSVP, about 200 people showed up to celebrate the new Fulton Playground on Tuesday afternoon. After a year-long closure and a $4.2 million budget, the park re-opened with a completely new playground, resurfaced basketball and tennis courts, and upgrades to the park’s historic Clubhouse.

The park also features a unique, kinetic sculpture from artist Moto Ohtake:

Aero #8 is a 22-foot wind driven kinetic sculpture comprised of several interlocking loops that move in continuous gyroscopic circular motions, allowing viewers to experience an infinite number of movement combinations in response to changes in wind patterns.

The playground’s makeover was financed by the $185 million Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond that voters passed in 2008. Lincoln Park Playground was also renovated from bond funds, and Cabrillo Playground recently began its renovations.

Included in Tuesday’s celebration were students from Argonne Elementary School and neighbors who live near the park, several of whom were very involved in the planning and redesign of the park. They worked closely with the Department of Public Works who project managed the renovation.

Fulton Playground consists of a clubhouse, two children’s play areas, three paved multi-use paved areas, a paved picnic area, two basketball courts, and one tennis court.

Congratulations to everyone involved in breathing new life into this favorite neighborhood park!

Sarah B.

Playing hoops on the newly surfaced courts at Fulton Playground. Photo by SFDPW.

A close up of the new kinetic sculpture by Moto Ohtake. Photo by SFDPW

Exterior of the renovated clubhouse at the playground. Photo by SFDPW

Interior of the renovated clubhouse at the playground. Photo by Peter Lauterborn

The DPW Project Team for the Fulton Playground renovation. Photo by SFDPW

Photo by Peter Lauterborn

10:15 am | Posted under Parks | 3 comments

New Rec & Park iPhone app puts a local park directory in your pocket

Last week, the city unveiled a new iPhone app for San Francisco Recreation and Parks.

The SF Rec and Park App provides the public with the best app to find locations including Parks, Children’s Playgrounds, Dog Parks, Museums, Rec Centers, Picnic Tables, Gardens, Restrooms, News, Events, and POI’s all provided with descriptions, pictures and displayed on a GPS enabled Mobile Map with directions.

The app uses your current location to show you the closest parks closest. Or you can search for parks and even filter your results by 24 different criteria like athletic fields, dog play area, children’s play area, skate park, and even community garden.

Tap on a park to see a photo of it, get hours and directions, and even sign up to be notified of volunteer opportunities.

The app has a reservations section where you can email in requests for picnic table space at parks, including Golden Gate Park. A great time saver when you’re planning an outdoor event (though as CurbedSF points out, you still have to wait for an email reply from Rec & Park to confirm your reservation). Still, loads easier than navigating the Rec & Park website or trying to find phone numbers.

The app also has an Events section which based on your location, will show you nearby happenings. Included in our list was a variety of events including the latest exhibition at the Conservatory of Flowers, Off the Grid at Civic Center, free Zumba classes, and habitat restoration volunteer events.

This is a good first effort for an app like this, and I can imagine this being handy for the SF families on the go that are looking for parks, or events to spice up the weekend.

However we did roll our eyes a bit at the persistent “Donate to Rec & Park” prompts that are visible on every park’s listing page, and even from the main screen of the app – especially since the app was developed at no cost for the city by local developer Appallicious.

SFGate reports that “upgrades to the app scheduled over the next few months will eventually let anyone report park problems to 311 using the app and also buy tickets to Rec and Park events on their phones.”

You can download the “City of San Francisco Recreation and Parks Official Mobile App” (whew, long name!) from the iTunes App Store.

Sarah B.

P.S. – Appalicious says an Android version should be available in January 2013.

5:12 am | Posted under Golden Gate Park, Parks | 3 comments

Fulton Playground renovation complete! Grand re-opening event on October 30

The new play structures at Fulton Playground. Photo by ed_chinmv

After almost exactly one year, Fulton Playground is now ready to re-open after a complete renovation.

The playground and clubhouse closed in November 2011 to undergo a $4.2 million renovation that includes a completely new playground, resurfacing of the basketball and tennis courts, and upgrades to the park’s Clubhouse. The park also showcases a unique, kinetic sculpture from artist Moto Ohtake.

On Tuesday, October 30 Rec & Park will host the official re-opening party at 11am. Stop by to checkout all the new structures, surfaces and renovated clubhouse. View event flyer

In an email inviting residents to the re-opening, SF Rec & Park Project Manager Paulina Araica thanked neighbors, many of whom participated in the planning of the new playground.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the neighboring residents on 27th and 28th Avenue for being supportive and understanding during the construction of the project,” Araica wrote.

It’s great to see another park being improved in the Richmond District! Next up is Cabrillo Playground which closed in June of this year for an overhaul. It’s scheduled to re-open in June 2013.

Sarah B.

The new kinetic scuplture by Moho Ohtake. Photo by ed_chinmv

The newly renovated Fulton Playground. Photo by ed_chinmv

5:15 am | Posted under Events, Parks | 3 comments

NYC’s “Ranting Elmo” shows up at Rossi Park; chased off by police

An adult man dressed up in an Elmo costume appeared at Rossi Park this past Saturday, walking around and trying to hug children.

Parents were concerned by the man’s appearance and demeanor, so they called police who came to the park, just as the man was taking off his costume in the area of the tennis courts.

“As he passed all of us to leave he started yelling obscenities and anti-Semitic slurs. He just went nuts,” wrote one parent on an online message board about the incident.

Police left without arresting the man, and soon after he returned to continue his tirade in front of the 50 or 60 children who were playing soccer at Rossi.

That prompted another call to police who responded with six squad cars. They eventually forced him off the playground but did not arrest him.

It turns out this Elmo impersonator has a past, and a checkered one at that. He was written up in the New York Times in June in an article entitled “Beneath a Ranting Elmo’s Mask, a Man With a Disturbing Past”.

He’s known as “Mr. Sandler” and was making his rounds in New York City’s Central Park this summer, earning money for hugging children while he was in costume. During his outings, Sandler would break into outbursts and crazy rants, many of them anti-semitic. His tirades were caught on video and even ended up on CNN.

Parents who were at Rossi on Saturday confirmed that the man profiled in the New York Times article is the same one they saw at the park.

Sandler has spent time in mental hospitals and was deported from Cambodia after a scandal involving an internet porn site he started there called Welcome to the Rape Camp.

And now it seems that this crazy Elmo has made his way to San Francisco. We have not heard of any other reports of him showing up at local parks, but keep an eye out and if you do spot him, contact the police to intervene.

Sarah B.

5:23 pm | Posted under Crime, Parks | 4 comments