The History of Groundplay
In 2010 the San Francisco Planning Department launched Pavement to Parks. It was a pilot program with a bold mission: to turn underused city spaces into inviting public places, simply and quickly.
Community participation and a can-do mentality would be key. Projects would start as experiments to test out ideas for long-term improvements, and so wouldn’t involve a lengthy planning process. Citizens would drive projects in their neighborhoods from beginning to end. And a dedicated city staff would shepherd projects through the city’s bureaucracy, assess outcomes, and connect community organizers with local civic and business groups with needed resources and expertise.
The idea caught fire.
Across the city, public spaces of all kinds were transformed by the collective imagination and inventiveness of ordinary citizens. Parking spaces became parklets (a term coined by the program); city streets were reclaimed for walking and biking; empty lots were transformed into vibrant playgrounds. Interactive installations along the sidewalks of Market Street beckoned pedestrians to new adventures.
As the number and types of projects grew, new programs arose within the Planning Department alongside Pavement to Parks to handle them: including Living Innovation Zones (LIZ) and the Market Street Prototyping Festival.
Then in 2017, to better coordinate projects, raise public awareness, and take the whole idea to the next level, the programs shed their separate identities and merged into one integrated program: Groundplay.
Groundplay now serves as catalyst and communication hub for ALL pilot public-space projects in San Francisco that are citizen-powered and city-sanctioned.
It’s also a resource for groups around the country (and beyond) who want to make better use of public space to answer the needs and dreams of their communities.