$10 Million Donation from Helen Diller Family Foundation to Renovate Civic Center Plaza Playgrounds

Mayor Edwin M. Lee today announced a $10 million donation from the Helen Diller Family Foundation through The Trust for Public Land (TPL) for a major renovation of the Civic Center Plaza Playgrounds that is set to begin construction in summer 2016.

“For nearly 20 years, under Helen Diller’s leadership, the Helen Diller Family Foundation has dedicated their efforts in nurturing our communities through education, the arts and medical research and innovation,” said Mayor Lee. “We are grateful to have known Helen Diller, as a park lover, and a champion for children and families in San Francisco, and her legacy lives on through many of our City’s parks and playgrounds which will now include the Civic Center Plaza Playgrounds.”

“My mother hoped these playgrounds would provide a timeless anchor for one of the great civic plazas in the world,” said Helen Diller Family Foundation President Jackie Safier.

“Helen Diller and her family have generously contributed to re-build safe and uniquely fun playgrounds throughout the City including Julius Kahn Playground in Presidio Heights, Dolores Park’s Helen Diller Playground in the Mission, and now Civic Center Plaza Playground in the Civic Center and Tenderloin neighborhood,” said Rec and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg. “The Helen Diller Family Foundation has invested in a better future for San Francisco.”

The existing playgrounds at Civic Center Plaza are approximately 20 years old and in need of renovation and improvement. They are in an area where open space is limited for residents of the Tenderloin, Civic Center, Hayes Valley and South of Market neighborhoods. Because of their unique location, they also serve children attending nearby daycare centers, schools, and children who are visiting the Civic Center as part of their education.

The playgrounds are part of a larger park that is often the hub of the City’s cultural life and surrounded by the City’s most notable cultural institutions, including the Main Library, the Asian Art Museum, the San Francisco Symphony, the San Francisco Ballet, and many other institutions that have active programming for children.

The plan for the renovations came out of an extensive community process to develop the design for the new playgrounds that included a user survey, focus groups and community-wide workshops with stakeholders including parents, educators, children, institutions, and City agencies.

The Trust for Public Land is using the grant from the Helen Diller Family Foundation to design and construct two new playgrounds at no cost to the City. This project is part of an ongoing partnership with Rec and Park, which has recently resulted in complete renovations of Hayes Valley Playground and Clubhouse, Balboa Park, and Boeddeker Park and Clubhouse. This partnership has delivered over $16 million in investments to the parks in San Francisco.

“The Helen Diller Family Foundation’s unique gift to the city will bring a distinguished formal civic space to life through creative placemaking,” said The Trust for Public Land Director of City Park Development Adrian Benepe. “This project elevates the importance of art and children in the urban landscape and creates a national model for public engagement in central civic spaces.”

The landscape architect for the project is San Francisco-based firm Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture, recipient of numerous national awards including the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in Landscape Architecture and the American Society of Landscape Architect’s Design Medal. When completed, the playgrounds will be renamed the “Helen Diller Civic Center Playgrounds.”