The Mission District has been San Francisco's largest, most resilient Latino community for decades. The Mission survived years of disinvestment, urban renewal, and limited access to opportunity. Adding to these challenges, the neighborhood lacked places to play, learn, and experience nature.
In the early 1990s, the community began a 10 year process to create Parque Niños Unidos (Park of Children Together). Led by the community-based organization PODER (People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights), the neighborhood identified a vacant parcel of environmentally contaminated land and successfully advocated for the City of San Francisco to acquire ownership and build a children's park. Community members shaped the design of the park to reflect the neighborhood's culture and meet its needs. In addition to a playground, it includes a mural wall for the neighborhood, community garden, and club house with tailored educational programming.
Today, the park serves both the Latino community and more recent residents from a variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds. In a rapidly changing neighborhood where semi-private spaces such as stores, restaurants and clubs increasingly cater to either new or long-term residents, the park is a common space for everyone—where parents can meet and children of different backgrounds can play together and experience green space. Because they are able to come together, people are making their own stories—illustrating the importance of places able to evolve over time.
The story of Parque Niños Unidos is not over. Rapidly escalating housing costs and evictions is displacing longtime Latino residents that have defined the spaces throughout the neighborhood and created a collective set of community memories. This illustrates the impact on place of broad policy issues such as low-income housing preservation and production.
Interview with Antonio Diaz, Organizational
People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights, PODER