San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department

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San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department
San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department Logo.jpg
Recreation & Parks Department Headquarters
Agency overview
Preceding agency
  • Park Commission, Recreation Commission
JurisdictionSan Francisco
HeadquartersMcLaren Lodge
Agency executives
  • Mark Buell, Commission President
  • Phil Ginsburg, General Manager
Parent agencyCity and County of San Francisco

The San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department is the city agency responsible for governing and maintaining all city-owned parks and recreational facilities in San Francisco, California. The Recreation & Parks Department also runs Sharp Park in Pacifica, California and Camp Mather in Tuolumne County, California. Current facilities include 4,113 acres (1,664 ha) of total recreational and open space with 3,400 acres (1,376 ha) of that land within San Francisco. The department runs 179 playgrounds and play areas, 82 recreation centers and clubhouses, nine swimming pools, five golf courses, 151 tennis courts, 72 basketball courts, 59 soccer fields, numerous baseball diamonds, and other sports venues.[1]


Map of San Francisco in 1932.
A satellite view of San Francisco today.
A satellite view of San Francisco today.

The San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department began in 1871 when city officials responding to residents' demands for a large public park established the Park Commission to oversee the development of Golden Gate Park.[2] As San Francisco grew over of the years, parks and facilities were added all over the city. Separately the city was running playgrounds, athletic fields, and recreational facilities under the direction of the Recreation Commission. In 1950 the two commissions were merged and the San Francisco Recreation & Park Department was born.


The general manager is appointed by the mayor of San Francisco. General Manager Phil Ginsburg oversees a staff of over 850 that includes gardeners, foresters, natural resource, pest management and nursery specialists, recreation and summer camp staff, lifeguards, park rangers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, metal shop/welders and painters plus many many more from the historic headquarters inside McLaren Lodge at the east end of Golden Gate Park.


The Recreation & Parks Department is governed by a seven-member commission who are also appointed by the mayor of San Francisco to four-year terms. The commission president is elected by fellow commissioners. Commission meetings are held once a month at San Francisco City Hall.[3] Current members are: Mark Buell (President), Allan Low (Vice President), Gloria Bonilla, Tom Harrison, Meagan Levitan, and Eric McDonnell.[citation needed]

Concerns have been expressed by park advocates about the lack of diversity of opinion on the commission and in the department, due to the fact that all of the positions are appointed by the mayor of San Francisco. In the past, there have been efforts to change the selection process for commissioners. A prior proposal included having three commissioners appointed by the mayor of San Francisco, three commissioners appointed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and one additional appointment agreed to by the mayor of San Francisco and the president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.[4][5] This proposal had five votes on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors but was not able to get the sixth vote necessary to put it on the ballot.

Major features[edit]

View of downtown from Golden Gate Park.

The department is responsible for over 220 neighborhood parks and Golden Gate Park, the largest and the fifth most visited park in the United States.[6] The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is federal and is administered by the National Park Service.

Golden Gate Park[edit]

Golden Gate Park is San Francisco's premier municipal park. Planted in 1871 the park covers 1,017 acres (412 ha) of land across the western edge of San Francisco. Configured as a rectangle, the park is over three miles long east to west and about half a mile north to south.[7]

McLaren Park[edit]

McLaren Park is the second largest municipal park in San Francisco. Located in south-east San Francisco, the park is surrounded by the Excelsior, Crocker-Amazon, Visitacion Valley, Portola and University Mound neighborhoods.

Dolores Park[edit]

Dolores Park is a city park located two blocks south of Mission Dolores at the western edge of the Mission District. Dolores Park is bounded by 18th Street on the north, 20th Street on the south, Dolores Street on the east and Church Street on the west.

Coit Tower[edit]

Coit Tower is a 210-foot (64 m) tower in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood. The tower, in the city's Pioneer Park, was built in 1933 using Lillie Hitchcock Coit's bequest to beautify the city of San Francisco. The tower was proposed in 1931 as an appropriate use of Coit's gift.


The Zoo is owned by the Recreation & Parks Department and managed by its partner non-profit San Francisco Zoological Society.[8]

Candlestick Park[edit]

Candlestick Park was home of the San Francisco 49ers through the 2013 season and was home of the San Francisco Giants until 2000. In 2014 the 49ers moved to the new Levi's Stadium and Candlestick Park has been being torn down.

Kezar Stadium and Pavilion[edit]

Kezar Stadium was renovated in 1989.

Kezar Stadium is and outdoor 10,000 seat multi-purpose stadium located in the southeastern corner of Golden Gate Park. Before being renovated and downsized in 1989 it was the former home of the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders.[9] The adjacent Kezar Pavilion is an indoor arena built in 1924 and seats 4,000.

Boxer Stadium[edit]

Boxer Stadium is a 3,500 seat soccer-specific stadium built in 1953 within Balboa Park. The primary tenant is the amateur men's San Francisco Soccer Football League.[10]

Marina Harbor[edit]

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marina Harbor.

The Marina Harbor is a public 671 slip small craft yacht harbor located in the Marina District across from the Marina Green.[11][12] Also located in the marina is the St. Francis Yacht Club and Golden Gate Yacht Club.

Palace of Fine Arts[edit]

The Palace of Fine Arts was retrofitted in 2009.

The Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District is a monumental structure originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in order to exhibit works of art presented there. One of only a few surviving structures from the Exposition, it is the only one still situated on its original site. It was rebuilt in 1965, and renovation of the lagoon, walkways, and a seismic retrofit were completed in early 2009.

Corona Heights Park[edit]

Corona Heights Park is a 15-acre park in the Castro and Haight districts that commands a view of the city, downtown financial district and the bay.[13] The park features the Randall Museum, which focuses on science, nature and the arts and features live animals, and is operated by the department.

Golf Courses[edit]

TPC Harding Park was named after President Warren G. Harding who died while visiting San Francisco in 1923.

The Recreation & Parks Department has five golf courses in San Francisco and Pacifica, California.

Camp Mather[edit]

Camp Mather is an overnight summer family camp in Tuolumne County, California on Highway 120 near Yosemite National Park.[19] The 337-acre site is often referred to as the jewel of the department.[20] Before becoming a camp the site was used by the construction workers who built the O'Shaughnessy Dam and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in the 1920s.[21]

Swimming pools[edit]

The department had nine swimming pools spread all over the city.[22]

Park rangers[edit]

San Francisco Park Rangers continue a long-lived tradition of serving the general public and all visitors of San Francisco’s parks. Park rangers patrol in various vehicles such as Ford Interceptors, ATVs, bikes, and UTVs. The San Francisco park rangers operate 365 days a year, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Their roles are similar to what in other cities are known as park police. Park rangers patrol and respond to calls at more than 260 recreation and park facilities situated on 3,400 acres of land throughout the city and county of San Francisco. These include neighborhood parks, playgrounds, recreation centers, playing fields, natural areas, tennis courts, golf courses, park stadiums and administrative park offices.


The San Francisco Park Rangers were founded by William Hammond Hall, San Francisco's first Superintendent of Parks, who established what was known as the Park Guard in 1874. San Francisco Parks has had their own special enforcement unit since that time. From the beginning, Mr. Hall recognized that the park's own officers could serve the public in a way that could not be provided by the regular city police.

Park Ranger duties[edit]

Under immediate supervision, Park Ranger duties and responsibilities include closing parking lot gates and securing recreational centers at night; opening parking lot gates and recreational centers in the morning; posting signs, reporting safety hazards, passively ejecting persons from the parks after park hours; patrolling all city and county Recreation and Park parks, facilities, greenways, natural areas, and waterfronts; performing security checks and parking enforcement only on Recreation and Parks properties; and issuing parking and notice to appear civil citations when necessary. As first responders of the parks, park rangers respond to all calls from park dispatch, including emergency and alarm response; crime prevention and intervention activities; and provide support to emergency services personnel such as police, fire, and emergency medical personnel. Park rangers are also tasked with providing public safety, maintaining the preservation and protection of park wildlife and its arboretums. Park rangers may also assist in other temporary emergency situations.

Park Ranger authority[edit]

San Francisco park rangers are civilian employees performing a government function and act only as public officers. Rangers primarily enforce the rules and regulations in the San Francisco Park Code, but may also enforce other city and county ordinances, and applicable California state laws including some parking violations of the California Vehicle Code. Only if safe to do so, enforcement is only done by verbal warning or citation for violations of the Park Code. Rangers observe and report situations that they are unable to handle. Like all other security officers, upon observation of the crime in his or her presence that requires immediate action, rangers may apprehend subjects engaged in certain criminal activities. Arrests by rangers are next to none. When an arrest is made for a crime, however, rangers must report it to the police department and turn arrestees over to them. Rangers regularly rely on the police department for non-compliant park users, people with mental illness, and other difficult situations outside their scope of duty, authority, and training. Therefore, reports of park rangers' use of force incidents are nearly nonexistent. When a person is non-compliant with the ranger's requests to leave the park and the ranger thinks that person needs to be forcibly removed from the park, he or she calls police officers to assist. It would then be up to the police officer's discretion whether it is appropriate to act.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "SF Rec & Park - Who We Are". Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  2. ^ San Francisco Board of Park Commissioners (1875), Third Biennial Report of the San Francisco Park Commissioners, San Francisco: Edward Bosqqui & Co., p. 55, retrieved 24 April 2013
  3. ^ "RECREATION & PARK COMMISSION". Retrieved 23 April 2013.
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Home".
  6. ^ "The Most Visited City Parks in the U.S." Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  7. ^ "Golden Gate Park". Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  8. ^ "SF Zoo - Overview". Archived from the original on 16 April 2013. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  9. ^ "West Coast Brew Gave Kezar Stadium Its Color". New York Times. January 20, 2012. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  10. ^ "San Francisco Soccer Football League". Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  11. ^ "SF Marina Small Craft Harbor".
  12. ^ "San Francisco Marina Harbor Association". Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  13. ^ Yollin, Patricia, "Natural high / Face-lift at Randall Museum shows off panoramic location", San Francisco Chronicle, 23 May 2003.
  14. ^ "TPC Harding Park". Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  15. ^ "Sharp Park Golf Club". Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  16. ^ "Gleneagles GC". Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  17. ^ "Golden Gate Park Golf Course". Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  18. ^ "Lincoln Park Golf Club". Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  19. ^ "SF Rec & Park - Camp Mather". Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  20. ^ "S.F.'s Camp Mather shortens visitors' week at summertime retreat". 7 January 2016.
  21. ^ "The Official Website of the FRIENDS OF CAMP MATHER". Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  22. ^ "SF Rec & Park - Aquatics". Retrieved 24 April 2013.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°46′20″N 122°27′17″W / 37.772224°N 122.454751°W / 37.772224; -122.454751