Buena Vista Park - green space both tamed and wild
04 December 2013
Image: Pete Kiehart/The Chronicle
Architect Bonnie Fisher (M.L.A. '80), who has lived across from Buena Vista Park for 25 years, explores what the hill reveals about San Francisco today as part of urban design critic John King's revisit to The Chronicle's "Hills of San Francisco" series. Insights from both her career working with urban space and her familiarity with the area give Fisher a deeper understanding of the park as a space characteristic of San Francisco.
"The hill is the unifying element for the neighborhood, the punctuation mark, but also has so many aspects," said Fisher, who is Principal of ROMA Design Group with her husband, Boris Dramov. At 36 acres, the city's third-largest park is elevated above residential buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries, and overlooks Haight Street from its perch. A dense backdrop of trees distances the park from the communities encircling it.
The unmanicured trails attract an eclectic crowd, from street kids to tourists to professional dog walkers, and a gritty history of murders, crime and drug use lingers behind to give the park a wild dimension. Organized neighborhood activities including tree plantings and volunteer days complement the park's darker side, and Buena Vista Park has seen neighborly outings, weddings and memorial services. "There are layers of experience and history and meaning, a cultural landscape as well as a physical one," said Fisher. "It's an interesting place."