Originally a dirt plaza that served as the civic and commercial hub of the settlement of Yerba Buena and the site of San Francisco’s first City Hall, Portsmouth Square along Kearny Street between Washington and Clay has evolved into the unofficial “heart of Chinatown.”
Nestled amidst office towers and neighborhood shops, Portsmouth Square provides a much-needed relief from the crush of people on nearby streets – Chinatown is the most densely-populated urban area west of Manhattan, and accessible parks and open spaces are in limited supply. The Square provides a gathering space where residents can build a sense of community through an array of cultural, recreational and social activities – everything from tai chi and Chinese line dance lessons, to informal socializing with neighbors, to active play at the playgrounds, to afternoon card games. In addition to the critical role the square serves for local residents, Portsmouth Square continues to attract visitors from around the region and the world, hosting frequent walking tours, festivals, and other special events.
Last redesigned in the 1980’s, Portsmouth Square and the buffer blocks from Sacramento to Jackson are about to be “reimagined” by San Francisco’s Planning and Recreation and Parks Departments with a goal of creating “an enhanced public space and streetscape that is dynamic, multicultural, adaptable to diverse users and events, and reflective of local culture and history.”
A feasibility study for the Portsmouth Square Area Project will be drafted over the first half of 2014 with concept designs to be developed in the second half of the year. A detailed design, review and approvals for the project are slated for delivery in 2015.