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New park space opens in San Francisco

Neighbors gather for the opening ceremony of Merced Heights Playground on Friday. | Maryann Jones Thompson/The Standard

Though fog obscured the ocean views from Merced Heights, spirits were high as nearly 100 neighbors and government officials gathered to celebrate the completion of the final phase of work on a popular neighborhood park.

“There’s no such thing as a cold and gloomy day when you’re cutting the ribbon on a new park—it’s beautiful out!” said Phil Ginsburg, general manager for San Francisco Recreation and Parks at the dedication for Merced Heights Playground near the corner of Monticello and Shields streets in Ingleside.

The park is another newly refurbished outdoor space for San Franciscans—even in a city that dedicated nearly 25 acres of new parkland last year. 

“Parks are not just nice to have,” Ginsburg said. “They’re a utility—they’re must-haves.”

The majority of the $1.67 million park remodel was reopened in 2020 following a renovation driven by the LetsPlaySF! playground initiative. At the time, a lawn on the lower terrace was left out of the project due to budget constraints.

A new dog play area is part of the reopened Merced Heights Playground. | Maryann Jones Thompson/The Standard

Now the new grassy lawn is officially finished. The final piece was mainly funded by a $1.05 million California State Parks Local Assistance State Grant that was driven through the state by Assemblymember Phil Ting, who spoke at the event.

“This is the culmination of a lot of people’s work that have been working a really long time,” said District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safaí at the ceremony.

When first campaigning in the area, Safaí described how locals said they didn’t get treated fairly in this part of the city, continually telling him, “Just make sure you get this park done.”

“This is our fair share,” Safaí said. “This is our day.”

A play structure with astroturf.
The Merced Heights Playground has a play structure and youth center on the top terrace. | Maryann Jones Thompson/The Standard | Source: Maryann Jones Thompson/The Standard

The park occupies half of a city block in the neighborhood just above the intersection of Junipero Serra Boulevard and 19th Avenue. The top terrace is home to the new play structure, swings, a full basketball court and a youth center. The other terraces have tennis courts, a large, fenced-in dog park and the new lawn area for picnicking.

“It’s not the same old Byxbee Park, but we’re doing a lot of good things here,” said Renard Monroe, executive director of Youth First, a nonprofit organization that runs children’s programming on the park’s upper terrace.

Renard Monroe speaks at the dedication for Merced Heights Playground, surrounded by Recreation and Parks General Manager Phil Ginsburg, Supervisor Ahsha Safaí and Assemblymember Phil Ting. | Maryann Jones Thompson/The Standard

Monroe thanked the many neighbors who worked for years to clean up the park—formerly called Byxbee Park—on their own before the remodel, including many volunteers who have died and were represented at the ceremony by their children.

Monroe also invited the community to a family celebration at the park on July 7 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. but cautioned visitors against expecting clear skies.

“Don’t come here looking for the sun—this is our ‘every day,’” said Monroe to laughs from the crowd. “This is Lakeview—this is our summer right here. This is hot!”