Russian Hill gets an ultralux park. Too bad there’s not some housing, too

Somehow it is fitting that San Francisco’s newest public park, and the largest added to the northeast corner of the city in the decades, exists in a wealthy neighborhood and was funded by private donors.

We all can enjoy the panoramic views. Or the snaking footbridge that allows someone in a wheelchair to ascend a 35-foot slope. There’s no charge to explore a 4.5-acre terrain where the capacious dog park rivals the multi-level playground in size.

Fundamentally, though, Francisco Park exists because residents of Russian Hill had the time and money to make it happen — which also means other options, such as setting aside part of the land for much-needed housing, never seriously entered the discussion.

This doesn’t cheapen the generosity of the donors, or the value of the public resource that has been created. But it’s a reminder that urban feel-good stories are rarely as simple as they seem.

Leslie Alspach of San Francisco picks up some litter that he spots from the walkway at Francisco Park on Monday, May 9, 2022 in San Francisco, Calif.

Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle

Another attraction is the setting, which is old-school San Francisco. The eastern edge of the park borders a precipitously angled block of Hyde Street where cable cars trundle up and down on their journey from Powell Street to Aquatic Park. The Golden Gate Bridge spans one vista. Alcatraz looks close enough to touch. That chateau-like clocktower in-between rises from Ghirardelli Square.

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