Meredith’s Blog

News from my desk . . .

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Hi Park People

Here are a bunch of things that I am currently working on.  Thought you might want to see what’s on my desk and on my mind at the moment:

·  Dolores Park Playground is on track to have the bid package go out for construction in the spring, once the next bonds get sold in March. Ground breaking is still set for summer 2010.

·  Sarah Ballard moved  from City Hall to Rec and Park last week. Sarah will be working on policy and partnership issues.

·  Bob Palacio is acting Supervisor of Neighborhood Services at RPD until 5/1/10

·  Comments were due this week on the Hunter’s Point Shipyard Environmental Impact Report (EIR). An EIR is required for most land use projects under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”, pronounced “SEE Kwaa”) and when approved, it becomes the playbook or roadmap for how a project can progress. Basically, NPC wants the best possible options for parks and connectivity for bikes and pedestrians possible, and so our comments focused on that (click here to read.)

·  I spoke in favor of the 8 Washington Street development at a northern waterfront advisory group meeting last week.  The development would reconfigure the Golden Gateway Tennis & Swim Club and provide two new open spaces.  This is also a very controversial project because a private club would be impacted and a condo development would be built. However, the condos will only be 84 feet tall (while the buildings behind them are 215 feet tall) and will be LEED certified. The development also calls for closing a couple sections of streets to allow for pedestrians.

·  NPC will be working closely with Rec and Park in the upcoming weeks to set budget priorities. Rec and Park needs to cut $12M from the $33M General Fund money which they get as a part of their overall $117M budget.

Draft Tree Program Documents Released; Rec and Park Seeks Comments

Friday, January 15th, 2010

On Monday, January 11th, I attended a presentation on the DRAFT prioritization for the Hazard Tree Abatement Plan of the Neighborhood Park Bond. This is the basic plan in which RPD’s urban forestry expert outlines the work that Rec and Park will do with the $4M allotted by the bond. The consultant, HortScience, walked us through the rationale and data used to determine which parks will get priority for hazard tree work.

There are a few important things to keep in mind here:

1. The $4M of bond money for tree work will not fund everything we need done in our parks.

2. HortScience feels pretty strongly that the $4M will cover a forestry plan that will be based on the assessment conducted on all of the parks. This city-wide assessment will give us valuable data so we can know what each park needs. HortScience is going to try to help Rec and Park’s tree crew move from being solely reactive to tree failures, to be able to do more preventative maintenance.

3. In addition to covering an assessment of each park and the planning, the $4M should also cover the parks, or portion of larger parks, identified in priority group 1.

4. Not all parks need hazard tree work but all need maintenance, and the priority list will reflect hazards that must be taken care of immediately.

5. Most trees fail during storms, and most severe injures caused by failing trees occur on properties adjacent to parks, or on roadways, causing car crashes. For that reason, HortScience is emphasizing that hazard work should happen first near roads or structures where people tend to linger. HortScience has not prioritized tree work in all playgrounds, for example, because they feel there is a greater likelihood that people will be driving on the road, rather than be inside a park, during a storm.

The group who attended the tree presentation on Monday included NPC, Parks Trust, SF Environment’s Urban Forestry program, Nature in the City and the California Native Plant Society. The group felt that while the consultant had strong rationale for his recommendations, we all wanted to see the detail on how they decided which parks were put into each of the three priority groups.

Rec and Park is going to revise the report to reflect their prioritization decisions. For now, I invite you to send feedback on the overall plan and approach.

RPD would like to present this to the Commission on February 4th. Please review the draft documents below and send your input or questions to Karen Mauney-Brodek: or (415) 831-2789

Click here to read the DRAFT Tree Hazard Prioritization Plan

Click here to view Rec and Park’s presentation, “Tree Risk Area Identification and Prioritization” (PowerPoint)

Leadership Change at NPC

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

The leadership of NPC has reached an important moment of transition. As our founding Executive Director, Isabel Wade, moves on and passes the torch to Meredith Thomas, both of these remarkable leaders have messages for our coalition.

Dear NPC Coalition,

As most of you know, I will be starting my summer gardening stint and life in the slow lane (at least for the short-term) on July 1st.  After 13 years at the helm of NPC, it is very satisfying to look back and see all that we have accomplished together as a force for parks and open space in the City.

The largest satisfaction, however, has been the privilege of working with so many fantastic, dedicated, savvy San Franciscans who care so deeply about our neighborhood parks.  My hat is off to you all and I look forward to being part of the ongoing effort to create great and sustainable parks in San Francisco as a member of NPC’s Board of Directors.

I also hope that you will join me today in supporting NPC with your most generous contribution to the Isabel Wade Advocacy Fund, which will help Meredith get off to a great start. I am confident that I am leaving you in great hands.  See you all at the Summer Social on July 8th!

Warm regards, Isabel Wade

Click here to read a July 6th article in the SF Examiner about Isabel’s departure.


Dear Friends,

I am both excited and deeply motivated to step in as the Executive Director of the Neighborhood Parks Council (NPC). Running NPC programs over the last few years has allowed me to work closely with many of you and develop a huge amount of respect and admiration for the dedication you have for your neighborhood parks expressed through your volunteerism, philanthropy and advocacy. Without a doubt, your efforts help to ensure our neighborhood parks are loved and that San Francisco remains one of the world’s most beautiful places to spend time outdoors.

Over the past 13 years, our coalition has worked tirelessly to identify and solve major challenges within San Francisco’s park system. Excitingly, we are making progress toward addressing some of the most difficult park issues, such as scarcity of resources, by leveraging opportunities to improve volunteer access, simplifying the process for communities to conduct park improvements and make capital gifts, and identifying new funding tools and exploring best practices for maintenance of our existing facilities.  Your continued involvement is needed to take your individual successes forward and apply them to all of our neighborhood parks.

Currently, I am excited that we can partner with the Recreation and Parks Department to implement projects associated with the 2008 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond. It is good news that there is dedicated funding to improve our parks, from large-scale renovations at several facilities, to system-wide improvements to restrooms, park forests and trails. NPC is especially excited by the $5 Million Community Opportunity Fund and is working hard to ensure that this portion of the bond will empower you to enact needed park improvements that will excite your neighbors into action and help sustain exciting volunteer efforts.

While the economic climate we find ourselves in is a definite challenge for the future of our neighborhood parks, it reinforces parks as an aspect of our lives and community that are most central to our happiness and well-being. Additionally, this opportunity fosters close collaboration among non-profit organizations, neighborhood groups, elected officials and City departments. As a coalition, NPC is at the table to work with the Recreation and Parks Department and City officials to enhance how volunteers can help their parks and to identify new ways to ensure each park’s long-term health in every neighborhood of San Francisco.

NPC thrives because of our coalition. Each day our staff works hard to support community members and keep neighborhood parks high on the civic radar.  I appreciate your active participation in San Francisco’s neighborhood parks and look forward to supporting your efforts for many years to come.

Sincerely, Meredith Thomas

Click here to see an interview with Meredith speaking about the work of NPC on Comcast Newsmakers.  To read Meredith’s complete bio, click here.