Another Playground Will Lose Its Sand... Unless You Speak Up Now
May 22, 2019
After reading this update, please take the Golden Gate Heights Playground Survey and tell SF Recreation and Parks Department how you feel about them removing all the sand! Survey open till Monday May 27th.
It's been a while since we've written an update on the fight to save the sand in SF playgrounds. The latest sand playground undergoing the community feedback process for design options is Golden Gate Heights Playground. We were hopeful that our previous fights had paid off. What we didn't realize was that SFRPD had only gotten more deceptive in their tactics, and were continuing their efforts to remove sand from all SF playgrounds.
After two community meetings and one survey, it appeared that our fights to save the sand had resulted in some significant progress. Nearly two years ago, we were fighting to even get sand into the conversation. SFRPD was quietly removing all the sand from playgrounds and was not presenting any type of sand element as an option for playground redesigns. We heard a round of rotating reasons as to why ALL of the sand needed to be permanently removed. When we proposed solutions to each of these, a new excuse would pop up.
Fast forward to the present, and we thought we were seeing the effects of our efforts. These were just a few of the promising aspects we saw from the first two Golden Gate Heights Playground community meetings and survey:
A sand element was offered as an option among dozens of play elements in the first community meeting and survey.
One of the two design options presented at the second community meeting included a sand area, and elements could be swapped between the two designs.
The sand area did not require a massive concrete barrier (which SFRPD had tried to claim was necessary last year), allowing for more space for other play elements.
Project managers acknowledged that all surfacing materials need maintenance due to use, rather than blaming wear and tear on sand.
When the conversation at the second community meeting turned to sand, these were some of the comments from the community members in attendance:
"Sand can mold itself into whatever you want."
"Sand is just so highly used at playgrounds."
"Nothing is as tactile as sand."
"Why not have element that are used by kids of all ages, like sand?"
When project managers brought up the issues that "some people" have with sand and asked the audience if there were any people who were opposed to sand, not one person in this outspoken crowd raised their hand.
We thought we were making some progress, but then came the final community meeting.
Project managers explained that the second survey had asked people to choose between "similar" elements. Look closely at these options:
Deceptive Polling Tactic #1:
Sure, a seesaw and a spinner are kind of similar. But in what world are a climbing wall and slide similar to a sandbox? Who in their right mind would vote against a climbing wall and slide?
Project managers responded that these elements were paired together because they were similar in size, but several other elements take up approximately the same amount of space as both the sandbox and the slide/climbing wall when considering the dotted line fall zones:
A sandbox could easily be swapped out with the discs, arches, or wooden seating block:
You could even put those elements on top of sand, like they are in the stock photos of element options. Which brings us to...
Deceptive Polling Tactic #2:
You may be thinking, why would I need a plain old sandbox when the arches, seesaw, and swing will all be on sand?
What's that, they won't actually be on sand? None of the elements will be on sand? How many people do you think were tricked by those deceptive pictures?
And so, sand lost out. No sand is being planned for the renovated Golden Gate Heights Playground. And SFRPD is blaming the community for not making it a "preference".
But we have one more chance. A final survey was just posted for one week only to share your last thoughts about the playground design. You still have a chance to tell SFRPD that you won't stand for their deceptive tactics, and that all children in all neighborhoods deserve access to sand.
If you think the children of San Francisco deserve an accessible element that promotes open ended, imaginative, cooperative, sensory, and gross and fine motor play, please make your voices heard and take the Golden Gate Heights Playground Survey by Monday May 27th. And if you need more reasons or research on why sand is essential for all children, head over to our recently developed Why Sand? page.