Portsmouth Square is the heart of San Francisco’s Chinatown: the main civic park for all community festivals and events as well as an important day-to-day outdoor living room for the community. Centered in the densest community in the United States west of the Hudson River, the park plays a critical role in the health and well-being of the local residents, over 40 percent of whom live in single-occupancy units.
Since being established as Yerba Buena’s first public space in 1833, Portsmouth Square has undergone many iterations, culminating with the building of an underground parking garage with an RHAA-designed park on top in the 1970s. SWA led a year-long, community-participatory planning process to envision this park for the next generation structured around five large public workshops, working with approximately 20 community groups and 30 key stakeholders, and coordination with six city agencies. The design takes into account stormwater design, solar power, high albedo surfaces, urban forestry, all over an existing structure.