Yerba Buena Gardens | Case Study

Yerba Buena Gardens  |  Case Study

San Francisco | California

In 1985, the site of Yerba Buena Gardens was a parking lot in a derelict neighborhood—the unsightly welcome mat to Moscone Convention Center’s original building in downtown San Francisco. The work of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency transformed the area and is considered a model for improving urban areas. A focal point of this strategy included creating Yerba Buena Gardens, which opened in 1993.

Today, Yerba Buena Gardens is centerpiece of the City’s cultural, convention and visitor district, surrounded by world-renown museums, hotels, educational institutions and shopping. Senior housing coexists with work/live lofts and luxury high-rise residences in a multicultural neighborhood. Yerba Buena also is home to the highest number of children of any neighborhood in the City.

There are three major components to over 12 acres in the Gardens.
One is a five-acre area with a landscaped lawn, public art, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and fountain, and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts performance building. Food, dining and entertainment opportunities include Metreon, Samovar Tea Lounge and other cafes.

The second area to the east is across a four-lane boulevard and it includes a five-acre children’s garden and play circle adjacent to the Children’s Museum, ice skating rink, bowling center, and historic carousel.

The third area to the west, across Mission Street, features the Contemporary Jewish Museum, restaurants and shopping at Jessie Square and Yerba Buena Lane.

Challenges
  • Create a new management structure and qualified provider to manage, operate and staff Yerba Buena Gardens on behalf of local government agencies.
  • Transform a derelict area in to a safe, comfortable and active focal point that connects a diversity of organizations interests and neighborhoods.
  • Establish a sense of community among diverse audiences: seniors, disabled communities, international and local visitors, conventioneers, and children and teens.
  • Integrate diverse and overlapping needs of City department’s nonprofits, educational and cultural institutions, hospitality and convention businesses, and local businesses.

Services Delivered
Our work at the Gardens began when it opened in 1993 and includes:
  • Comprehensive property management on behalf of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, and now the City Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure.
  • Asset manager for cafes, bowling and ice-skating centers, Children’s Creativity Museum and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA).
  • Short and long-term strategic planning for effective site management and maintenance, including work with all tenants on site improvements.
  • Placemaking development, including event management, security, maintenance, and site support, done in coordination with area stakeholders such as Moscone Convention Center, San Francisco Police Department, SFMOMA, Metreon and Yerba Buena Gardens Festival (which programs more than 100 free events each year) and others.
  • Revenue collection, reporting and analytics, including use of Asset Management Software provides scheduling and costs for capital improvement projects.
Transformation Tactics
  • Developing, managing and marketing programs that activated the Garden’s public spaces and facilities to cater to all audiences. For example, we:
  • Established the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival to draw a critical mass of people to the area.
  • Created the Garden Guides Program to serve urban youth and engage them in fair play.
  • Trained staff to assist international and non-English speaking residents and visitors.
  • Trained staff to work with artistic, festival, community and commercial users on event logistics with multiple city agencies..
  • Creating structures that integrate and coordinate the needs of overlapping organizations. For example, we established a community-based Yerba Buena Security Council to work directly with law enforcement. We also launched and maintain training programs for security staff who serve as ambassadors to the public, enforce City park code, assist with traffic and crowd control, and oversee a closed circuit TV system and radio dispatch center.
  • Establishing policies and programs for the long-term care and health of the Gardens. We implemented a zero pesticide and toxic free policy and comprehensive recycling program. There are also dedicated gardening, maintenance and clean teams to maintain its beauty and integrity and to service hardscape areas such as public restrooms.
Results

  • YBG is now the centerpiece of the City’s cultural, convention and visitor district.
  • Yerba Buena Gardens is considered a model for improving urban areas—a new and thriving Yerba Buena neighborhood blossomed after it was built.
  • YBG connects a diversity of interests and neighborhoods in a safe, comfortable and active public space—and as the backyard for a diverse multi-cultural neighborhood.
  • Yerba Buena Gardens Festival attracts over 120,000 people with over 1,300 world-class performing artists
  • Established a community-based Yerba Buena Security Council to work directly with law enforcement.
  • Implemented a zero pesticide and toxic free policy and comprehensive recycling program.

“MJMMG creates a magnet that draws people here.”

Arturo Riera| Yerba Buena Gardens Festival

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