Neighborhood Schoolyards Project celebrated at Claire Lilienthal School

Melanie Scanlon makes a bicycle-powered smoothie at the YMCA’s Ybike demonstration area (photo: b. mason)

Eleven San Francisco public school playgrounds that have been locked afterhours will now be open for kids to enjoy on the weekends, thanks to the Neighborhood Schoolyards Project. A family-oriented “grand opening” for the new program took place on Saturday, June 16 at Claire Lilienthal School in the Marina.

The project was spearheaded by District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell, who grew up near Claire Lilienthal. “One of my fondest memories of growing up in the Marina was playing basketball with my dad on the weekends at our local schoolyard.”

Farrell, who has expressed concern over the “family flight” issue San Francisco has witnessed in recent decades, wants today’s families to have the same opportunity for local recreation he enjoyed. Unfortunately, decreased public funding and school staffing since his childhood led to
schoolyard closures.

In October 2011, Farrell held a fundraiser for the express purpose of opening public schoolyards once again across the City. More than $120,000 was raised to help pay for staff to open and close the yards.

With funding available, the logistics of keeping playgrounds open has required the partnership of the Mayor’s Office, S.F. Parks and Recreation, and the S.F. Unified School District. Individual schools have the discretion to join the Neighborhood Schoolyards Project or not, and many principals have been fearful of property damage or vandalism if they participate, according to Farrell. To help with those concerns, the Department of Public Works has also joined the program, agreeing to pick up weekend garbage and provide a deep cleaning twice a year at each participating schoolyard.

As added incentive, any school that does participate also receives a $1,000 grant for their parent-teacher association.

This year, 11 schools – one in each of the city’s supervisorial districts – will now be open Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. A full list, which includes Claire Lilienthal, can be found online at

The posted rules of use include no smoking or alcohol, no dumping, no dogs, no unauthorized vehicles, and no adults on the play structures without being accompanied by a child. Neighbors can report any violations by calling 311.

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