A "Save the Sand" Letter to the Rec and Park Commission

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By James Sword, HANC Board Member

We recently received notice that the new Panhandle Playground design would not only include a sand element, but also would have a reduced "sand buffer" so as to enlarge the proposed sand play area.

We all did a brief jump for joy while lamenting what it's taken to get here and what still needs to happen. Below (shortened to fit this newsletter) is an example of a letter written to the SFRPD Commission upon the publishing of the latest design.


Dear Commissioners,

Thank you for the update on Panhandle Playground. We are elated the department has listened to the community and to child development experts by including a sand element in the new playground design concept.

We are disheartened at the level of advocacy it has taken for the department to consider common sense ideas by those who work in the field of what is good for children. When designing a playground, this type of input should be one of the first sought out, not an afterthought. In case you weren’t aware, here is what it took a small group of parents who work full time and have multiple small children to be able to enact this victory for children around the Panhandle:

  • Attendance at 4 community meetings (in addition to other playgrounds)
  • Reliable computer/internet access to participate in 3 online surveys
  • The ability to take time off of work to meet with district supervisors and speak at commission hearings and PROSAC meetings
  • Access to childcare from a partner or relative in order to be fully present at community meetings (often held at the busiest time for working families)
  • Multiple evening meetings and countless email exchanges between Save the Sand sympathizers to synthesize Rec and Park’s changing narrative and coordinate our response
  • Design and distribution of a petition to Save the Sand in SF
  • Design and maintenance of a fully functioning website, updated with the latest information from SFRPD
  • Many hours writing and publishing 12 blog posts and multiple social media posts to make others aware of what was happening and what is at stake
  • Access to reporters of 3 different publications
  • Three public records requests and countless hours reading over the resulting documents in order to connect the dots of SFRPD’s motives and the moving target of their public statements.
  • For some of us, the agency and authority to publicly question and disagree with SFRPD staff without our entire race being judged as noisy, disrespectful, or threatening by our actions.

Had we not had access to even one aspect of this list, it’s possible that SFRPD would have gone on to exclude sand from the conversation or make it appear as though the community is not interested in having access to sand. We cannot underestimate the advantage that the last item has given us throughout this process.

Our greatest concern is that there are communities that do not have all of these advantages, and may have more immediate personal or community needs that take precedent. We are not just advocating for the children in the Panhandle area to have access to sand. We are advocating for the children of other Save the Sand members in under-resourced neighborhoods. We are advocating for any child in SF schools to have access to play-based development of STEM concepts that connect to what they learn in school. We are advocating for any child with development/social/sensory challenges to have access to this inclusive element.

We are glad to see that this has happened at Panhandle Playground. We will continue to pursue these goals in order to ensure they are met at all SFRPD playgrounds undergoing renovation.

Thank you


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