San Francisco Joins KABOOM! in National Effort to End Playspace Inequity

Mayor London N. Breed announced the City of San Francisco will partner with KABOOM! in the national nonprofit’s five-year plan toward achieving playspace equity in 25 priority places across the United States.

Through the initiative, KABOOM! and the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department will lead an ambitious $10 million plan to address gaps in access to quality, nature-rich children’s playspaces in communities that disproportionately lack resources. The initiative, which also counts on the collaborative San Francisco Children & Nature, will be rolled out in two phases.

Under the first phase, KABOOM! will lead a fundraising campaign with a goal of $2.5 million, with the City matching that amount, to improve four playgrounds located in the City’s Equity Zones—which are defined by the State of California as communities with a high concentration of one or more vulnerable population characteristics.

Using Equity Zone metrics ensures the project supports closing disparities and improving quality of life for the most vulnerable communities. Other factors, such as lower access to nearby nature, facility condition, and cost estimate will also be taken into consideration when selecting which playspaces will be upgraded. The first four sites to undergo playspace transformation will include Silver Terrace Playground, Tenderloin Recreation Center, Randolph-Bright Mini Park, and Purple Playground in Crocker-Amazon. The launch of this phase marks the first step in the long-term plan to ensure every child in San Francisco has a nature-rich place to play in their community.

Under the second phase of the initiative, KABOOM! will again lead a fundraising campaign with a goal of $2.5 million, with the City matching that amount, to improve four more playgrounds. Details on those sites will be announced at a future date.

“The past three years have taught us just how important it is for our kids to play and experience being in nature,” said Mayor London Breed. “Our partnership with KABOOM! will help ensure that every child in the city has equitable access to safe and creative places where they can enjoy the outdoors, cultivate their imaginations, and connect with friends and community members.”

Today’s announcement builds upon the City’s significant investment in equitable playspaces over the past decade, including $15.5 million allocation for playgrounds in the 2012 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks, $12 million in philanthropy through the LetsPlaySF! campaign, and $9 million earmarked for playgrounds in the 2020 Health and Recovery Bond.

“Having access to the outdoors is vital to children’s development and sense of community,” said Rec and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg. “Equity and access to the benefits of nature and creative play drive so many of our projects, and our partnership with KABOOM! will help us take it further by guaranteeing innovative playspaces for all San Francisco kids, no matter where they live.”

San Francisco is the third city announced as an official partner in the 25 in 5 Initiative to End Playspace Inequity. In April 2022, KABOOM! announced Baltimore as its inaugural partner, kicking off work with Baltimore City Recreation and Parks and Baltimore City Public Schools, with strong support from Mayor Brandon Scott. Together with KABOOM!, these committed partners will help drive resources for quality playspaces to the kids and communities that are too often denied opportunities to thrive.

“As we double down on our commitment to ending playspace inequity, we also have the ability to make sure our kids can explore and build a stronger connection to nature in ways they haven’t had the opportunity to experience,” said KABOOM! CEO Lysa Ratliff. “We are grateful to bring partners and communities together in this way that allows us to achieve equity while also playing a role in protecting the planet, our most valuable resource.”

Projects like these incorporate green infrastructure, such as using locally sourced natural materials and designing with climate remedies in mind, that can minimize environmental impact and create nature-based play and learning opportunities. KABOOM! is committed to ensuring our playground projects provide cleaner, safer environments for kids in communities across the country.

KABOOM! and Rec and Park, alongside San Francisco Children & Nature, will prioritize expanding access to places to play across the city by creating nature-rich playspaces for kids and communities to enjoy. Research summarized by The Children & Nature Network shows that connecting children with nature improves physical and mental health and well-being, as well as cognitive development and learning. Furthermore, according to the national nonprofit Trust for Public Land, San Francisco residents in predominantly white neighborhoods have access to 42 percent more park space than those who live in neighborhoods where most residents identify as people of color. Achieving playspace equity through nature-based play supports kids’ ability to be active, nurture their creativity and development, and become stewards of the environment.

KABOOM! has a rich history of partnering with organizations in San Francisco to create playspaces that spark joy and foster a sense of belonging for kids who are often denied opportunities, especially in communities of color. Most recently, alongside Rec and Park, San Francisco Children & Nature, Kaiser Permanente, the Port of San Francisco, and Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds, KABOOM! created the Nature Exploration Area (NEA) in Heron’s Head Park, an UNICEF Cities Inspire award-winning, innovative eco-friendly playspace made from all-natural materials which promotes physical activity, creativity, and appreciation of nature.

KABOOM! continues to seek partners to accelerate its mission to address the urgent, unprecedented challenges facing children today. A $14 million gift from MacKenzie Scott was the first significant funding to accelerate progress towards the goals of the Initiative. Playspace inequity is an issue with deep roots, but it is solvable. Together, we can work to end playspace inequity for good.