From the beginning there were certain mandates that informed the entire design process throughout the VV Greenway. They were:
- In spite of the sites being in a low income, historically neglected area it was desired that the design be equal to or superior to any park design in the City. We did not want unimaginative design. Eccentricity and aesthetically pleasing focal points or vignettes were to be encouraged.
- An Ecological Assessment Day was held before any design began with advisors from many disciplines and organizations including the University of California and various environmental groups. Primarily, we decided to make the Greenway a pollinators' corridor and habitat for wildlife and use drought tolerant plantings and low impact design erosion control.
- All pathways were to be curved or meandering, not straight and predictable.
- All pathways were to be made of integrally colored concrete with a salt finish to soften and make them more attractive and natural looking.
- Outer perimeter fencing was to be placed on retaining walls (to support the fencing) that would be decorated with tiles or metal insets. The walls were built as a deterrent to an inordinate amount of litter blowing from the west.
- The sites would be gated at night to protect the residents living on both sides of the sites. Thus we able to create beautiful gates that present a welcoming face to the community. Ironwork on the fencing and gates was to be designed by Jim Growden (8 of the gates) and Fran Martin (2 of the gates).
- Recycled materials were to be used whenever possible - urbanite, wood, tiles.
- The community desired that the sites be ADA compliant beyond what was required. Hence the raised garden table/plots and pathways accessible to all, where topographically feasible.
Conceptually, the fact that the VV Greenway is an outdoor classroom makes it a particularly unique project and has influenced the design process from the beginning.
Given limited funding and a desire to make the Greenway a total artistic statement we used the expertise of local artists and leveraged donations and in-kind services to make the sites uniquely beautiful and stand out from similar projects. Thankfully, the local company, Recology, generously donated materials and labor to help build the gates. Particular thanks should be given to SF Beautiful, SF Parks Trust and SF Community Challenge Grant for funding some of the decorative elements.
Fran Martin helped guide the design process and followed the construction process closely to insure that the final product would present a transformative aesthetic experience for the community. The VV Greenway has led to the revitalization of the community and has become a source of pride. Design elements from the Visitacion Valley Greenway were incorporated into the Leland Avenue Streetscape Improvements. What sets this project apart is that it has been a public/private partnership leveraging funding and volunteer labor to make stunning gardens unlike any other.