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Ridge Lane
San Francisco, CA
Lead Landscape Architect: Nahal Sohbati
Academy of Art
Client: Ridge Lane Neighbors

This once insignificant, narrow, and hazardous vacant lot now motivates and inspires the community to make their voices heard to improve the greater society for generations to come. Landscape architecture has once again proven to be a unifying force that brings people together based on the communal love of the land they share.
PARCELS 4 & 5 PROPOSAL
The planting palette for each parcel is in response to site-specific characteristics and reacts to topography, sun exposure and soil conditions. Each parcel incorporates annuals and perennials that provide seasonal beauty and support pollinator habitats.
PARCEL 3 PROPOSAL
The rocky characteristic of the site is preserved with the use of floating wooden decking that has a minimal structural footprint and saves the cost of excavation and materials.
PARCEL 2 PROPOSAL
In order to create a coherent and consistent theme throughout Ridge Lane, the paving pattern from Parcel 1 will be continued. This has been accomplished by creating an adaptable design module that responds to the unique characteristics of each parcel. The meandering path-of-travel is choreographed to provide visual interest while adhering to the geology of the ridge.
PHASING
With the momentum gained from the success of Parcel 1, the neighbors have set their sights on the completion of the remaining four parcels that make up Ridge Lane.
COMMUNITY PLANTING DAY
Events such as planting days and butterfly workshops have been held on site with the goal to educate people of different ages about local butterfly habitat and ways to improve it. During these activities Landscape Architecture professional concepts were introduced to the neighbors and as a result, they were enabled to create their own planting design using California Native wildflowers and butterfly-attractive plants.
PARCEL 1 COMPLETED
Recycled concrete and rock debris were repurposed as fill within gabion benches. Solar bollard lights were used to illuminate the site and make it safe and accessible for neighbors through the dark hours. The plant palette of native and well-adapted non-natives provides a combination of ecological value as well as year round beauty.
PARCEL 1 COMPLETED
Thanks to community investment and dedication, this blighted lot now serves as a vibrant linear park that instills a sense of identity and neighborhood pride.
PARCEL 1 BEFORE
For over a century Ridge Lane was considered as “no man’s land” due to a lack of community and city investment. The prevalence of crimes such as robbery, loitering, assault, and frequent dumping of garbage perpetuated Ridge Lane’s undesirable status.
PARCEL 1 OPENING DAY
On June 18, 2016 the Ridge Lane neighbors held the opening ceremony for Parcel 1. Jubilant neighbors of all ages and backgrounds met for the first time and enjoyed the multicultural community they inhabit thanks to their new community park.
PARCEL 1
The paving design for Parcel 1 is an abstraction of the venation patterning found in butterfly wings. This references the ecological value of the site as a butterfly and pollinator habitat as well as establishing a unique neighborhood identity. In addition to its symbolic value, this pattern provides varying pockets of space while maintaining a straight line of site and movement that promotes safety and comfort.
COMMUNITY DESIGN PROCESS
JANUARY 2015
MARCH 2015
MAY 2015
The design process of Parcel 1 involved regular monthly meetings and workshops to ensure that all voices and concerns were being heard and addressed. Neighbors discussed site elements such as benches, trees and lighting while sharing their concerns and hopes regarding safety, accessibility and aesthetics.
HISTORY
Before 1860, the land now occupied by the Ingleside neighborhood was primarily dairy farms and pasturelands with sparse populations. The area was well known for its prolific fields of wildflowers that attracted many visitors. Ridge Lane is an “orphan” space that is a result of the convergent growth between two separately coordinated housing developments of San Miguel City and the Railroad Homestead Association. The density of the neighborhood continued to grow through the 1900’s until its present condition as the Ingleside neighborhood. Ridge Lane was platted out as a street, but due to its insufficient width of 15 feet and drastic grade change of 120 feet, it remained undeveloped for over a century.
CONTEXT
Ridge Lane is a 15 foot-wide, quarter mile long vacant space located in the Ingleside neighborhood of San Francisco. It is composed of five individual block-long parcels separated by city streets. Ridge Lane serves as an informal path providing a convenient, yet dangerous, shortcut for the residents to navigate the neighborhood. A trail of trampled plants, exposed rocks and loose soil are a testament for the need of a safe path.

As urbanization grows, the value of public open spaces becomes more vital. The City of San Francisco contains more than 1,500 vacant lots that total an area approximately half the size of Golden Gate Park. Social and biotic values of these scattered and downtrodden sites are underutilized, thus leaving voids in underserved communities.

The Ridge Lane project is a revitalization of one of these vacant lots that has adapted a grass-roots strategy with the goal of empowering the community to become involved in all phases of the project from visioning to implementation, giving them a sense of pride and ownership of their neighborhood. Meticulous analysis and incorporation of the neighbors’ feedback resulted in a design that celebrates their shared appreciation of Ridge Lane’s unique ecological and social factors.

The metamorphosis of Ridge Lane from an abandoned wasteland to a community gem interweaves ecology, design, and social factors resulting in a beneficial environment for all of its inhabitants.