It was hard to find parking near the corner of Evans Avenue and Third Street on Oct. 22, when San Francisco’s new Southeast Community Center officially opened. The assembled crowd — made up of local families, elected officials, city representatives and artists — counted down with Mayor London Breed as she snipped a red ribbon with oversized scissors, the final bit of ceremony before the three-story center’s glass doors swung open to the public. After two years of construction, the day had arrived; people surged in to inspect their new community center.
The 45,000 square-foot building, built by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission for $100 million, is the result of generations of environmental activism. The original community center at 1800 Oakdale Ave. opened in 1988 to offset the effects of the Southeast Wastewater Treatment Plant on the neighborhood. (Current construction on the plant, the city’s largest, promises to increase efficiency and reduce odors.) Rather than refurbish the original Brutalist complex, southeast San Francisco residents voted to build an entirely new center at 1550 Evans Ave.
Set back from its busy corner, the new building is fronted by a wide expanse of native plantings, grassy areas, picnic tables, swing benches and a rocky playground. It also boasts three large-scale pieces of public art, all made in response to the site, its purpose and history.