Why is Candlestick Point State Recreation Area Worth Fighting For? | Cal Parks
Published: March 13, 2024

Candlestick Point State Recreation Area is San Francisco’s only state park and California’s first urban state park. In the 1970s, residents of the city’s Bayview–Hunters Point neighborhood fought to save the land from development around the then-home of the San Francisco Giants baseball team and the San Francisco 49ers NFL team, Candlestick Park. From the beginning, this park was seen by neighborhood residents as a much-needed green space where they could gather, experience nature, and enjoy the shoreline.  

Candle Stick Point SRA
View of Hunters Point at Candlestick Point State Recreation Area

In this audio clip, recorded in 2009, you can hear Friends of Candlestick founder Claude Everhart — who was integral to the creation of the state park — passionately describe why this place has always held a special place in the hearts of the residents of southeast San Francisco.  

Bayview–Hunters Point is a neighborhood in transition from its industrial past. It's a vibrant, racially and socioeconomically diverse community, home to the highest number of children under 18 in the city and some of its most economically challenged residents. However, it also faces significant environmental challenges. According to a 2021 report by the USC Center for Health Journalism, the neighborhood has the highest exposure to pollution and toxins, including diesel fumes, lead from house paint, and hazardous waste in San Francisco. 

In 2000, the Giants moved to their new home a few miles north in China Basin. In 2014, the 49ers moved almost 40 miles south to a new stadium in Santa Clara. The Candlestick Park stadium was demolished in 2015. City planners have been working with Lennar Corporation since at least the early 2000s to redevelop the site of the former stadium and the surrounding areas. The park — already a key amenity for current residents — is seen as a draw for future residents of planned housing additions.  

The Candlestick Park stadium during its demolition in 2015.

However, San Francisco’s affordability and housing crisis, combined with the economic shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, have taken a real toll on the neighborhood. And as a place that is entwined with the neighborhood, the state park has suffered. The persistent underfunding of California State Parks has not helped either. In 2011, the park was slated for closure, one of almost a third of parks in the system that was threatened due to budget shortfalls. Luckily, the closure proposal was rejected in a firestorm of public advocacy, but the ongoing budget issues have affected the park’s ability to manage ongoing maintenance, vandalism, and dumping, as well as impacts from unhoused people and other issues related to economic stress in the neighborhood.  

On top of all this, as the climate warms and water levels in San Francisco Bay rise, the low-lying areas around the park and the former stadium flood more frequently, especially after intense winter storms in January 2023 and 2024. In the past, stadium infrastructure was protected by regular pumping after storm events. Now, the land is in limbo until planned developments are built.  

This drone footage from January 2024 clearly shows the problem — when the area floods without prompt pumping, water sticks around. Sometimes, for months. Last year, California State Parks opened a temporary entrance to the park on Hunters Point Expressway to restore vehicle access since the flooding has damaged the roadway so severely that it is unsafe for vehicles even in dry conditions. But even with that necessary move, the standing water represents a health hazard as a breeding ground for mosquitoes and bacteria. 

Candlestick Point SRA Flooding 1
Candlestick Point SRA Flooding 3
2024 Flooding at Candlestick Point State Recreation Area.

Last month, California State Parks Foundation, Parks California, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, Literacy for Environmental Justice, and the San Francisco Parks Alliance sent a letter to city leaders highlighting these problems, and others, that inhibit access to the park. In addition, we’ve launched an action alert so that concerned park lovers can help urge the city to help with our efforts to restore safe, inviting access to San Francisco’s only state park.  

Candlestick Point State Recreation Area is an extraordinary urban oasis that even many San Franciscans don’t know exists. Those in the know, however, enjoy rambling out to the hook-shaped point that snakes into the bay, seeing birds, squirrels, and even the occasional jackrabbit. It is a place to walk, picnic, kayak, and fish, where the sun is warm even when the famous cool grey fog envelops the city’s west side. As Bayview–Hunters Point residents have long understood, access to this place is worth fighting for. 

Please join us in urging Mayor Breed and Supervisor Walton to address the ongoing health and safety threats and barriers to safe access to Candlestick Point State Recreation Area. Sign your name here