Crane Cove Park | San Francisco, USA | AECOM

Aerial – Image Credit: Port of San Francisco
Aerial – Image Credit: AECOM, Robb Williamson, CLARB, RLA

Legacy and a New Era

Building on the rich maritime legacy of the site, Crane Cove Park sparks the beginning of a new era for San Francisco’s Southeastern waterfront.  This seven-acre park is situated within the historic Pier 70 Historic District, where it functions as a vital piece of the Blue Greenway – a pedestrian and bicycle network that unifies a once fragmented segment of the city’s shoreline.  Following shipbuilding operations that started in the late 19th century, the site remained dormant for decades until it was reinvigorated as a public open space that prioritizes climate resilience, waterfront access, historic preservation and sustainability.  Crane Cove Park reconciles the local community with the San Francisco Bay while offering much-needed respite during a global pandemic.

1941 Image Credit: National Park Service Maritime Museum

Connecting to the Bay

The park is privileged with features both intimate and grand; on one hand, it’s located in a protected cove, and on the other, it’s home to a 300-foot-long slipway and iconic cranes.  Observably the most active area, the new sandy beach at the Northern Shoreline appeals to many types of visitors.  The accessible beach functions as a boat launch for kayakers and paddleboarders. Additionally, sunbathers make the most of the neighborhood’s sunny microclimate, and families can wade in the calm waters of the modest cove.  Children are especially fascinated with the precast tidepools strategically integrated within the riprap edge to promote marine habitat. 

Northern Shoreline – Image Credit: AECOM, Robb Williamson, CLARB, RLA
Aerial – Image Credit: AECOM, Robb Williamson, CLARB, RLA
Tide Pools – Image Credit: AECOM, Robb Williamson, CLARB, RLA

Designing with History

To the south, the shoreline is contrasted with monumental infrastructure.  Slipway 4 tells a comprehensive maritime story through an alignment of salvaged keel blocks and painted layers of noteworthy vessels that launched from the same location.  On the Western Runway, original crane rails and interpretive signage guide visitors along the main promenade and under Crane 14 – the foundation was seismically retrofitted to safeguard the park during earthquakes.  The historic Building 49 anchors the heart of the site; the structure is planned to provide boat storage as well as other amenities once renovations are complete.  Smaller-scale interventions reinforce the site’s industrial character through upcycled seating fabricated with reclaimed concrete cribbing and timber, salvaged relics and added texture within planting beds.  Weathered patinas and robust hardware are used intentionally to fit the vernacular of the former working waterfront. 

Crane – Image Credit: AECOM, Robb Williamson, CLARB, RLA
Slipway Seating – Image Credit: AECOM, Robb Williamson, CLARB, RLA

Climate Resiliency and Sustainability

Taking action towards climate change, the grading design protects key areas by allowing them to function for up to 28 inches of sea level rise.  The shoreline includes a sediment cap within the intertidal zone, and further upland, the site is capped with the required dimensions of fill material. The Bay benefits from stormwater management strategies such as bioretention areas, bioswales and permeable paving. The planting design maximizes the potential for biodiversity with a palette that is predominantly native to the Bay Area. The palette is also balanced with multi-use softscape areas which accommodate park programs such as picnicking, gathering, and play. The “wild” motif embraced through planting is reminiscent of plant anomalies seen throughout the site pre-construction, which persevered through the cracks of existing pavement.

Bioretention – Image Credit: AECOM, Robb Williamson, CLARB, RLA

Master plan – Image Credit: AECOM

Crane Cove Park

Landscape Architecture: AECOM

Civil Engineering, Coastal Engineering, Structural Engineering: AECOM
Civil, Structural and Geotechnical Engineering: AGS
Architecture: Architectural Resources Group
Accessibility: Beneficial Designs
Irrigation: Brookwater, Inc.
Historic Interpretation: Canogle, Inc.
Signage: Clearstory
Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing Engineering: Guttmann & Blaevoet
Signage: Macchiatto
Cost Estimating: M. Lee Corporation
Lighting: Silverman & Light
Structural Engineering: Tuan and Robinson

Client & Owner: Port of San Francisco

Image Credits

WLA-CCP-Aerial_AECOM: AECOM, Robb Williamson, CLARB, RLA

WLA-CCP-Aerial_SF-Port: Port of San Francisco

WLA-CCP-Aerial-NS-AECOM: AECOM, Robb Williamson, CLARB, RLA

WLA-CCP-Bioretention_AECOM: AECOM, Robb Williamson, CLARB, RLA

WLA-CCP-Historic-1941_Maritime-Museum: National Park Service Maritime Museum

WLA-CCP-Illustrative-Plan_AECOM: AECOM

WLA-CCP-Northern-Shoreline_AECOM: AECOM, Robb Williamson, CLARB, RLA

WLA-CCP-Runway_AECOM: AECOM, Robb Williamson, CLARB, RLA

WLA-CCP-Slipway_AECOM: AECOM, Robb Williamson, CLARB, RLA

WLA-CCP-Tide-Pools_AECOM: AECOM, Robb Williamson, CLARB, RLA

About Damian Holmes 3233 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at