by Thomas K. Pendergast
Before construction workers dug out an indoor swimming
pool at Angelo J. Rossi park in the ’50s, the site was sacred
ground, a cemetery that was disinterred and a Victory Garden
during World War II.
Now, the pool and building that houses it are getting an $8.2
million makeover, courtesy of the SF Recreation and Park
Department (RPD). The renovation is funded by
the 2012 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond, a
$195 million general obligation bond, of which the RPD gets $160.5 million.
“Our next steps are to continue outreach with stakeholders,
including a survey and at least one more additional community
meeting,” said RPD spokesman Joey Kahn.
According to a tentative project schedule, the SF Planning
Commission is expected to approve the plan sometime this
spring, and the design and construction bidding should be completed
about a year later.
Construction is expected to last 14 months with the project being
completed in the fall of 2019. The renovation is expected to
include a community room and provide increased seating for parents,
plus it will make the pool more visible from the office.
Work will also be done on the main entry and interior lobby,
locker rooms and staff areas. Specifically, the plan calls for a
new patio with a sitting area, new multi-purpose room that will be
about 212 gross square feet (approximately 10.5 feet by 20 feet); renovated locker rooms
with 40 lockers, four single-stall showers (including one accessible for the
disabled); four toilet stalls (including one for disabled use) per
gender; one all-gender, single user changing room with six
lockers, a shower and water closet.
There will also be increased storage for pool equipment, new
pool deck showers, benches and a drinking fountain, plus window
replacement with new “energy efficient” windows. A new mechanical
room will be installed with a dehumidification unit,
along with a new surge tank and other pool equipment in the basement.
One design option that has yet to be decided involves whether
or not a “bulkhead” is installed for the pool. “The bulkheads are essentially
divider walls that allow for concurrent uses that would otherwise
not be compatible (for example, lap swimming and children’s
swimming lessons at the same time.),” Kahn said. “A bulkhead
in Rossi would change the lap distance from 33 yards to 25
yards. We are working with the community to build consensus
around bulkheads as there will be trade-offs made in either case.”
The current pool building was designed in 1956 by H.C.
Baumann and dedicated a year later. Its style is described as
“modernism,” but it has Art Deco touches, like the lettering
used at the front entrance. The area in and around the
park, which is located at Anza Street and Arguello Boulevard,
was once part of the Odd Fellows Cemetery, which was dedicated
on Nov. 19, 1865. In 1902, the SF Board of Supervisors passed
an ordinance prohibiting further burials inside city limits.
Sometime between 1929 and 1935 the cemetery was disinterred
and the deceased were transported to Greenlawn Cemetery, located in Colma.
According to an RPD historical source, in the initial discussions
between the city’s Playground Commission and the Odd Fellows Cemetery
Association in May of 1933, the asking price for six-and-onequarter
acres of land was $100,000. Eventually, the price was negotiated down to $76,895.
The new park was named for Angelo J. Rossi, a former boardmember
of the city’s Playground Commission and San Francisco
mayor at the time of the park’s construction from 1935 through 1936.
Construction funding was provided by the Depression-era
WPA program, and was secured by city engineer Clyde Healy.
When completed, the playground included a baseball diamond,
tennis, basketball and volleyball courts and horseshoe
pitching pits. There was also a running track, an area for
checkerboard game tables and a convenience station.
The project’s master plan design featured a large community
center building, designed by William G. Merchant, which included
a theater. The only portion of that proposed building
that was actually constructed, however, was the decorative pair
of entries still sitting off Arguello Boulevard, consisting of an approach
with planters, steps and benches.
The park seems to have been finished sometime in 1936 but
there is no record of an official dedication. There were attempts
in 1938 and again in 1941 tofund the community center building,
but ultimately that project was dropped.
The park did its bit for the war when, in 1943, Victory Gardens
were established in the southwest corner of the park.
Rossi Pool was born when the City approved the selling of
bonds in 1947, when voters approved Proposition 6, which included
financing pool construction projects throughout the City.
In 1952, when the National Production Authority allowed a
post-Korean War resumption of materials for use by civilians,
there were hopes for a large complex, but ultimately only the pool
was built. The pool was built by the Martinelli Construction
Company, which was paid $484,900 to construct the pool
and its infrastructure.
Rossi Pool was the third enclosed municipal pool built in the City,
and was dedicated on Sept. 22, 1957, by SF Mayor George Christopher, who was joined at
the ceremony by Olympic swimmer Delia Muelkamp.