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Islais Creek Interpretive Signage: A Case Study in Public and Private Sector Collaboration

Written by: Juliana Choy Sommer
Published: July 9, 2024
Category: Featured Clients

Priority Architectural Graphics was pleased to be selected to help relaunch the historic public park at Islais Creek, located near the Third Street Bridge in San Francisco.  The relaunch was led by the landowner, Port of San Francisco and was supported by the City of San Francisco’s Park Alliance and a host of other San Francisco governmental agencies.

Islais Creek is a water channel and the outlet for the largest watershed in San Francisco. Until the late 1800’s it is estimated that Islais Creek provided up to 85% of the city’s drinking water. The Creek is surrounded by several small parks including Islais Landing on the southern bank and Tulare Park and the Islais Creek Promenade to the north.

This waterfront park has a long history beginning with the Ohlone Indians who used this area for the harvesting mussels, clams, and shrimp on its shores. The creek is named for Los Islais (is-lay-is), a hollyleaf cherry fruit and favorite Indian food. In the 1850s, Islais Creek provided fresh water to Franciscan friars from Mission Dolores and irrigated the produce that Portuguese, Italian, and Irish vegetable farmers grew. Later, the Creek served as the gateway to Butchertown, now known as the Bayview District and Hunters Point. Initially the Creek was contaminated by sewage from the slaughterhouses in Butchertown, but cleanup initiatives launched in the ‘50s together with a water treatment plant in the ‘70’s helped restore the creek’s waters.

Islais Creek emerging from Glen Canyon in the 1890s. (Source: Private Collection, San Francisco, CA)

In 1988, Friends of Islais Creek, a neighborhood group committed to restoring the creek and creating a waterfront park for the community, used a $50,000 grant from the State Department of Water Resources and the participation of the Bayview community, the SF Conservation Corps, Milestones (a half-way house for parolees) and Horace Mann Middle School to create a drawbridge over the creek. Because of the seismic and climate change risks of flooding and liquefaction associated with this site, many city agencies including the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Public Works, the Public Utilities Commission, the Port of San Francisco, and CalTrans have also been involved in park restoration efforts.

Beginning in early 2022 and culminating in March 2023, an Islais Creek Park Interpretive Signage Project, began work on public-facing signage for visitors teaching them about the heritage of this iconic San Francisco site.  This project was an excellent example of continued private and public sector collaboration. The Priority Architectural Graphics Team was pleased to work with Macchiotto Strategic Design on this high-profile signage project.

Priority was hired to engineer, fabricate and install fourteen interpretive signs telling the story of Islais Creek and its history by using vibrant 3-dimensional signage integrating embedded photography (DirectEmbed technology) and materials which could withstand a challenging marine environment. Extensive environmental requirements, materials approvals and placement/installation specifications were necessary over the course of work given the extensive number of local government agencies that were part of the Islais Creek project.

Jeremy Regenbogen, Principal at Macchiotto notes:

“Priority Architectural Graphics produced stunning work for the Islais Creek Interpretive project. Many of the fabricated elements pushed the boundaries of traditional signage forms and required specialized methodologies to withstand a rugged environment. They rose to the occasion, seamlessly integrating the designs into an existing infrastructure that presented many unforeseen challenges. The Priority team kept to a rigorous schedule and unyielding budget, delivering a program that pleased every project stakeholder. The resulting installation is crisp, durable, and flawless.”

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