California Riding Magazine • March, 2008

Golden Gate Stables
Plans progress to renovate historic
San Francisco stable.

by Rachel Williamson

Progress toward the renovation of the historic Golden Gate Park Stables in San Francisco continued during a final community meeting held in November of last year. The agenda’s main topic was the proposed facility design of the Equestrian Center at Golden Gate Park Stables, which has been closed since 2001. Members of the San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department, San Francisco Parks Trust, the Golden Gate Stables Working Group and the architecture firm of Tom Eliot Fisch were present to discuss the renovation design and answer questions. 

The purpose of this community meeting was to receive public comment on a variety of issues, and to introduce a conceptual renovation plan. The present scheme calls for a 42-stall stable. The meeting focused on six main principles, including restoring the historic activity of horseback riding to the park, restoration of the original WPA buildings, and creating a true community asset. Improving the health and safety of the horses, creating an economically viable facility and the importance of diversifying recreational opportunities were also discussed. Additionally, the facility will have a minimum Silver LEED rating making it one of the most environmentally sustainable buildings in Golden Gate Park.

Amy Eliot, of Tom Eliot Fisch architecture firm, and Linda Royer of Equine Facility Design, provided a brief overview of the renovation plans and discussed the various issues of creating a safe, healthy, economically viable and aesthetically pleasing stables plan. Eliot described the need to create a more inviting structure that allows visibility to the horses while keeping them safe. Improving the stable’s integration into the Park and the connection to the polo field and other arenas were also addressed.

One of the most significant changes described was the need to improve the horses’ living spaces by increasing the stall size to current industry standards, improving “herd” contact for the horses by making stalls with slatted top portions and creating as much turn-out space as possible. To create a financially viable stable, the design replaces the center arena with an expanded covered and lighted arena. The plan also calls for a new education/administration building, new tack rooms, washracks, a vet/farrier area, and new storage spaces. Both Eliot and Royer expressed the importance of renovating the facility to offer the most activities to the broadest range of equestrians and horse enthusiasts, with the main intention of introducing the public to horse activities.

The design of the renovated facility will provide sufficient flexibility for the chosen operator to offer a broad range of programs and riding disciplines. The RFP (request for proposals) for individuals who might be interested in running the concession should be issued by RPD in early 2008. The project is still considered to be in an evolutionary stage and an operator’s involvement is desired prior to the final completion of the design.

Contingent on the success of the $12 million fundraising campaign, The San Francisco Parks Trust anticipates that building will begin spring of 2009 and that the stables would re-open a year later. The San Francisco Parks Trust, which has a long and successful history in fundraising, managing and completing major civic projects in the Park, has taken the Stables project as their next capital campaign. Cynthia Tirado and Cynthia Silverstein of the San Francisco Parks Trust will lead the Fundraising project.

For information about the RFP contact: Tom Hart, Property Manager - Recreation and Park Department, 415-831-2773, For information about Fundraising or donating to the Equestrian Center at Golden Gate Park Stables renovation project, contact: Cynthia Tirado, Campaign Director, San Francisco Parks Trust, 415-750-5229,

Reporter Rachel Williamson is a USDF bronze and silver medalist and was appointed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to The Golden Gate Stables Working Group in 2000. She rides and trains out of four barns in the San Francisco area. “That shows you how hard it is to keep horses in the Bay Area!,” she comments.