Bay Area cities rose on the annual ParkScore index, an annual study released by the San Francisco-based nonprofit The Trust for Public Land that ranks park systems in the 100 largest U.S. cities.

Four Bay Area cities made the list again this time, with three of them rising higher than last year’s report.

San Francisco rose two spots to sixth, Fremont climbed five places to 28th, Oakland rose seven to rank 44th and San Jose held steady at 36th.

Although the local cities rank high in spending and in dog parks per capita, they performed below national averages in a new measurement of park equity.

The top five spots are held, in order, by Washington, D.C.; St. Paul, Minnesota; Minneapolis; Arlington, Virginia; and Chicago. The report — “Parks and an Equitable Recovery” — can be found online.

San Francisco ranks high, in part, because it is only one of two cities on the list where all residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park. The other is Boston.

San Francisco also leads the nation in park investment, spending $357 per resident, nearly four times the $96 average of the top 100 cities.

Increased spending on parks helped Fremont and Oakland move up the ranks, according to the report. Fremont’s spending went up to $125 per resident, up from $114. Oakland nearly doubled spending to $109 per resident, up from $65 the year before.

All four Bay Area cities on the list also scored high because of their dog parks, with San Francisco again on top of the list of all cities.

The average for the 100 cities is 1.2 per 100,000 residents.

San Francisco has 4.2 per 100,000 residents, closely followed by Oakland at 3.8, Fremont at 2.2 and San Jose at 1.3.

Measuring equity

The report added a new measurement of equity for this year’s report.

“In a majority of ParkScore cities, white neighborhoods and high-income neighborhoods have a disproportionately higher share of park space,” says Linda Hwang, The Trust for Public Land’s director of innovation and strategy. “That’s not right and it’s not fair. The Trust for Public Land believes there should be a quality park within a 10-minute walk of home of every person in America, and we are committed to centering equity as we advocate for parks and open space in cities throughout the United States.”

Bay Area cities perform slightly worse than national averages in these measurements.

Among the 100 cities measured on the list, neighborhoods where most residents identify as Black, Hispanic and Latinx, Indigenous and Native American, or Asian American and Pacific Islander have access to an average of 44 percent less park acreage than predominantly white neighborhoods. The local numbers are 56 percent less park space per capita in San Francisco and 69 percent less in Oakland. Figures were not immediately available for Fremont and San Jose.

“Parks are always essential to our communities, and they are even more valuable in times of crisis.”

Diane Regas, The Trust for Public Land

Nationwide, residents of low-income neighborhoods have access to 42 percent less park space than residents in high-income neighborhoods.

Once again the local numbers were worse than the national figures, with low-income residents having 55 percent less park space in San Francisco and 69 percent less park space in Oakland. San Jose beat the national average, but low-income residents still have 21 percent less park space than residents in high-income neighborhoods.

All four Bay Area cities were among the many on the list that used parks for emergency COVID-19 response, including testing, PPE distribution and free meal service during the pandemic.

“Parks are always essential to our communities, and they are even more valuable in times of crisis,” said Diane Regas, president and CEO of The Trust for Public Land. “During this extraordinary pandemic year, people relied on close-to-home parks, trails, and open spaces to exercise and connect with nature more than ever. Parks also served as makeshift community centers for emergency services like food distribution, COVID testing, and vaccine super-sites.”

The five factors

For the last 10 years, ParkScore rankings were based on four factors, and this year, the park equity measure was added to help city leaders understand and prioritize equity when making decisions about parks.

The five factors were:

• Park equity compares per-capita park space in neighborhoods of color versus white neighborhoods and in low-income neighborhoods versus high-income neighborhoods and 10-minute-walk park access for people of color and lower-income residents. Park systems score higher if disparities are low or non-existent;

• Park access measures the percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park;

• Park acreage is based on a city’s median park size and the percentage of city area dedicated to parks;

• Park investment measures park spending per resident; and

• Park amenities assesses the availability of six popular park features: basketball hoops, off-leash dog parks, playgrounds, “splash pads” and other water play structures, recreation and senior centers and restrooms.