It was another beautiful morning in Dolores Park, accompanied by the soothing sound of jackhammers. City officials—including Mayor Ed Lee, Supervisor Scott Wiener, and Dolores Park's Project Manager Jacob Gilchrist—went along on a preview hard hat tour (sans hard hats—it's mostly just grass out there, after all) of the park's south end to show off the final phase of the park's $20.5 million renovation. The grand (and long awaited) reopening of a unified Dolores Park is set for next week.
Now that the six-year project (construction began in March of 2014, but the planning phase was twice as long) is coming to an end and the beloved piece of green space will be whole again, the question is: Can San Francisco have nice things?
The assembled honchos accentuated the positive when talking about the park's role as centerpiece of the Mission. The mayor said that with the price of living in the city soaring, parks are a "great equalizer," free to the entire public. Wiener noted how far the park had come from the drug-infested, no-go zone of his youth.
Gilchrist pointed out the recent removal of the park's "nuisance buildings" that used to block views. The administration office is now a secret lair underneath the basketball court, and the new bathrooms are built Hobbit-style into the side of a hill so that the park's beautiful green slopes can roll uninterrupted.
A new walkway connects the 19th Street promenade to the playground, the grade calculated to the nearest degree to be ADA compliant. And there's a new overlook at the corner of Church and 20th, providing a place to enjoy arguably the greatest view of the San Francisco skyline—and maybe to also hoist your small pet into the air, Lion King-style, if you're so inclined. But for every two words about the beauty of the park and the hard work going into it, there was at least one about the how tricky it is to safeguard. For example, the new restroom is nestled into the hillside to preserve views but also because "the less exposed wall we have, the less there is to vandalize" says Gilchrist.
(Gilchrist also pointed out some of the new flagstones, which were vandalized "as soon as they were poured," albeit mostly by people just writing their names.)
The mayor adopted the demeanor of an affable but chiding school principal as he reminded park users "not to leave their waste, human or otherwise, behind." His warning is surely linked to the many recent instances of park trashing.
Without a doubt, San Francisco has proven that it can build a beautiful green space. But keeping it beautiful is a constant struggle against urban entropy and general thoughtlessness.
The park looks humble—a few square blocks that, once upon a time, were a cemetery—but there are tens of millions of dollars and an ineffable but irreplaceable sense of community tied up in it. Time will tell if we can treat it right. The grand reopening is scheduled for January 14 at 4 p.m. Come as you are, but leave only footprints.
· Previous Dolores Park Revamp Coverage [Curbed SF]