In May, Dolores Park started charging a fee to reserve VIP space on the city's most favored patch of public grass for mindless frolicking. Think of it as a reservation system that's available, though not required, to enjoy the park. It's all part of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department's picnic reservations program, and some folks are now livid over it.
According to SFist, this is part of a two-month pilot program that allows for groups to reserve sections of grass anywhere on the park, from Hipster Hill to the Gay Beach. Spots can be allotted for up to seven hours, and said spaces will be enforced by on-site Parks and Rec staff.
SFist has more:
According to the Rec and Parks website, in order to reserve your own little piece of Dolores heaven, now all you have to do is apply and pay the fee of $33 to $260 (depending on group size, and not including the $200 security deposit). "All requests for Mission Dolores must complete an online Picnic Application," the site explains.
The reservation program began at the beginning of May, with spots already booked through mid-July.
Ostensibly, the program will help buffer the cost of trash clean up at the park.
"The fees are aimed at making groups responsible for packing out their own trash," the Chronicle reports. "Garbage has been a never-ending battle between park-goers and Rec and Park tasked with cleaning the area."
For their part, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department says that the reservation system is nothing new, arguing:
1) This is not a new permit system. Permits at Dolores Park, including those for picnic tables and lawn areas, have been issued at the park since before the park was renovated. It was briefly suspended during construction and park users can again permit space at Dolores Park.
2) Similar permits are issued throughout our park system.
3) Each year, the Department spends $750,000 to pick up trash left at Dolores. The permit process provides more accountability and ensures the park is left clean and usable for other visitors.
But for Dolores Park fans, it's a possible sign of the impending privatization of public parks, even if reserving space at public parks is nothing new. As soon as the story went live on Monday, San Franciscans took to social media to revolt. Most notably, District 6 supervisor and senatorial candidate Jane Kim.
I'm opposed to the plan to rent space at Dolores Park. Our city's not for sale and it shouldn't be for rent either.https://t.co/zMlDbgGFta— Jane Kim (@JaneKim) May 24, 2016
And now a petition has been created to halt the park's reservation system, which has accrued over 8,000 signatures in less than 12 hours.
This most recent park-related brouhaha to mind last year's reservation-related controversy when Dropbox employees got into a heated exchange with neighborhood players who had arrived first, which was sparked by the reservation system.
UPDATE: The people have been heard. The San Francisco Recreation & Park Department will indefinitely suspend the reservation-style program due to public outcry. In a statement sent to Curbed SF, the department says:
Given the recent debate regarding the reservation of specified lawn areas for large group picnic, wedding and birthday parties in our beloved Dolores Park, the Recreation and Park Department, in consultation with Supervisor Scott Wiener, is suspending the issuance of permits for this use. We want to take a step back to have more open public dialogue regarding our long-standing reservation policies at Dolores Park that are designed to provide accountability for the use of our public parks by larger gatherings. The picnic table areas at Dolores park primarily used for children and family parties will continue to be permitted during this time.
This long-standing reservation policy has provided certainty about the availability of space for large group picnics and celebrations, while ensuring accountability to our taxpayers for any damage and trash.
During the park’s $20.5M renovation, we did not issue these permits and only recently began to do so again this spring. Given the confusion of our existing policy we want to make sure the public understands the purpose and intent of our reservation policies to protect and maintain our open spaces that is balanced and honors our commitment to accessible, usable and equitable open space for everyone.
We will continue to be creative in balancing all these issues, and we will do so ensuring Dolores Park is joyous and safe for all.
A protest to denounce the reservation-style system had been planned for Saturday. We can all now breathe a sigh of relief.
- You Can Now Reserve Whole Sections Of Dolores Park Grass For Yourself, For A Price [SFist]
- Guy from 'Mission Playground Is Not for Sale' Video Tells His Eviction Story [Curbed SF]
- Dolores Park charging fees for groups to reserve grass space [Chronicle]
- End Dolores Park Reservation Pilot Program [Change.org]
- San Francisco Recreation and Park Department [Facebook]
- Tourists Break Into Closed Alamo Square Park to Snap Photos [Curbed SF]