The Dolores Park Renovation Team unveiled their initial draft of the rehabilitation plans on Thursday evening to a generally positive crowd. The big takeaways are two new bathroom buildings by the playground and basketball court, designed to support weekend crowds of 10,000 people. The recommended astroturf soccer field on Tallboy Terrace has been scaled back to a grassed-in “multi-use” field that will be closed off from 3-6pm for youth soccer games, will cost $700,000 (9% of the entire renovation budget) to build, and “might need” to be fenced off for two months every Spring for “yearly maintenance.” The already-designated “dog play areas” will be more formally established, with signage along the boundaries. A new bike polo court will sit adjacent to six tennis courts and a basketball court, with a subterranean Rec. & Park storage and maintenance facility beneath the courts. And they plan to demolish the old Muni stop at 19th street and sod the hillside around it.
Unsurprisingly, the originally proposed 20-foot wide road dividing the park has been reduced to 12 feet in width, with the southwest road that currently exists now being bulldozed entirely. Apparently the renovation architects intend the road to be simultaneously used by an impotent dune buggy, a college girl on the way to psych class, and an androgynous person pushing their financial future towards the toilet.
Which is cute and all, but fairly disingenuous considering anyone who's ever been to the park before knows the road's traffic will look more like this:
Mixed with this:
Of course, the plan is not all wrapped up. Thursday's meeting demonstrated there was no consensus as what to do with the current clubhouse/bathrooms (some people want to toss a stick of dynamite in it and cast it back to the foul-smelling hell from which it came, the others want to turn it into a museum dedicated to the Park's history), and the architects still need to figure out what to do with the entrance plazas, the central pathways, and food courts. So if local politics and listening to cat ladies tell you what's best for the park is your thing, mark your calendars for the next public meeting, Sept. 29th.
I'm not quite sure what this has to do with the mayoral election, but human pandering machine John Avalos recently released a Cut Copy music video of himself biking around San Francisco. And quite the spread it is! He turns the anti-protest ride protest ride, SF Bike Party, into an impromptu campaign rally, shows off his chops as a bike mechanic, rides back-and-forth in front of Valencia Cyclery a half dozen times, and demonstrates that the decaying mess beneath his wheels on Market Street isn't enough to throw him off balance.
See for yourself:
In my vast experience of standing on the sidelines and gawking at protests, I've noticed that there are generally three types of rallies: 1) winning the hearts and minds, 2) building awareness, and 3) catharsis and opportunism. The first type of protest is fairly obvious: most anti-war protests attempt to do this through speakers and music in public parks, although they generally miss the mark. Protests designed to build awareness generally use spectacle and absurdity to give the media something to talk about, as exemplified by the Arab Spring, the Mission's anti-gentrification protests of the late 90s, or various street art campaigns. Catharic protests exist merely to burn it all down when people feel like they have nothing left, and maybe get a new pair of shoes.
People somehow manage to convince themselves that protests are designed to win public support and forget about other potential objectives, which is why at first glance, #OpBART appeared to be a complete failure. No signage, no organized message, no speakers, no obvious rallying point, no clear objective, less than 100 people turned out, and the 5 idiots from Oakland that carry around a banner covered in Swastikas and anarchist circle-As hijacked a protest about free-speech, turned it into a protest against cops with guns, and began marching down Market Street roughly 30 minutes after the protest was scheduled to begin, fracturing any critical mass that could have been established. Then to top it off, they closed off the Ferry Building and access to BART to the majority of San Franciscans.
However, as the obviously irritable and impatient people such as Jason Permenter seem to miss, the goal wasn't to win over the hearts and minds of mid-Market coffee snobs and downtown accountants. That's not why websites were hacked, personal information leaked, and public transportation crippled. No, the fact of the matter is no one in this city would be talking about egregious violations of our right to assembly and free speech unless a few dozen sexless nerds in Teva sandals and Vibram toe shoes made it so Jason had to take the bus home for work. Admittedly a fate worse than death in San Francisco, but it's only one day.
(Also, deeply sorry to use a hashtag in the post title. This is truly a sad day.)
My favorite bit from Ed Lee's mayoral campaign announcement was this little bit of hubris:
Some Lee backers had suggested the once-reluctant politician wouldn't need to campaign, only put his name on the ballot and then continue doing the city's business.
So much for that.
Last night's Dolores Park renovation community workshop was mildly successful. Everyone seemed to agree that we need a new set of bathrooms by the basketball courts, people want picnic tables by the playground and current bathroom building, and a bunch of people want to dynamite that disgusting, old, piss-scented structure that sits in the middle of the park. But there was no consensus on the proposed 14-foot wide path that snakes through the middle of the park. Most were unhappy with it, but Rec. & Park basically said removing it from the plans was off the table, for reasons justified by ADA compliance. One official from RHAA, the architecture firm tasked with redesigning the park, went so far as to accuse me of “discriminating against people with disabilities” for questioning the true necessity of paving a road wide enough for an 18-wheeler through the middle of the park, especially considering the Symphony has been erecting stadium-sized stages in the park for years without such a path.
“I know you're young and think such a thing as needing a wheelchair could ever happen to you, but it's unfair and mean of you to ignore these people.”
It's a brilliant tactic though. When someone questions a superhighway through an area used by dog-owners, picnickers, frisbee-throwers, the elderly and the young alike, just accuse them of being heartless swine indifferent to the plight of the wheelchair bound. Hell, I was so blind-sided by the baseless accusation that it shut me right the fuck up.
It wasn't until after the meeting had concluded that the true debate around real park issues began. Neighbors mulled around discussing why tennis court activists, dog-owners, soccer advocates, and historical preservation freaks were getting a blank check in this process. The rumors around the steering committee is that Phil Ginsberg is “boys” with tennis players, so the design team is forbidden from touching anything about the tennis courts (which is why the Bike Polo player's requests have been marginalized, despite the sport's growing popularity). There's no public debate about whether or not we should carpet bomb the current facilities building. No discussion about the “importance” of “historical” structures in the park. No meaningful debate on whether or not we should be building “paths,” concrete picnic areas, or permanent portapottie facilities (instead of adequate structural bathroom facilities) in the park. Rather than knowing the issues, people just walk up to a poster at the front of the room and post where their “group” would like to see new amenities, then they raise their hands saying why they support those things. There's rarely an informed back-and-forth that follows, never mind proceeds.
As people made their way out of the building, a friend pulled me over and pointed out a distinct feature in the new park: “You notice if you flip the paths plan upside down, it looks like a giant dick just fucking us over?”
Everyone's favorite Mission poster maker and Pop's bacon and Budweiser-monger, Lil Tuffy, is now showing off this year's official Outside Lands poster. And what a poster it is, highlighting the things that make San Francisco so great: Sutro Tower, baseball, food, booze, music, sea lions, Ray-Bans, and genital crabs.
No word how much it costs, but he'll be slangin' his wares on the Polo Fields during the festival.
It's been a while since we've heard anything substantial about the status of the Dolores Park Renovation, so I decided to drop in on a “Dolores Park Steering Committee” meeting last week.
For the unfamiliar, the “Steering Committee” is a self-selected group of 37 aging neighbors and park users that allegedly represent the wants and desires of Dolores Park patrons and advise the Rec & Park Department and landscape design team. The members of the steering committee are intended to be secret, as to protect its members from the nasty reprisals of cyberbullies like John Birdsall of the SF Weekly (they take this secrecy so seriously that the committee's contact list is slapped with a disclaimer “INFORMATION - NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION!” and I had a long talking to from the project lead about the importance of anonymity before being fully welcomed at the public community meetings). [Update 8/5/11 @ 2:30pm - As a commenter pointed out, the list of members is currently online in a PDF] However, the list consists of the usual cast of characters you'd expect to be on such a representative committee: “park neighbors,” area business owners, teachers from surrounding schools, politicians, representatives from various non-profits, people from the film night and Mime Troupe, and self-anointed community leaders (Dolores Park Dogs, Dolores Park Works, Dolores Park Safe Clean Green, Mission Dolores Neighborhood Association, etc.). Of course, who you won't see on this list are the dope fiends, picnickers, day drinkers, truffle salesmen, art students, The Unemployed Generation, musicians, activists, DJs, and the Tumblr addicts who actually use the park in such numbers and intensity that they could overthrow a small government if the mood so struck.
Perhaps it's this lack of diversity that leads us to these preliminary draft designs that were presented at last week's meeting. I walked out of that meeting feeling down—a distinct sense that the Dolores Park we've all grown with and love will cease to exist. 20-foot wide paths criss-crossing the park, a sprawling plastic playground, food truck parking, “improved” entrance plazas, designated picnic table areas, a soccer field, multiple new buildings for bathrooms, storage, office and administration space, and some crazy central promenade dissecting the park that may or may not have flowering gardens, trees lining it, staircases, and gathering patios. Whatever happened to just fixing the irrigation and bathrooms and calling the project a success?
Multiple members of the steering committee have expressed a growing frustration with the process, suggesting the blame should be placed solely on Scott Wiener and Rec. & Park. As one committee member put it:
I think it's more RPD than the steering committee that has come up with that crazy bat shit. I mean, a lot of the people on that committee have their own agendas, but since the first meeting all have been saying we want the park to change as little as possible.
I had a lengthy conversation with someone from RPD about if this whole process was smoke and mirrors… he tried assuring me it wasn't, to an extent. But now I have realized after last week that Wiener and the RPD have their own agenda, and its one about making the D in Dolores Park stand for Disneyland.
I am going to start making my “I got a taco at DP” shirts now, I guess.
Another member notes:
I can tell you that it seems this project is getting rushed and there needs to be a more robust discussion about the topics. For example, I tried to get [another SC member] to share the historical significance of the clubhouse to the group but was shut down for trying to converse with [another SC member] during the meeting. I think it’s important for us all to understand the various points of view on the subject. I would really like to know why I should give a crap about an ugly building from someone that wants to preserve it for historical reasons.
But no process like this is perfect—it would be impossible to have a perfect process. But improvements are possible and I think we should figure out what they are.
Maybe there's a point to that. The designers say “we've heard from people that they want more pathways through the park.” Who the hell says that? I don't know anyone who wants a staircase going through the middle of gay beach. I don't know anyone who wants a permitted soccer field. I don't know anyone who wants to ruin the trees that slackliners use by littering that hill with picnic tables. And after last fall's Blue Bottle controversy (and considering the new Food Truck oasis going in 5 blocks away), I especially don't hear anyone clamoring for a designated food truck space in the park.
So when the officials from RHAA Landscape Architects (the firm hired by the city to redesign Dolores) announced that they were proposing to put in “vendor space” into Dolores Park, I figured I'd do the responsible thing and let Chicken John know about the impending La Cocina taco truck tapocalypse:
While there is breath in my body there will be no food court in Dolores Park.
Actually, there isn't much I or anyone else can do. But let it be known that I FUCKING TOLD YOU SO. I saw this coming 10 miles away.Get ready for the Shitstorm.
I don't want to participate in the steering committee because people will try to form alliances with me and co-opt me. I want to be unreasonable and inflexible. First it was the spit-in, then the puke-in, the next thing we're going to do is a shitstorm… we're going to shit in the park. You have to bring the conversation down to a guttural level because that's all that people listen to anymore. If I never threatened to puke, no one would know what the privatization of Dolores Park is.
This is a education campaign for the people of San Francisco to know what privatization is, because we're allowing Rec. & Park to privatize the parks without actually knowing what they're doing. Once people realize what privatization is, no one will let them do it.
So we're going to shit on Ed Lee or something if they move forward with this and all the papers and blogs will start writing about privatization again.
Well, Disneyland on Dolores or not, at least we can expect some good political theater. And, of course, if you'd like to get involved in this slice of local politics and Help Shape the Future of Dolores Park, the third Renovation Workshop goes down tonight at 6:30 at Everett Middle School Cafeteria (450 Church St., entrance on 17th Street through the parking lot).
Dolores Park-goers this Saturday were greeted to this bit of strange mayoral campaigning: David Chiu and his staff walking around the park in Star Wars costumes and collecting signatures.
I ran into a political reporter from the SF Bay Guardian and when we went to check out the signature-collecting table, trying to figure out if David Chiu was camped out at the table alone, wearing a Storm Trooper helmet and making thousands of day-drinkers question his sanity. But as we approached the table, Chiu ran up and began one of the most spectacular media whoring conversations I've ever witnessed. The ordinarily-friendly Chiu became immediately focused, completely ignoring everyone around him besides the Guardian reporter and the staffers he introduced the reporter too. And after giving the reporter some celebrity-status treatment, he insisted that he have his photo taken with Chewbacca “for the paper.”
He then led us across the park, kissing ass the entire time, while assembling a crew of supporters for a group shot (not pictured here). He then posed for pictures while the oblivious and apathetic electorate ignored the whole scene, opting to lay on the grass and photograph each other:
After the photo sesh, he grabbed the Guardian reporter, “Can you try to use the shot with all the supporters behind us?”