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?”