Dolores Park Poised for Big Changes

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.

Note: I combined all three “Portable Vendor Space” options together.

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).

Comments (20)

THANK YOU!! Finally responsible reporting. Who wants a central plaza with cement pads and fourteen foot wide pathways running through the middle of Dolores Park???? Hello! Wake up Everyone. You should be able to see eye to eye no matter how old you are or what politcal stuff you care about. Nobody wants a concrete jungle for a park except for Phil Ginsberg and the monkeys at Rec and Park. The reason RPD is holding “neighborhood meetings” and paying big bucks for a facilitator is so they can say they did “community outreach”… “this time.” In the end Rec and Park will do whatever the hell they want because nobody will be paying attention until it’s too late. Come on folks. Enough is enough… isn’t it?

1. Scott Weiner is in politics to achieve a higher position. The guy is so far right and could care less about his District Dolores Park. His assistant Gillian is laughable if not an odd depressive. 2. Phil Ginsburg. Scott Weiner. In bed…politically. Phil Ginsburg. The next Dick Cheney in the making. Are we in San Francisco?

I disagree about Gillian. I’ve known her for a long time, she is a force for good. There are no real villians here, save for Ginsburg. People are doing what they think is right. It’s up to us to voice our disapproval. And in the end, we have to come to compromise and share the city.

We need an education campaign to learn people what privatization is. I’ve paraded around with a bullseye on my chest and I’ve taken SEVERE hits and so have people around me. I get results, though.

You guys are about to get the food court I’ve been talking about for a while. Remember when I told you that La Couchina was just a way to get the door open? Well, here it is every thing I said is now comming to pass.

Anyone gonna do anything about it? Or is it just me again?

kisses, chicken

You guys are serious A**holes. Chicken john is a serious assh*le. You think people dont shi* in the park now?
Community participation - ESPECIALLY in SF, means all the losers who nobody listened to in high school compete to prove that their opinion is meaningful. Here’s what will happen: the process will go on for years. People will act like the renovation is basically on the level of the creation of the UN. The plans will be dated and delayed, for years.
We’ll end up spending three times the money with less facilities than when we started.

Does Chicken john even live in SF? Last I heard, he was refusing to return money owed to SF for his “attempt” at a mayoral run while hiding out in Brooklyn.

kevmo, with all due respect, you don’t know anyone who wants a permitted soccer field because you’re a 20 something white guy with no kids who obviously doesn’t play soccer. the fact that there are 1.5 soccer fields (I count Franklin as a half because you can’t reserve it for practice if your kids are under 12 years old) in the whole Mission is a fucking travesty. especially when Garfield is booked 75% of the time by people who don’t even fucking live in the Mission. where the fuck are Mission kids, and Noe kids for that matter, supposed to practice/play soccer? Jose Coronado’s asphalt field with all the drunks and prostitutes? again, i get that you and your bros need to have a place to drink Pabst and smoke bowls to escape the angst filled lives you must live, but stop hating on the soccer field. go after the fucking tennis courts. what a fucking waste of space those are.

“a new field going in at MPG isn’t going to do anyone any good for [a] year” – Like I said, a (relatively) furious pace! The DP renovation isn’t even going to start for a year and a half, and will probably take a good 2 years past that before everything’s back to normal. By then people will be complaining about all the new soccer fields and begging for a reservable dope-smoking and pabst-drinking picnic area…

The level of discourse here is astonishingly low. Chicken John actually wrote this: “We need an education campaign to learn people what privatization is??” Did he mean “teach”? Perhaps Chicken needs an education campaign…

Btw, the widened pathways are required by law to make them accessible to wheelchairs etc. And only some of the walkways will be widened, not all of them. And last night’s discussion actually uncovered some strong consensus about removing some of the older existing walkways to provide more green space.

Also, there’s nothing secret about any of these discussions…I had never been to any of the previous workshops and just walked in last night, as any other interested citizen can do for future meetings.

Just relax everyone…

You can say whatever you want about me and not get my jokes about ‘learing’ people and so forth… but from the begininng I have said one thing and one thing only:


Many people don’t even realize what privatization is. If you knew what I know about privatization, you would be against it. This is the path that I am on. I have seen what privatizing parks and other public trust looks like, and it’s ugly. We need to come together, and when privatization came to our little park, we stopped it. Then other neighborhoods will do the same. Then RPD will run their department on the funds that they are allocated. If Phil Ginsburg and his cronies can’t run SF parks on the budget they are allotted, they should fuck off and let someone else try.


Dolores Park is a collaberative artwork. So says I and the million other people who visit it every year. It’s a fragile eco-system. Sure, put in a soccer field for kids, more swings, let the wheelchairs find it easy and lets have toilets and other ammenities that are civilized and make sense. But to allocate space, PUBLIC SPACE, to food vendors with the sole intention of having Dolores Park pull some of it’s own weight is a road we do not want to go down.

Draw the line in the sand and stick by it. Don’t let them do this, you will be very, very, very, very sorry. Take a note to history, look at what is happening in NYC: parks in rich neighborhoods have 5 star restaurants, parks in poor neighborhoods get fenced off and closed. No shit. This is what is totally happening. In Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle… privatization turns public trust into a business and people make a fortune and the public gets the shaft.

You can take whatever shots at me you like. You can say I’m a bully, you can say I’m a clown you can say I’m a bad speller. But this is simple activism. There is no money for me here, no job no nothing. I’ve been a activist against privatization for 25 years. Many of the other people on either side of this have something to gain or lose by their being a food court in Dolores Park. I do not. I am simply against privatization in most forms. I live 5 blocks from Dolores Park, on 15th street. When privatization came to my park, I did everything in power to stop it. That is what is happening here. If you think there is anything else happening here, please invite me to debate you in the park any evening and you can meet me and argue your point.

We must come together and stop these carpet baggers or they will put a food court in our park. There is 100% chance of a food court in Dolores Park UNLESS WE COME TOGETHER AND STOP THEM.

Ed Lee will announce that he is running for Mayor on Monday. The Mayor appoints all persons on the RPD board. The Mayor can fire Ginsburg. Ed Lee would love to have our support. I would like to support Mr. Lee, but I would like to know how he feels about RPD SHOVING A FOOD COURT DOWN OUR THROATS WHEN WE HAVE ALL STATED VERY CLEARLY THAT WE DO NOT WANT A FOOD COURT.

And so it goes, we still fight the same battle….

I would have enjoyed this article even more if the drawings were legible!!

I see Phil Ginsburg (SF Rec & Park Genl Mgr) and the City Fields Foundation (started by the late rightwing Republican billionaire and Gap founder Donald Fisher and now run by his three sons) is attempting to get artificial turf (that’s “planted” in petroleum-based, ground-up tires). I just heard about this. I hope people fight this and defeat Ginsburg & Fisher’s City Fields Foundation (CFF) to remove grass from City parks and replace it with toxic-laced artificial turf (due to it being planted in ground-up balls of petroleum aka tires).

I’m fighting with others to stop Ginsburg’s Rec & Park and CFF from turning 7 acres (!!!) of a big grass field in the western edge of Golden Gate Park (where Beach Chalet soccer fields are, near 47th Ave & Fulton) into artificial turf. As part of Ginsburg and Fisher’s plan (a plan that violates the Golden Gate Park Master Plan in about a million ways despite it saying Ginsburg has to follow it), very bright lights atop 60 foot poles around the perimeter of this 7 acre field would be lit until 10 or 11 pm every night.

Of course this would radically change the whole nature of GG Park from a park that emulates a natural park (which goes dark shortly after the sun goes down since natural parks don’t have bright lights on 60 foot poles that shine until 10 or 11 pm every night) to a park that emulates a large artificial soccer recreation complex.

And Ginsburg and Rec & Park aren’t very honest with SF voters. In 2008, SF voters passed an “improve the parks” bond (technically the “2008 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond”). There was nothing in there about removing grass from City parks and replacing it with artificial turf. If voters knew that’s what Ginsburg and Rec & Park were going to do with it (replacing grass with artificial turf), they probably wouldn’t have approved it (I voted for it but I wouldn’t have if I knew then what I know now).

What Ginsburg & Rec & Park are doing (using bond money from the 2008 bond measure that voters approved of to be used for improving the parks and instead using it to take out grass and replace it with artificial turf) is a serious violation of the voter’s rights for honesty and transparency from their govt.

And why was Rec & Park making deals with Donald Fisher, this rightwing Republican billionaire in liberal San Francisco, as soon as the 2008 bond passed to replace grass with artificial turf (and not let anyone know besides a select group of insiders)??? Apparently only Donald Fisher and some folks at Rec and Park knew the real purpose of that bond. And the $ from that bond would almost certainly be used for putting in artificial turf in Dolores Park.

And artificial turf planted in little balls of petroleum is not harmless. Here’s a good read - a report done in 2007 from the state of Connecticut on the toxicity of those little balls of petroleum (that Rec & Park wants to put 7 acres worth in GG Park and apparently also in Dolores Park)

Department of Analytical Chemistry
The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station…

If you want to stop 7 acres of this toxic crap from getting into GG Park, here’s how you can help stop it.

Right now Rec & Park is having an EIR done on the project (opponents forced them via legal action to do one). That will be finished sometime this month or next. When it’s finished, there’s a 45 day public comment period on it. It then goes to the Planning Commission who will approve it. (crucial part alert) It then goes to the SF Board of Supes. If 6 of the 11 reject the EIR (which they should because the EIR will say the project is not a violation of the GG Park Master Plan which is BS - it’s full of violations of it), it will probably kill this crazy scheme to put 7 acres of toxic poison in GG Park that is being pushed by Ginsburg and Donald Fisher’s family.

Email and call all of the supes and tell them you want the Beach Chalet soccer field area to 1) stay grass, 2) not have lights put there. Here’s their email addresses and phone numbers:

Sup. Eric Mar 554-7410
Sup. Mark Farrell 554-7752
Sup. David Chiu 554-7450
Sup. Carmen Chu 554-7460
Sup. Ross Mirkarimi 554-7630
Sup. Jane Kim 554-7970
Sup. Sean Elsbernd 554-6516
Sup. Scott Weiner 554-6968
Sup. David Campos 554-5144
Sup. Malia Cohen 554-7670
Sup. John Avalos 554-6975

Here’s a couple of good reads on Ginsburg’s Rec & Park from some local blogs:

Six degrees of Phil Ginsburg: How a good ole boys network is taking
Golden Gate Park to hell in a handbasket

Privatizing Our Parks: Hidden from View (July / August 2011, top article)
Always Look A Gift Horse In The Mouth (June, 2011 - article halfway down)

If you want my help (and some of the others fighting the GG Park proposal) in stopping artificial turf in Dolores Park, let me know and I’ll definitely help (but please help me in stopping the GG Park catastrophe by contacting all the supes). Here’s my email:



That first sentence in the post I just sent was supposed to say:
“I see Phil Ginsburg (SF Rec & Park Genl Mgr) and the City Fields Foundation (started by the late rightwing Republican billionaire and Gap founder Donald Fisher and now run by his three sons) is attempting to get artificial turf (that’s “planted” in petroleum-based, ground-up tires) in Dolores Park.”

(forgot the “Dolores Park” part) My apologies to everyone trying to make sense of that sentence.

The situation is not as bad as this article makes it out to be.

There is a lot of support for the status quo among the steering committee members. Unfortunately, some change is inevitable – the 14 foot wide pathway through the center is required by the ADA. The playground was already approved and funded through a different process – there is nothing that can be done about it now.

On the other hand, stairs, picnic tables, terraced plazas, soccer fields, and taco trucks are still subject to negotiations. The soccer field is particularly unlikely to happen because a natural field would be trashed and a synthetic field is just too gross to get widespread support.

Coming out to the community meetings is helpful, so please do so.

The ADA is not a donkey!!!!!.

Stop blaming the ADA for ridiculous conclusions. There are no 14 foot wide wheelchairs. Its a fucking retarded pretext to fund the food truck highway through the park, and isn’t withing a 100 miles of the ADA

The ADA is a great law that has improved society, but you sir, are an ASS for calling the ADA a donkey law. !!!!

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but - Chicken John has a point. The whole plan looks like a half-baked attempt to turn DP into an ATM. Please come visit and look at our park, but do not sit on the grass. And while you are observing our park, please purchase a free-range taco (with special smug sauce) from one of our lovely trucks.

You’d think from reading this and applying the “plans” to the existing park that DP was 100 acres. Where is all this stuff going to go?
Will there be any grass? Grass vs. concrete ratio looks like they’re going to take paradise and put in a parking lot.

The way things are looking universally these days I’m getting wary of Change by Committee.

Do I get any points for calling that Ed would throw his hat into the ring today? He didn’t wanna go early, but not too late or he’d seem disorganized. So it was today. And I nailed it. He will win, of course. And now we have a clear path to getting privatization out of DP: support Ed, and tell him that we don’t want a food court. Your turn…


You can stick with him all you want, but it would be impossible for him to win. There is a .000000000000000000000000% chance he can win, and even that chance involves a few other people dying. Avalos can not help us. Noone other then the mayor can. Have you ever heard the term “politics makes strange bedfellows”? Here ya go. The simple fact is that Ed is asian, and although so is Yee and a few others, with rank choice voting there is no split unless there is mudslinging/muckraking. Ed isn’t gonna sling mud. For Avalos, Ed joining the race doesn’t really change anything. He has as much chance of winning as he did before: zero. He is running because it’s his time to run. It’s good for his career. But of the 34 candidates, only 3 have a chance of winning, and one of them is is a good 98% good to win: Ed Lee. It’s a matter of statistics. As an incumbant, you have a definate advantage. Which is why you don’t like that he is running, because he was given his advantage by Willie Brown. Icky. But for me, I like to think that ya go with what works. And if Ed Lee is working, then go with it. Gavin wasn’t working. He shut down our entire system, with the help of Daly and so on… but things are definatly better now. More functional. Lets keep going in a functional direction. That’s wise. But The way we get there to be no privatization of our park is by using the system, not tearing it down. Be ready to compromise. And be ready to lose. We should all be sending letters of endorsement to Ed Lee after he tells us that he will commit to being the heavy of No Privatization of Dolores Park.

that’s the only avenue available to you besides someone else stepping forward and painting a bullseye on their chest and throwing a shitstorm. Because I’m not going to do it. Not enough of you showed up last time I asked. But I’ll be there for you, for sure.

Call me if ya want any advice on how to manipulate the media. 415-215-1632


The wrong person winning. Is this what our democracy has come to? Us getting used to the wrong person winning. Exausting.

If Ed Lee is going to win no matter what we do, then can’t we just pretend to be his supporters so he fires Phil Ginsburg? Sure, it’s unethical… but does anyone have a better idea?

Is anyone listening?