It’s no secret that Dolores Park has long been a dumping ground for party and picnic refuse. Shortly after the park surged in popularity nine years ago, the garbage began piling up. By 2009, every spring brought a fresh round of media, political, and community outrage about hipsters trashing the park. But this year is different: not only are many publications covering the situation as if it’s a new one, some locals are going so far as to reminiscence about the low-class garbage strewn about in years of yore.
In a borderline hysterical piece of foggy nostalgia published in The Bold Italic—Gannett’s dumping ground for ham-fisted gentrification rants—park neighbor Daniela Blei boldly declares “Dolores Park is becoming a landfill for the privileged.” Her proof? Years ago, hipsters used to just litter lowly beer cans, but now the privileged are dumping champagne bottles and oyster shells. Emphasis added:
Every morning by 7, the first responders from SF Rec & Park arrive on the scene to do the heroic work of cleaning up entitlement. (Someone else will take care of it!) Last weekend, I spoke to the Saturday crew. They described some of the changes they’ve witnessed in recent years. “It used to be all beer cans. Now, it’s wine and Champagne bottles,” they explained. For city workers, that’s a problem because Recology SF pays to pick up beer bottles, but Rec & Park has to haul away other types of glass, like the empty magnum of Veuve Clicquot that caught my eye that morning. Add to the glut of bottles a sheer explosion in trash – everything from plastic plates to oyster shells scattered across the dirt – and Dolores Park begins to look like a wasteland of privilege.
Are we really kvetching about the changing types of garbage littering our parks? (And never mind that the statement is factually inaccurate—as the above photo from 2012’s shameful Earth Day trashing demonstrates [or from 2009, or 2008], there has always been plenty of wine and champagne bottles left around the park.)
One might think, “who the fuck cares how expensive the garbage that’s left behind is? No one should be littering the park, period.” However, the neighborhood’s newfound obsession with the types of trash piling up extends beyond The Bold Italic.
“Dolores Park Trash Tsunami,” 2010. Video: Rob Lord/Flickr
The Chronicle’s pound of geriatric newshounds also caught scent of the Dolores Park perennial trash pile recently and they’ve been mercilessly humping the story ever since. In one column, C.W. Nevius quoted a neighbor saying the trash was not from “homeless people.”
“These are people with enough money to buy good beer. You don’t see any Budweiser cans there. This is all IPA’s and pizza boxes from Delfina.”
This is the nut of our current outrage frenzy, isn’t it? The situation has always been terrible and worthy of addressing, but the trash piled up years ago and it is certainly not getting worse. The only “new” issue here is neighbors objecting to who is littering (namely, wealthy techies).
Blei in The Bold Italic specifically outlines how she remembers the good ol’ days of Dolores:
I remember my first spring in San Francisco, watching the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence take the stage. Surrounded by families young and old, sitting in a sea of smiling faces, I thought to myself: “This is a magical place.”
But these are the same Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence who kicked off our park trashing outrage cycle after their Hunky Jesus show left Dolores Park covered in trash in 2009. Blei’s model park-goers are part of the very “wasteland of privilege” problem she claims to detest. We are all part of the problem. Why the double standard?
Reading these rants and news stories, you get the sinking feeling that some neighbors are inflating the situation in an effort to get the park fun shut down. In years past, complaints about the trash were appropriately co-directed at the city (for not providing adequate facilities) and the public (for being lazy, slobby shitheads). In 2012, this blog joined the neighborhood’s chorus in calling for the city to install more trash cans in the park and increase their emptying so trash wouldn’t pile up outside the bins. But a funny thing has happened since then: the city has removed over a dozen garbage cans. All the clusters of cans that once lined Dolores Street—the main entry and exit point of the park—are gone. Now it’s harder than it’s ever been to properly dispose of your trash.
And yet? No one is calling out the city for their role in the problem. Instead, all we get are demands for increased policing. The techie scapegoat works well in this case, because everyone hates techies, amirite? Plus, the narrative of “entitled newcomers” destroying a park plays well, even when it is exposed as fiction.
Of course, Our Civic Watchdogs at The Chronicle are quick to dismiss these fears. Nevius snidely brushes off concerns that neighbors are trying create a groundswell of support for a police crackdown, writing:
As for the conspiracy theory about a police crackdown, I think your tinfoil hat may be on a little too tight. The cops don’t want to spend the day checking to see if you have an open beer can. This is the Mission, where there are gangs, shootings and real-life crimes.
However, in reality, this is exactly what neighbors are doing. Blei admits, “Neighbors are now demanding a stronger police presence.” Dolores Park Works, a non-profit that ostensibly represents all park users, has repeatedly called for the city to “shut the joint down.” And Supervisor Scott Wiener, who has been calling for a “culture shift” in the park since 2013, has been grandstanding over the past two months, calling litterers “sociopaths” and demanding an “expansion” of police enforcement so we can see “tangible results.”
But catching a litterbug is tough business for a few park rangers in a park filled up with 10,000 picnickers a day—especially considering that it’s difficult to determine what is or isn’t litter as the trash lays beside sitting groups.
Instead, we read reports of people being ticketed for drinking beer and playing music, irrelevant to them littering or not. And then there was this scene from a few weekends ago, in which five officers came to the park to fine a Latino man for selling ice cream outside the children’s playground:
The trash situation in Dolores Park is unacceptable, and it has long been unacceptable. People should pack out their trash. And the city should recognize that the crowds need a place to dispose of that garbage and reinstall our trash cans.
But is hassling the local paleta guy really going to fix Dolores Park’s trash problem? Is fining people for smoking or drinking a beer going to curb the litter? Of course not. Unfortunately, when the community pretends the trash a class problem, we get the kind of delusional solutions that only the delusional could possibly think up.
[Lead Photo: DPW]