One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Gentrification Thinkpiece

Community Nostalgic For the Types of Trash Left in Dolores Park Before the Tech Boom

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?

Dolores Park Trash, 2008. Photo: aGreatNotion/Flickr

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]

Comments (24)

“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) … We are all part of the problem. Why the double standard?”

Wait … an opportunity for the umptythousandth round of gratuitous kvetching about techies and new residents wisely eschewed? Am I still on UA here? You must be getting soft in your old age, KevMo.

Yea, actually quite refreshing to read this.  I expect the writer of the Bold Italic is just older, has a kid, and now ‘hey hey, let’s all calm down here and think of the children.’  Hell I remember once drunkenly buying a $150 bottle of wine (I was far from wealthy at the time) and drinking it with some friends from the bottle at the park in probably 2007, 2008? I don’t really recall thinking it was out of place based on the drinks I saw at the time.  Just straight bullshit to imply we were all drinking Bud or PBR then, I mean what is this Portland circa the late 90s?  Microbrews were heavily in the mix in the Mission in the mid 2000s.

I do worry that the greying out of the Castro, and it’s conservative bent with Weiner, is going to threaten the park.  It’s only a matter of time, and that will be a sad day.

everyday the douchebag visitors leave their trash in DP is a sad day.  Pick up your fucking trash, it’s not that hard

“entitlement” is such BS and has nothing to do with this story.  if i drink budweiser those assholes that drink rolling rock are entitled pricks.  if i drink rolling rock those gentrifying hipsters that drink anchor are the problem.  if i drink anchor those asshole techies who drink pliny are ruining my city.

how about for 2015 we just let people live their lives?  if someone wants buys their bread at safeway, fine.  if they go to whole foods, great.  going to safeway does not make you a champion for the people, just like going to whole foods does not make you holier-than-thou.  we are all just people enjoying a brief ride on a dying planet, so lets just do our best.

also, if you are over the age of ten, pickup after yourself.  no one wants to looks at your garbage, no matter how much it cost.

Alas, Dolores Park and Fort Mason are the Yosemite & Sequoia of the SF Parks system, sacrificial lambs to the masses.  Once any crowd gets big enough, the odds are you’ll have your share of the willfully irresponsible.  You just gotta find your King’s Canyon or Lassen equivalents in SF.

Thank you to the residents around Delores Park for pointing out something that I have known for years:  Techies are entitled monsters who would never toss trash like that in their own backyard (e.g. Google campus, for example).

Since the tech industry is so quick to use drone technology and face recognition technology and the like, why not turn the tables on them?  Have some local residents film these techies in the act of defiling the park, then name and shame them.  That would work if they had any shame, but they don’t, so I guess we’ll just have to be satisfied with naming them. Fine with me.

When I first started hanging out at DP in 2003, when I was dating a person who rented in the area, it was a magical time.  There was lots of drinking (beer cans, not champagne), rowdy behavior (blow jobs, not full contact ultimate frisbee) and there was a sense of community.  Now it’s about who is being seen with whom and who is drinking the most expensive champagne.

San Francisco?  Wise up and take back your park before you lose another part of your soul!

“Thank you to the residents around Delores Park”

26 years, and you still can’t at least spell it correctly?




3 words

Great reporting on the number of trash cans that had been removed! I haven’t been to DP in awhile and was not aware of that. Insane that the city would be *reducing* the number of receptacles.

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

^^^^^^^ So True.

And yes, what happened to the trash cans!!!

Great article.   Thanks.

I believe the park is more fun when it is clean.   Garbage cans that are emptied repeatedly and often help.   Jobs for gardeners and  those cleaning is a much better us of money then more police in the park.   Please keep the park fun, its a great asset for San Francisco.  

“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.’”

This… is beautiful. I laughed so hard I cried.

There’s clearly some group pushing for the closing of dolores park activities.  Chronicle today,

Soon we should organize to fight back, remember when we used to organize in this city?  Blow off work to march around?  Anyone not in mountain view during the day that wishes to join let’s do so.

More developed thought.  The big thing is not if  Dolores Park is fun or clean, but that it has become the magical place where San Franciscans get along like no where else.   People barely tolerate the others on the bus, but people do mix well in Dolores Park.    San Francisco is becoming  an us against them place, and its vital that we keep the best example of a space where people do get along well.

To get garbage cans back, you can semi-anonymously request them by using the SF311 app.    Itunes and Android.    Its much better to spend on trash removal and gardeners then heavy police presence.

New Can

   or   request empty 

Overflow Can

Love the article! Thanks to the person who showed how to request trash pick up on 311! Awesome trick more ppl should be aware of.

Thanks Kevin and all the other commenters, for seeing through this fog of bullshit emanating from Rec and Park and our authoritarian freak of a supervisor.

Scott Wiener, Phil Ginsburg and Phil’s Spokesliar Sarah Ballard (married to fellow PR hack and former Newsom lackey Nathan Ballard) are obviously working overtime to sow hatred among the people of San Francisco by demonizing park goers and attempting to make us blame each other for the shitty services they render for their premium salaries.

Easy solution: organize and lobby for the firing of Phil Ginsburg, the single worst thing to ever happen to San Francisco public open space. And while we’re at it, let’s send control freak Wiener back to whatever rock he crawled out from under.

…or organize for something that might make a meaningful difference in the near-term and help alleviate neighborhood pressure to “stop the fun”?  Here’s an idea: get some folks to volunteer trash pick-ups on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Why should taxpayers continue to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars per year on employees like Phil Ginsburg and Sarah Ballard after witnessing their refusal to perform their jobs as managers of our public parks?

How hard is it to schedule a few extra trash pickups per day when necessary?

If your employee refuses to do his job, you don’t make excuses, continue to pay him and begin performing his responsibilities for him. You fire the fucker and get a new one.

Its crazy to say that San Francisco doesn’t have enough money to pay sanitation engineers.   

And if San Francisco is really that poor, we should look where the money is being spent.

Sure.  Kick and scream about the lack of funding, call for Ginsburg/Ballard’s heads, all of that (assuming you think the next head of a city department operating within a structurally flawed budgeting environment isn’t going to be worse than the current person).  That aside, there are also numerous ways grass-roots efforts can help tackle some of these problems so the “fun” doesn’t have to be stopped in its entirety (which I think is a real possibility - ever been to NY’s Central Park and see how the NYPD deals with people w/open containers?  Or Boston PD w/folks drinking on the Charles River Esplanade?  It’s citation central - and god help you if you also happen to be a person of color…)  I’m talking about volunteer trash pickups, participation in the efforts of advocacy groups like SF Parks Alliance, etc.

But 13, trash isn’t just a Dolores Park problem.  And its not a new problem.   Walk Mission Street any early morning, and you’ll see much the same trash as would be found in Dolores Park, - plus Bud, Tecate, Modelo and , cheap Vodka bottles, shit from both humans and dogs, food box trash, other boxes, old furniture being thrown away by people being moved out.   Walk Valencia Street, and you’ll also have the high price trash closer to Valencia Street of Hennseey Cognac, Patron Tequila, take out glasses from Boba Guys, etc.  Graffiti, and sloppiness.

And as to the money mis-spending, Yes I’m suspicious that those who are paid to be in charge are expecting athat when the grass is  worn out after two months, lots of voices will be saying, wtf, did we pay 22 million dollars in out of pocket cost, and 45 Million dollars in lost usage dollars, for something that is almost the same.   This is the campaign to deflect blame.

F***in a right, homey! Ginsburg is the worst! *cough* Newsom appointee *cough*

Right,  Save SF Parks.

The price of fixing Dolores Park went from 12 Million to 22 Million.   And the excuse was Ginsburg didn’t know that there was water underneath the park.   Fucking, everybody who sat on the grass knew there was a river running through it.    But the chief in charges claims ignorance is a good excuse for delaying the park for months and nearly doubling the cost.   Fucking 22 Million Dollars, how much of that was stolen???

Repeated piles of trash around the same trash can is clearly a failure of the city administration. The idea that we should have community trash collection is a joke. It’s busy there on weekends, put in more trash cans and empty them frequently. How hard is that? If you see a pile of trash on the sidewalk around an overflowing trash can you are more likely to just leave your trash in the park.

I remember the golden age of San Francisco. It was the day I moved here. Anyone who has moved here since I moved here is a techie and we old timers should all hate them. Our trash used to smell like roses back in the day.