Dolores Park Renovations

Final Community-Driven Dolores Park Renovation Plan Unveiled

The five-month-long community planning and design phase of the Dolores Park Renovation project, which aimed to bring neighbors and actual park users together to produce a comprehensive, consensus renovation plan, recently wrapped up, producing the above plan for the park.  Dolores generally looks the same: the tennis courts will remain in the same location, the off-leash dog play areas will not be relocated or diminished in size, and almost all the trees and grass will still be there when the project is all said and done. However, there are some changes that will made when the 16-month renovation project kicks off next October:

  • The high corner of the park at 20th and Church (you know, the corner with the view) is going to be completely overhauled.  The three avocado trees will be cut down, a new tree planted, and the corner will be refreshed with a new plaza made of “decorative paving and benches” covering the grassy overlook.
  • The nauseating bathroom building that sits in the middle of the park will be leveled, replaced by grass and a “tai chi plaza,” where park-goers can presumably practice tai chi in the tranquil company of thousands of people chowing down on weed cookies.
  • Tallboy Terrace won't be seeing an astroturf soccer field, which soccer proponents originally lobbied for.  Instead, everyone's favorite summer weekend hangout spot will receive two “unstriped and unlit” multi-use fields “for events and sports,” constructed with “special drainage and irrigation to sustain high use.”  (Read: the landscaping will be designed in such a way that that portion of the park will, hopefully, not be an unusable mud pit for half of the year.)  There's still no word as to how the Rec. & Park will deal with the inevitable usage conflict that will arise between uppity soccer moms and everyone else, but it has been suggested that the field will be limited for soccer play to weekdays between 4-6pm only.
  • “Hipster Hill” will see a transformed off-leash dog play area, complete with a “drinking fountain, bag dispensers, trash receptacles” and “marked by signage [explaining the rules and boundaries of the dog play area] at corners.”
  • The 19th Street entrance plaza will be made ADA complaint, with the bell being moved closer to the sidewalk.
  • The giant stretch of grass between the playground, Muni tracks, present-day bathroom building, and central walkway will have an updated dog-play area, being fenced off from the rest of the park with a “low fence and backless bench border.”
  • A new, ten-foot-wide concrete path (6 feet of concrete and 2-foot-wide “cobble shoulders”) will snake through the park.
  • As previously reported, a bike polo court will be built adjacent to tennis courts, the 19th St. Muni stop will be demolished, and two new bathroom buildings will be constructed.
  • Notably absent: there will be no mobile food court within the park proper, as Supervisor Scott Weiner is working on having the taco trucks moved to the curb.

From here, urban planners, city officials, and Rec. & Park staffers have three months to butcher the community plans, followed by the unveiling of the finalized “Rehabilitation Plan” in February.  Construction is still slated to begin in October 2012, which means we still have 11 months before the rest of San Francisco is forced to discover just how rad of a place Precita Park is.

In the meantime, here are the full-size community-driven designs:

Horrific Dolores Park Bathroom Building to be Demolished

You only have a few more months to cash in your friend's $100 “standing offer” to crap in Dolores Park's notoriously-inviting powder room, because when the park renovations are all wrapped up, the clubhouse will be little more than a nice patch of grass.

From what I'm told, it was a rare moment of neighborhood consensus—80% of the park neighbors voted to level the allegedly 'historic' building.  The neighbors had already approved two new bathroom buildings for the park (one by the 18th and Church Muni stop and another by the playground) and figured it wasn't worth saving the relatively useless structure and the hundred years of human shit caked to its sad walls.

Connie Chan, Rec & Park's Deputy Director of Public Affairs, sent us a one sentence statement on what's next:

The community has overwhelmingly voted to remove the clubhouse, which will be reflected in the final concept plan, and will go through an environmental review process with SF Planning Dept.

I have no idea what most of that means, but I understand that “environmental review process” is synonymous with “it takes five years to do anything, so don't count your chickens.”

Anyway, I sincerely hope we get to pay our final respects to the building that has somewhat served our need for a quite place to fuck around with needle drugs in some spectacular funeral pyre.  Ed Lee can hose down the building with napalm while the denizens of Dolores Park silently stand around the building, Tecates in hand, breathing the asbestos-filled smoke.  And just as the building begins to smoulder, Cold Beer Cold Water will emerge from the crowd, lifting a boombox over his head, and begin playing November Rain.

It'll be sweet as hell.

[Photo by Melissa Marie]

Dealing With Dogs in Dolores Park

As you may or may not know, the little slice of Dolores Park irritatingly known as “Hipster Hill” is currently home to an off-leash dog area, granting people the legal right to let their mongrels frolic in the grass and maul lesser dogs.  Not that any of that really matters right now: the entire park is a de facto off-leash dog play area.  Besides, no one really wants play fetch among hundreds of lolling picnickers anyway.

Well, the on-going park renovations will bring us an updated layout of designated usage areas with increased signage explaining the rules and boundaries, and the revised off-leash dog play area is smack in the middle of Tecate and bowls ground zero.

Okay, so what?

Well, a new dog play area means new amenities, and some of the proposed features of the forthcoming Cool Kid Dog Park include benches, paths, dog fountains, and, almost certainly, signage along the boundaries of the dog area designating it as such.

Alex Chaffee, who describes the plan as “horrifying,” breaks it down:

The biggest problem with that area is that it's already claimed by the hipsters! If [Dolores Park Renovation Steering Committee] comes out with plans that have paths or benches or boulders or dog fountains or even signs smack in the middle of the most trafficked, most used part of the park, then the conversation will immediately turn into a loud, public fight pitting dog owners against hipsters (with onlookers cheering and jeering at all parties). […]

It makes no sense to put foci for two incompatible activities in the same spot. That's an inevitable recipe for conflict between two otherwise harmonious uses of the park. But sadly, the current north field dog area plan does just that.

And unlike most people who like to bitch without proposing solutions, Alex has an idea for how to remedy the situation:

The current Dolores Park plan has an off-leash area in the North-East corner of the park, directly covering Hipster Hill. This is arguably the worst possible place to have a dog area. Instead, we should put a dog area along the North-West edge, which would be safer, easier to maintain, and less likely to lead to conflicts. […]

I propose we remove a section of the current sidewalk path (going from the Muni stop up the hill to the steps just north of the bridge). This will compensate for the addition of a 10' wide path right nearby by regaining green lawn.

The removal of the straight path will improve traffic through the park by encouraging strollers to meander along the ADA path.

Alex has a lot more to say about the issue and explains more thoroughly what an alternative DP dog park could look like.  He encourages people to attend Thursday's renovation meeting in support of the project, which, being honest, we already know you won't (they're boring anyway, but the complimentary cookies are tasty as all hell).  However, if you want to show your digital support or opposition, there's a comment form at the bottom of both this post and his proposal.

Renovated Dolores Park to Feature Two Bathroom Buildings, Bike Polo Court, Subterranean Lair

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.

Introducing Dolores Park's Giant Concrete Phallus of Injustice

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?”

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).

City Looking to Demolish Old Dolores Park Muni Stop

We've all enjoyed its street art, been nearly stabbed on it, and urinated there when our bladders couldn't handle the 30 minute wait for the bathrooms.  Now Rec. & Park wants to take away everyone's favorite open-air bathrooms.  Dolores Park Works reports:

Eric Andersen, RPD manager for Area 6, said one of his main goals in renovation is to see the long closed and abandoned 19th street MUNI stop demolished and replaced with landscaping. He called the old stop an attractive nuisance, a shooting gallery, a graffiti magnet, and an open sewer.   Jake Gilchrist, RPD manager for the Dolores Park renovation, said he was hoping for help from the MTA in a new design for the 18th Street entrance. “This corner is Dolores’s gateway to  the Castro,” Gilchrist told the commission.  It is now dominated by the J Church MUNI stop and an awkward wheelchair accessible ramp system.

Read on.

[Photo by Colin Findlay]

Dolores Park Neighbors Want Astroturf Soccer Field to be Installed in Park

The recent Dolores Park renovation meetings have been fairly vanilla thus far: lots of calls for more bathrooms, some concerns about preserving the “historic” nature of the park, cries for more benches at the top of the hill, and demands to solve the trash issue.  However, a strange and surprising action item as been discussed at length: astroturfing the flats known as Tallboy Terrace to make for a youth soccer field.

One member of the Dolores Park Renovation Steering Committee, the group tasked with advocating for the wants of Dolores Park users and neighbors, explains the astroturf proposal:

The Soccer Community is definitely proposing to install some type of heavy duty artificial turf adjacent to the tennis courts in Dolores Park, similar to what is already in use in numerous municipal dog parks and zoos all over the USA.

Frankly, there is no natural grass on earth that can survive the continuous use that a 190' x 270' flat spot in Dolores Park will receive if it is not fenced, not to mention 8,000 people for Mime Troupe performances and 15,000 people assembling periodically for demonstrations or marches to Market Street.

Please keep an open mind regarding artificial turf. Because with no fence, that is the ONLY solution to the severe wear problem in that particular section of Dolores Park. The trick is to make it look as natural as possible so that when it's being used for something other than soccer, it just sort of disappears when there are few hundred people on top of it.

Perhaps the proposal isn't that absurd.  Back in the early 90s, there was a long, nasty public debate about leveling the grassy knoll just south of the tennis courts (pictured above) for youth soccer games.  After years of debate, the field was finally approved in April 1994.  From the SF Chronicle:

After months of debate, San Francisco Recreation and Park commissioners agreed on the size of an athletic field in Mission Dolores Park, disappointing some nearby residents but pleasing soccer fans.

Although the controversial field was approved last year, park administrators have spent months trying to forge a compromise between soccer enthusiasts and neighborhood residents who wanted the park to remain as it is.

Yesterday, the commission sided with soccer supporters and voted 4 to 2 to approve a field measuring 270 by 180 to 190 feet, including buffer zones. In doing so, they rejected a staff recommendation for a 180-by-240-foot field.

Although the area is intended to be used by youth soccer teams, the space will also be available for picnics. Officials said the field could be ready sometime next year.

By Dec. 1996, drainage and soil problems turned the soccer field into “Dolores Park Lake,” the project was deemed a failure, and youth soccer games were permanently moved out of the park.

Soccer advocates have identified the 2012 renovation as an opportunity to get reclaim the space that was allocated to them decades ago, demanding renovation funds be allocated to making the field usable for children for years to come.  Maybe they're right; there's a known shortage of playable soccer fields in and around the Mission, and the city officially gave them the space years ago to give children something in Dolores Park that wasn't “drugs and crime.”

On the other hand, Dolores Park today is not the violent, drug-dealing epicenter that it was in the 90s.  Now, it's a national treasure used by 1.3 million people every year.  On a nice weekend, it's hard to find a place to sit on “the soccer field;” on a fantastic weekend, it's even worse.  “The soccer field” is home to concerts, art installations, slip-n-slides, protests, dyke marches, cultural celebrations, dog contests, underground commerce, games of catch and cornhole, trampoline parties, picnics, and everyday whimsy.  There's no doubt that children need positive places to get outside and play sports, but is it really appropriate to flip the script on all these other people who love the park?

The soccer advocates claim the astroturf field will “blend in” with the surroundings, will be great for multipurpose usage on weekends by picnickers, dogs, musicians, protesters, and whomever else shows up to the party, and won't need to be fenced in.  Others, including a man responsible for maintaining the field at AT&T Park, suggests the field will be uncomfortably hot on sunny days, will be impossible to maintain unless it is fenced off, requires an ugly concrete barrier between the rubber grass and the real grass, and won't be as “multipurpose” as some suggest.  Plus, there's a brand new astroturf soccer field being constructed less than two blocks away at Mission Playground.

What do you think?  Is it time to give the children what they were promised 17 years ago, or should the park remain the way it has been for years?

There's a meeting tonight at 6:30 to discuss the proposed rubber soccer field at the Mission High School Cafeteria.  I can't promise the meeting will be productive, but it should produce some MTV-level drama.

[All names redacted at the request of DP Renovation Steering Committee head]

Crappy Fencing Closes Off Section of Dolores Park

The Dolores Park Playground Renovation is now underway and a long segment of chain-link fence is closing off a large segment of the southern end of The Park for revilers and potential Chaac-Mool customers.  And while this deals a horrifying blow to our intoxicated late-night swing set sessions, the choice of fence signage is pretty shitty given the recent closure of the DP bathrooms.  Are we to now assume we can drunkenly drop our drawers and deposit a dirty deuce at the foot of these 1-800-toilets?

And for the curious, these fences block off a lot of the park. They pretty much take away half of the usable area of the southern section: