Don’t be surprised if someone in a white t-shirt and green wristband approaches you this Sunday in Dolores Park with a trash bag—in case you’ve forgotten yours—and a smile.
“Would you mind carrying out your 24-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon and what’s left of that exploded piñata rather than leaving alongside an overflowed trashcan?” they might ask. This Sunday will be the first cleanup effort of the newly created Dolores Park Stewards, the park advocacy group SafeCleanGreen decided Wednesday night at a 40-person meeting.
The Stewards don’t want to become the new custodians of the park. Rather, they want to set an example that will transform what co-founder Gideon Kramer described as the “nobody cares” attitude he sees as responsible for the weekend aftermath reminiscent of Woodstock.
“People take you more seriously when you put your money where your mouth is,” Kramer said, who painted over all the graffiti on the park’s trashcans this weekend in under three hours. It’s not just trash that SafeCleanGreen are fed up with. It’s also the dead grass, the renegade DJs, the unrestrained drinking and carousing. The list goes on, depending on who you ask. But more than anything, they appear tired of airing their grievances in “endless discussion that goes nowhere.”
So, for now, the group is focusing on what everyone—they hope—can get behind: less trash in the park. But emotions about the park run deep, which makes debate difficult to avoid, even in a meeting with a “solutions-oriented” mandate. “I look a the park and I’m heartbroken at how dead it looks,” said Deborah Bueti, who’s lived for 18 years at what neighbors call “ground zero” and taught at nearby Everett Middle School for ten. “I’ve watched her die.” Kramer addressed another issue that has emotional flare: recent media coverage about the park that he found over-sensationalized.
He flapped the Sept. 4 issue of the San Francisco Examiner with a bold “Prohibition in Dolores Park” headline, which he criticized for overstating the policing issue. Examiner Staff Writer Katie Worth was present at the meeting. Local blogger Kevin Montgomery appeared at the meeting to respond to criticism about a Mission Mission blog post he wrote in late August in which he called SafeCleanGreen a “mobilized minority trying to flip the script on a beloved national treasure behind everyone’s back.” Kramer disagreed with the implication that the group had a nefarious plan to restrict people’s access to the park.
Montgomery, who says he likes how the park is right now except for the trash and lack of bathrooms, was the person who suggested handing out bags as a reminder not to litter. His appearance, though not entirely conciliatory, restored some civility to what has become a contentious online debate. “Kevin,” Kramer said, “This is totally open. I want maximum buy in.” The Dolores Park Stewards will meet this Sunday at 2 p.m.