Dolores Park has $7.9 million for renovations, and on Thursday night the community began workshopping just what needs to be done on the more than 150-year-old park that has become a playground for all and a minefield for community disagreements.
The planning began just as construction on the $2 million state-of-the-art playground was set to start on Friday.
“I might be a better landscape architect, but this is not my park,” landscape architect Steve Cancian told the more than 100 residents gathered in Mission High School’s cafeteria to discuss the park’s future.
District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener agreed. To come up with great ideas, he said, “the project needs input from the public as well as professional guidance.”
So far agreement appeared to focus on the tennis courts and the restrooms — refurbishing both and adding to the latter.
Residents also talked about fixing holes in the grass, drainage, replacing fencing, widening the sidewalks and perhaps creating a new entrance.
“What about the rat colony that lingers by Muni?” shouted a resident.
“Keep or remove? Is that good or bad?” Cancian replied to laughs from the crowd.
“I want to make sure everyone has his or her side heard,” he said.
Another resident shouted, “Preserving the pot truffle guy,” referring to the informal sales that go on in the park.
A second meeting, on June 30 — also at Mission High’s cafeteria — will summarize the ideas and ask the public to make a case for each. The date for a third meeting will be unveiled at the second meeting.
Some in the crowd were skeptical of whether such major renovations are needed and whether the Recreation and Park Department can manage them.
Nick Pasquariello, who has lived in the Mission on and off for more than 30 years, raised the history of the 1996 soccer field renovation.
That $270,000 soccer field project ran $30,000 over budget, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Problems arose with sprinkler heads, topsoil and the seeding. In the end, the field could not be used.
“It doesn’t work because the drainage fails, so it leaves that patch of dirt muddy,” Pasquariello said after the meeting.
The current planning process will include four months of public input followed by planning and obtaining permits, with the goal of beginning construction in September 2012. The money comes from the 2008 Clean and Safe Parks Bond.
Some community members were concerned that the playground work will cause too much of the park to be closed during the best season of the year. “This is the best season for construction to occur because of the weather,” responded Jacob Gilchrist, the park department’s project manager.
Nearby Mission Playground on Valencia Street is also being renovated this summer.
Gilchrist said that not a single event planned for the summer had to be canceled because of the construction. “We will find the best suitable spots for those affected,” said Connie Chan, the park department’s director of public affairs.
However, the San Francisco Symphony did move its summer concert from Dolores Park to Golden Gate Park because of concerns about space during the construction.
SF Movie Night and the San Francisco Mime Troupe performances were relocated and will take place as scheduled.
The trees that the slack-liners use will be removed, but posts for slack lines were suggested during Thursday’s meeting.
“I can’t imagine another park that would draw so much attention,” said Wiener.
Robert Brust of the community organization Dolores Park Works said that the public “should keep an open mind and broad perspective of what this park is going to become.”