One of the renderings of the Dolores Park project shown to the Arts Commission Monday

After waiting for more than three hours in a warm, windowless basement room in the Arts Commission building on Monday, commissioners unanimously approved the first phase of the Dolores Park rehabilitation project. That means the architects can now get to work on the design.

Getting the commission’s approval may have been the easiest part of the project. Getting here, and getting the community’s approval, was another matter: It took seven steering committee meetings and six workshops with as many as 100 attendees who came to voice their opinions.

“They asked us not to change it, but how do you do that when you want to upgrade it?” asked Aditya Advani, vice president of Royston Hanamoto Alley & Abey, the landscape architectural firm working on the project.

A rendering of the Dolores Park project.

One concern was the park’s eligibility to be designated a historical landmark. Because of that, the project couldn’t be a complete renovation but only a rehabilitation, meaning that the landscape architects could upgrade to meet current codes but had to keep historical features intact.

Add to that the dog lovers who wanted to make sure their off-leash areas were well-placed and not fenced, as well as discussions on whether or not the clubhouse should go and whether Dolores Park visitors could handle a European-style urinal, called a pissoir.

Project architects had introduced the urinal idea last summer, but community members couldn’t agree on whether this was a good fit or not.

“It’s a good idea. Our neighborhood can deal with a little innovation, and if not we can always bulldoze it,” Robert Brust, a member of the steering committee, said while waiting for the presentation to begin.

It’s too early in the design process to know whether the pissoir idea gets flushed down the toilet, but if it is put in place, San Francisco could become the first city in the nation to have one.

At the meeting, the architects presented a plan that seemed to please everyone.

“It’s a different beast, this project,” Advani said. “Ordinarily you’d be further along in design,” he added.

After seeing a presentation of the plan, which includes removing the clubhouse and adding a multi-use path along Church Street, a renovated entry plaza that will bring the bell closer to the sidewalk and restrooms on both sides of the park, commissioners had just a few words of advice for the architects.

Responding to the proposed green roof and green wall on the structure that will house restrooms on the 18th Street side of the park, Arts Commissioner Cass Calder Smith suggested doing one or the other.

“Maybe you could use AstroTurf,” Calder Smith said.

The landscape architects smiled and immediately disagreed.

“The entire first month of our meetings was about artificial turf,” said Susan Aitken, one of the project architects.

There were also a few words of gratitude from the Arts Commission.

“Thank you for getting rid of the chains,” said Commissioner Kimberlee Stryker, referring to the chains on the plaza along Dolores Street.

To view the presentation of the Dolores Park rehabilitation project, click here.

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Hélène Goupil

Hélène Goupil is a former editor at Mission Local who now works independently as a videographer and editor. She's the co-author of "San Francisco: The Unknown City" (Arsenal Pulp Press).

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