Rendering of Proposed South Restrooms Building

The architects’ dreams of gaining approval for the second design phase of the Dolores Park Rehabilitation Project went down the toilet on Monday.

Arts commissioners didn’t like the design of the restrooms slated for the south side of the park, and asked the architects to come back with other suggestions.

“The curves work,” said Commissioner Ron Miguel, referring to the shape of the fences above the building.

“But then you throw a box inside it, that doesn’t work,” he added, referring to the sharp edges of the building itself.

This might be a minor detail to some, but for project architects Susan Aitken and Aditya Advani, it means the entire project could be delayed.

“The design changes have to go into the historic impact review,” said project leader Jake Gilchrist after Monday’s meeting. If the environmental review is slowed down due to changes, it might delay the entire project.

Landscape architects Royston Hanamoto Alley & Abey were planning to start the renovations as early as September and finish by July 2014, with partial closures of the park.

Rendering of proposed northwest restrooms building.

The commissioners showed sympathy for the landscape architects, applauding them for working so closely with the community and responding to concerns expressed by commissioners at the February meeting, when they approved the first phase of design.

“I would imagine that you might be disappointed,” Commissioner Kimberlee Stryker said. “I want you to know that we acknowledge that you have put a lot of work into this. As you know, we have people looking at every blade of grass on this project.”

Those involved in the project are well aware of the level of scrutiny.

The landscape architects held seven community meetings, seven steering committee meetings, and more than 35 subcommittee meetings before going in front of the Arts Commission. Including two presentations for phase 1 and one failed attempt at phase 2, that’s at least 52 meetings.

Rendering of proposed south restrooms building.

The proposed restroom building featured a see-through fence that curved outward on each side of the restrooms, and bougainvillea on a flat roof.

In an earlier rendering, the building was better integrated into the hill; Aitken said she raised the ceiling because previously commissioners had mentioned that the lack of natural light could be an issue.

“Let’s put [in] some LED lights,” Commissioner Cass Calder Smith said, laughing.

“The park experience is more important than the bathroom experience,” he added.

Going back and forth on design details, commissioners went down a long list of suggestions.

Skylights could be a solution to add natural light, but architects worried about the possibility of vandalism.

The choice of mixing modern benches and trash cans with more historic ones concerned the commissioners, as did the width of the restroom doors and the designs above them.

Aitken and Advani will go back to the drawing board to integrate the commissioners’ wishes and submit a new presentation within one month.

To view the entire proposal, click here.

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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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  1. This is ridiculous. The existing bathroom was literally a block of asbestos with water and urine pouring out the bottom. For the Art Commission to veto this design, which is elegant, functional, and ONLY A BATHROOM, is absurd.

  2. Agree with Hermano, also live less than a block from the park and went to a few of the meetings. What a joke.
    $20M? All we needed was to get rid of the toxic wooden sandbox in the kiddie park (that is what started all this), maybe some new playground equipment, lighting for the Church St sidewalk to cut down on late night vagrants, renovate the bathroom building (they are tearing it down and building two new buildings?), maybe some landscaping and a few more trees to replace the sick ones.
    $1M, no closures and 6 months and the park could have been new , improved, and neighbors would have been happy.
    I hate the new playground, they tripled the size, and now its all plastic and high-maintenance – plus it will be fenced, closed at night, and no adults w/o a child! Nonsense!

    1. Did you mention the death rocks on the new park? Well, may be in a year and after 2 children are hurt. We will spend another 20 million to fix them.

    2. From what I’ve heard, the playground will be neither fenced, nor closed at night, nor preventing adults without children. Which is too bad, seeing as though the leg-lifters will probably vandalize the sh!t of it in the first two weeks.

  3. you take paradise and put up a parking lot. If you lived a block away like me, all you would want are some damn trees and to leave it alone. its not well policed and has always attracted trouble at night. to me this is all for someones hipster ego before they move back to new york.

  4. And we wonder why the enormous price tag for this project. Fifty-two (52!) meetings so far< and still not satisfied? This is what happens when every commission, citizen, homeless, parent, child, dog, etc. etc. designs a park. The architects were hired to do a job. I've been in similar situations with design projects where they get out of control because the client with terrible design sense is allowed to design his or her own project, rather than relying on the expertise of the designer. Enough already! The bathroom looks just fine and I'm sure it will be quickly defaced and defacated. Remember the renderings of the 16th and Mission St plaza — how nice and beautiful and peaceful it looked? Take a look at the reality. Let's not over-work this whole thing and just get down to building the park already.

    1. Seriously. Dolores Park doesn’t need the perfect bathroom, though this is very nice. It just needs a functional one.

    2. You are so right. I went to some of those meetings and clearly sympathize with the designers and architects dealing with some very kooky suggestions or wishes and the like. as if folks were designing their own living rooms. I get that the arts commission does good work, but i’m not sure they should be weighing in on exterior design details for the restroom at such detailed level. I live two blocks away too, and please, let’s get this thing moving.