The Dolores Park renovations set to begin in September will mean that for most of the next year and a half, residents will have to party, play and picnic on only half of the park, according to the plan presented Wednesday night.

The recently renovated playground, which will open in late March, will stay open throughout the construction phases.

The Dolores Park Renovation Plan is like a crowd-sourced recipe for a slow-cooked stew. It took hours to agree on a list of things to include, but after Wednesday night’s open house meeting, there was a clearer picture of the ingredients and the order in which they’ll be used.

The renovated park will have two restrooms on each side, two paths running across it, and a multi-use operations building. The clubhouse where the restrooms are now is slated to be removed.

If all goes according to plan, preparations for the renovations will begin in September. Crews will start working on the 20th and Church streets overlook, the 20th Street MUNI stop, and the path between the playground and the promenade and picnic areas.

The first of two phases will begin in February 2013 with the closing of the south side of the park, the west part of the promenade, the bridge and the Hidalgo statue overlook. That phase should end in August 2013.

The second phase will take place between September 2013 and July 2014, when the north side of the park will be closed, as will the east part of the promenade and the 19th Street entry plaza.

Before that happens, landscape architects with Royston Hanamoto Alley & Abey (RHAA) will present the project to the Recreation and Park Department’s Capital Committee, go back before the Arts Commission, and wait for a draft of an environmental study to be released in May and a final version of the study in August.

Jim Woods, owner of the soon-to-open MateVeza, a yerba mate cerveceria moving into the former Lilah Belle space at 18th and Church streets, wondered if the two phases could be divided into smaller phases so that parts of the park would be open throughout the renovations.

He worried that if people got used to not using one entire side of the park, they wouldn’t come back once it reopened.

“It’s like if your stylist is gone for two months. If you know he’s gone for a couple of weeks, you’ll probably wait, but if it’s too long you might never go back to him,” he said.

However, he was impressed with the level of residents’ involvement in the process.

“It’s pretty cool to see the level of detail that people are going into,” he said, referring to a comment left by the tennis courts that suggested choosing shrubbery that made it easier to find lost tennis balls.

Behind him, two detailed renderings of the park were taped to the walls of the high school cafeteria.

On it residents had stuck colored Post-It notes with comments and suggestions for the project’s architects.

“Make benches transparent. Advantages: no graffiti, better view, safer (visibility),” read a note taped to a rendering of an area near 20th and Church streets.

“Be sure to threat this mud/lawn area,” read one near the playground. Next to it another read, “Move 2-3 trees, make contemplative space.”

The restrooms on the 18th Street side of the park inspired funnier comments.

“Palm motif on building looks like In ‘N Out,” read one. “True! I knew it reminded me of something…” read another taped underneath.

Next to a rendering of the multi-use building, a resident made a joke about the surprisingly see-through sketches of people.

“Ghost people are scary, may be a good thing…”

In different parts of the sketch, an apparent tree lover had put pink Post-It notes with a heart around “Magnolia shade tree.”

Walking from one rendering to the next and back, architects and project managers asked questions of community members.

“What do you think about people using that corner?” Steve Rasmussen Cancian, a landscape architect, asked a man with a dog.

After three hours, the renderings were covered with multicolored notes, but most people seemed pleased with what’s in store for the park.

One resident who had voiced his opinions at many previous community meetings wasn’t happy, though.

“I told you to cobble the path and you didn’t do it,” resident Andrew Solow yelled to Cancian.

“Make it narrower and hide it with cobbling,” Solow added, pointing to the path that runs through the north side of the park.

After Cancian wrote his suggestion on a Post-It, Solow appeared to calm down.

“Doing something like this is like trying to herd cats. You’ve done a fairly good job,” Solow said.

“Can we shake on that?” Cancian asked, Solow smiling.

Apart from a few details in the design, renderings shown at the meeting respected the community’s wishes.

“When you have a park that’s successful, you don’t blow it up,” Jake Gilchrist, a project manager, told another resident.

Once the environmental study is released in August, people will have a 20-day period to voice their opinions on aspects of the plan.

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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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  1. I took part in the community meetings, which took place over many months last year. The folks at RHAA did an admirable job of constructively and peacefully facilitating many different factions, conflicting opinions, and the inevitable gadflies, NIMBYs and squeaky wheels.
    The choices made will be great for the park. We could have done much more, IMO, to prepare the park for the next 50 years of use, but there were a lot of people who were adamantly opposed to altering almost anything (The difference between “historical” and “of historical value” seems to be lost on some).