Photo by Dolores Park Works

Some parents have said they are concerned that the recently opened Helen Diller playground in Dolores Park lacks a fence to keep out dogs, which can scare, chase or hurt their children.

Andre Kellerman, a neighbor who lives opposite the park, said she recently saw a pit bull wandering in the playground.

“It was just running aimlessly through the playground and it knocked down a toddler as it went though,” she said.

Though the encounter resulted in no injury, Kellerman said the absence of a fence allows any of the off-leash dogs in the area to enter. “An incident that does not end so well is bound to happen,” she said.

Jana Thompson, another neighbor living close to Dolores Park, also saw the incident. To her, it feels as though “dogs have taken precedence over kids” in Dolores Park. Several neighbors have written to both the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department and district Supervisor Scott Wiener.

Connie Chan, deputy director of public affairs at Rec Park, said the playground has never had a fence and the current design was the result of a lengthy debate between residents, designers and authorities.

In the end, she said, participants decided it was best to use plants as a form of buffer instead of fencing the playground. “The design of the planting buffer would create a natural barrier to prevent dogs from running in,” she said.

Chan said the decision also stemmed from the practical concern of accommodating park users for sitting and viewing, especially during special events.

Robert Brust, co-founder of Dolores Park Works, agreed with Chan, stressing the importance of keeping large, open spaces for the park to remain fully accessible to the public.

“The big lawns are necessary for the use of the park as a civic venue,” he said.

Wiener said he has received “several dozen” messages from concerned residents. However, he supports the decision to not fence the area. The playground, he said, is “an asset to the park,” and “radically changing its design” would be inappropriate.

Wiener said that another factor in the decision not to fence was the desire to accommodate a larger population of children in the playground. “Helen Diller is not just for younger kids,” he said. “It is also for older kids, and we thought a fence could put them off.”

Nancy Gonzalez Madynski, a lifelong Mission resident who took part in the planning discussions, said it “is no oversight” that the fence was left out of the final design. To her, it seemed unfair to isolate the children behind a fence.

“Dolores Park is a mixing area where everyone is welcome,” she said. “It made no sense to segregate in any way.”

However, city officials are not insensitive to parents’ concerns.

Brust said that Rec Park manager Eric Andersen, who did not return Mission Loc@l’s phone calls, wants to “keep the option to put up a fence.”

“A small, low, ornamental fence around the north side of the playground may be a good idea,” Brust added.

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  1. A fence is a terrible idea. Too many parks are segregated that way, with children shut off in separate areas that ban adults without children.

    Retaining a youthful sense of play is important for adults’ health and well-being, and they should be encouraged to enjoy playgrounds along with younger members of society.

    I was afraid the Rec & Park Dept. was going to wreck Dolores Park with the playground renovation, but I’m delighted to say that they actually did a terrific job. The new park is full of all kinds of stuff that kids of all ages can enjoy, including mock drums and other built-in musical installations.

    Any attempt to fence off this stuff from ready public access will be fought tooth and nail.

    1. So as long as the playground works for you, everyone should be happy? Even if the playground wasn’t actually built for you? I don’t mind the idea of playgrounds for adults, but that was not the intent here — at least I don’t imagine that a toddler play area was built with the idea that adults would be playing on it. But thanks for implying that your use of the park should be our main concern.

  2. There were children and dogs and adults all enjoying the park happily together before the new playground was installed. And no disasters. I am absolutely against any new fence- the playground already has a far larger footprint than it did before. No increase of its presence (and view-blocking and encroachment on Dolores Beach). E-nough already.

  3. Don’t fence the playground. The idea behind the no fence design is to keep Dolores one of the parks where kids can roam from play structure to grass and back.

    If you’re concerned about unleashed dogs, why not fence the dog areas?

    1. I’m not sure how I can make this point clear enough for all to understand, but here goes: this is NOT about letting “kids” roam from one area to the next, it is not really even about dogs at the base of it. It IS about small children, toddlers, 2 years old, walking but just barely, able to use the side of the playground that was MADE for them, but also fully capable of running full speed toward what ever has just caught their attention (“squirrel!!!”). Even a parent who is standing nearby is helpless in the face of a determined toddler. That is the reason why parents of young children, toddlers, are asking for a short fence around the toddler area. To keep the toddlers in, not the rest of humanity and dog-manity out (although dogs can be a problem with small kids, so yes, let’s try and keep the dogs and toddlers separated).

      It is painfully obvious that most commenters above do not have children and/or have never had to care for one in a public park. In a toddler area that is not secured by a toddler-proof barrier it can be unnerving at best, and a short fence can turn it into bliss. The toddler area was built for toddlers, who don’t often bring themselves to playgrounds, so why not make it easy for parents to use? It’s not the cell-phone-glued-to-the-ear parents who are asking for this, it’s the parents who are trying to keep their two year old from ending up in the dog pile at the bottom of the big slide.


  4. Lets be honest here – the reason the playground was not fenced in to begin with was at the request of the old farts who live around the park. Having young rich kids all over the park gives us a reason to toss out the poor, the 420 smokers and the queers in their thongs. They have succeeded in some respects. The speedo hill now has families rolling up and down the hill where gays used to lay out. Next up chase off the dog (who of course out number kids in this town). The reason the soccer field will be so well defined in the future is to toss out the hipsters and pot smokers from the other side of the park. Its suburbia run amuck. AKA the new Mission.

    1. “where gays used to hang out”….well, if you were there this weekend it was certainly packed with all the people you say are now missing..and dogs as well…I personally saw one shitting and taking off with no owner in site. Anyway, isn’t it great that families can walk up and down next to ‘the gays’, as you say, in speedos and not think anything of it? Where I grew up this kind of inclusion and tolerance just didn’t exist. Why so many people get upset over a playground is beyond comprehension.

      1. “Why so many people get upset over a playground is beyond comprehension.”

        that’s easy, they’re frustrated and unhappy about the utter lack of meaning in their lives and need to take it out on an easy target – in this situation everyone can blame ‘someone else’ and thus feel better about themselves and their pathetic meaningless existence. Isn’t that what commenting on the Internet is all about ?

  5. This is too funny! No comments re man getting mugged by 2 dirtbags on 16th/Mission St but loads of comments about whether or not to have a fence put up @ DP!! Marin’s comments is the only one that makes any sense. But instead of fencing in the kids, fence in the dogs. Let them wallow in their own s..t instead of having it spread all over the park.

    1. Most of the people commenting on this story never go to 16th and Mission, unless it’s to get off the BART from the burbs and walk as quickly as possible to Dolores Park, head down, not making eye contact with anyone.

      The rest of us know that muggings are a regular occurence, and if you’re out after about 11 or so you best be careful and not walk around with your phone in your hand, not paying attention.

  6. Parents vs Dogs vs Hipsters, the truth is it’s not us and them, it’s just us, and we are all part of the problem – especially when we refuse to take any personal responsibility or adhere to some form of social contract and just blame all the problems on some nebulous ‘someone else’. This is why we can’t have nice things in SF.

  7. The parents are not even asking for the dogs to be kept on leash (as most cities require, for this very reason), but simply to put up a barrier so dogs whose owners clearly are not able to voice control their dogs, can not go into the children’s playground. Only in San Francisco do you have to fence kids in because dog owners think it’s inhumane to fence in the dogs!

    So let’s get some facts here:

    Each year, more than 350,000 dog bite victims are seen in emergency rooms, and approximately 850,000 victims receive some form of medical attention. Based on data collected in the USA between 2001 and 2003, the CDC concluded that there were 4.5 million dog bite victims per year, but that figure appears to be rising.

    And as much as pit bull owners think their own dogs are so friendly (“I’m shocked, my dog loves kids!”):

    The combination of pit bulls, rottweilers, their close mixes and wolf hybrids cause:

    77% of attacks that induce bodily harm
    73% of attacks to children
    81% of attack to adults
    68% of attacks that result in fatalities
    76% that result in maiming

    1. Yep. I tend to think Pit bulls are as bad as the human that owns them, but, even a “friendly” dog can cause an inordinate amount of damage. They are so unsuited for this city. I’ll never forget seeing a blooded two year old being rushed to the hospital while the pit bull owner looked on white-faced and disbelieving. And the dog itself sat there with his tongue hanging out looking …well, relaxed.

  8. Dogs should be on a leash. I am going to call the police and ask for enforcement the next time I see an off-leash dog in the play area. If you can’t control your animal, keep him out of public.

    1. Now *I* got the good laugh – asking the police to enforce laws in the Mission. Have you ever been on Mission St, away from your precious park ? Maybe you should just stay in Glen Park.

  9. Parents should learn how to be more parental and stop worrying about fucking dogs around their kids.

  10. I have seen dogs jump up on and knock both of my children down, meanwhile, the dog owner laughed at “how cute” it was and that her dog was “really sweet and loved children”. My children also are very allergic to dogs and need to use an inhaler and take emergency allergy medicine with exposure to dog dander and saliva. Most dog owners seem to have no idea how scary and potentially dangerous it can be for even a friendly dog to play rough with a little kid.

    We all deserve to play in the public space. On a separate note, a fence is a good idea even without dogs around. At least around the area for younger kids. Keeping toddlers contained is essential for piece of mind.

  11. First off 99% of the dog owners do not pick up after there animal. We have the same problem at Huntington park for the last 5 and more years ago. The big difference is we have had one dog death and 3 bites and nothing has been done. Good luck Dolores Park.

    1. animal owners won’t permit there dogs to be in an enclosed area. We have tried that at Huntington Park.

      1. Why? Most urban areas enclose off leash dog areas for this very reason. To keep dogs away from those who don’t wish to be bothered by someone else’s dog.

        1. Because they’re SF dog entitled dog owners. Only the best for the dogs, which trump “breeder spawn.”

  12. It is a crowded park and the playground has made it feel even more crowded. There are too many entitled suburban parents on cell phones, too many strollers and way too many nannies.
    My next door neighbor stepped on a dirty diaper that was lying unattended on the grass. Can you imagine?
    At least dog owners clean up after their dogs. And you can pet dogs running around the park. Who doesn’t like a friendly happy dog running free in a park?
    The same people that destroyed Noe Valley have set their sites on The Mission. That playground needs to go…

    1. Ha! MUCH more common to slide on some dog doo than it is to accidentally step on a diaper. This post is a joke.

    2. Much more common to get a parking ticket than to step on dog poo or diaper poo.

      Too much government, and one more fence just cedes that much more public space to the control freaks. No thank you.

  13. Go ahead put up a fence, but don’t feign dogs have taken precedence over kids, not after the city has just forked out $13 million for a state-of-the-art kids’ playground while essential city services are being cut. The former playground at Dolores did not have a fence and nobody ever complained.

  14. I’m curious if dogs running through the playground was a problem before the remodel. I’m 35 and I don’t remember dogs being a problem when I was playing at DP, though my memories certainly could be lacking in detail after 25 years.

    I’m wondering if the replacement of sand with that rubbery stuff, has made it easier for pooches to cruise through the kiddy area, or if it just that there are more dogs, There are certainly more people; that I’m sure of.

  15. I have both a kid and a dog – but I have a different suggestion: a fence to keep out those hipsters. They might scare or even hurt my child with all that ironic facial hair and bi-rite picnic foods.

  16. Since Dolores Park has become such a hipster haven, it’s become a cesspool of piss, beer cans and cigarette butts. Keep your hipsters on leash! (And I thought smoking was not permitted in city parks?)

      1. p.s., “Jeremy” — what a quintessential douchebag hipster kid name. Do you work in marketing at a dot com and drive a Prius and drink a lot of expensive coffee? Don’t blame me, blame your parents. At least you won’t procreate because your junk is stuffed into such ridiculously tight jeans that all your sperm will die before they impregnate Madison or Heather or Farrah or whatever her stupid name is. Now go shave that nasty crap off your face and try to create your own counter culture. Good luck with that!

    1. “has become such a hipster haven”

      and what was it before it became a hipster haven? do you even know the answer to that? if you do, you wouldn’t be so snide.

      1. Yeah, I had been going there for oh, say, 30 years, until it became overrun with the annoying entitled offspring of the midwest, and yes, it wasn’t utopia then, either, but at least it wasn’t the pit it is now. I prefer drug dealers and circle jerks, even though I wasn’t a participant in either. So, no, not a hipster dude. Get over yourselves.

        1. Ohhh, you’ve been coming to the park for 30 years. So you’re not only bitter, you’re old. Well done!

          1. Wow, Heather- problems with age, much? Whatre you gonna do when you get old? What a lame and horrible thing to say to someone.

          2. Heather, thanks for proving my point. You can cry to mommy and daddy about how wronged you are when you go back to Connecticut for Christmas. Maybe they’ll give you a gold star for showing up and a medal for chewing your food. Choke on your blue bottle, you small-minded twat.

        2. In SF, old is also correlated with pays next to nothing in property tax. Yet they always try to take the moral high ground.

          1. Ding, ding, ding, ding! Lizzie, in a sea of imbeciles, you are the hands down winner of the Moron of the Highest Order award. So a person’s right to comment on civic matters is permitted on a scale relevant to the property tax that person pays? You typify everything that is wrong with newcomers to the city. (P.s., I am not old, and I do not own a house. Now what will the LIzzies and Heathers say?)

        3. well, you seem pretty bitter about being in your 30s and not owning a house, do you pay any taxes at all? Or are you one of the 50% that contributes nothing to society yet still thing you should have a say in it ?

          1. Bitter? How does saying “I do not own a house” indicate that I am bitter? I own my own business. I employ people. I pay taxes, and I contribute to society. How you extrapolated your opinion from what I wrote is baffling. Now are you going to attack me because I haven’t put myself into unreasonable debt to “own” a house, or rather, pay a huge mortgage? That’s the job of the Heathers of the world, bud. I’m not stupid and I don’t need a granite counter top to prove my self worth.

      1. I mean amen! to annead! Hipsters on leashes , yes! There’s way too many bottles, cans, and cig butts in the “hipster off leash area”!

        1. maybe we can give the hipsters some kind of colored armband and corral them in some kind of ‘camp’ with chain link fences, that sound good to you ?

  17. Heavyweight entitlement match!

    In this corner, breeders! “Rearrange your city around my kid.”

    In that corner, San Francisco dog owners! “My dog needs to be off-leash for its psychological development.”

    Let the bell ring, and go punch each other.

  18. Sorry to ask a silly question, but is Dolores Park a designated “off leash” park in its entirety, or is there just an off leash area? It seems ridiculous that appearance trumps child safety in this case.

    1. The city is too crowded for dogs to be running off leash. OMG, want your dog to run off leash? Move to the suburbs so you can have a big backyard.

    2. You are in a city, a concrete jungle. Take your dog to the ‘burbs. People and their dogs have ruined the park’s for the kids to play in.

      1. I’m actually not a dog owner. I just get incredibly tired of the breeders bitching about every little last thing that may hurt their precious offspring. And I have to say, the recent findings that San Francisco has the lowest number of children under the age of 18 made me all warm and fuzzy. So no, folks, I won’t be taking my non-existent dog to the suburbs, but I will certainly continue to enjoy Dolores in all of its glory without giving two thoughts about the children in the playground. You know why? They’re not even remotely my responsibility to worry about, as I’ve made the wise choice NOT to procreate.

        1. It’s not about hurting precious offspring, it’s about common courtesy in a city crowded with people. Most cities require dogs to be fenced in when they’re off leash for a reason: because they poop all over and because they can be unpredictable. Anyone who views all parent in the negative light of “breeders” has some serious psychological issues and should seek therapy… but do not impose this skewed mentality on the community where you live. San Francisco is a vibrant city of all kinds of different people, and if you’re so closed-minded that you can not accept a variety of stripes and colors of people, including different races, sexual orientations, genders, dog owners, and people with children, then you are not welcome in the progressive fabric that is San Francisco.

    3. This isn’t just about the dogs. Grownups like myself want to be able to use park playgrounds too, and not be treated like second-class citizens just because we don’t have kids.

  19. Come on people! If you’re so scared of everything move to the suburbs. Dolores is a beautiful park, and to start adding barriers defeats its purpose as a wide open space in a tight city. Keep your precious brat close by if you’re so worried about them meeting, eghads!, a dog!

    1. Can you hear yourself? How about keep your lawn and sidwalk-defecating dog close to you, rather than letting it run free all over the park. That certainly makes a lot more sense since it’s not the kid that’s going to maul the dog.

      1. Oh yes yes… dogs maul. You hear about it ALL the time! So many children eaten up by big bad cocker spaniels. Oooo… So scary!!!

    2. And to follow your logic — if you want your dog to run free off-leash, go buy yourself some land in Northern California and move to the countryside, or likewise, move to the suburbs where you can have a dog off leash in your own back yard.

      1. Agreed, good point. Although there doesn’t *have* to be this dog people vs kid people divide, it seems it will never go away.

      2. Keep your kid on a leash, sir. Your kid is leaving a helluva bigger carbon footprint than my pup!

      3. Another “my kid is the bestest, and yours sucks” parent. A city is no place to raise a kid. Listen to YOURself. Many people have dogs, and to them they are in lieu of having kids. Not the same, of course, but people like you are just raising a bunch of snotty, frightened pansey-wimps of kids.

  20. This is a great playground. I think a fence is needed to keep the dog population from using it as their public bathroom.

    1. 99% of “dog people” pick up their dog’s poop. See someone who isn’t? Tell them about it. These generalizations are just nutty!

      1. By the amount of dog excrement left on the streets, playgrounds and grassy areas of the city, I believe 99% in an inflated percentage.

        1. By the amount of dog excrement left on the streets, playgrounds, and grassy areas of the city, I believe 99% is an inflated percentage.

          And most of the time you don’t witness it to be able to tell a dog owner to pick it up. There is only a large pile of steaming dog poo left in the aftermath.

  21. Every parent/grandparent/guardian/babysitter I know who has been to the new park has noted the park’s poor sight lines and lamented that there was no small fence (as we have at many other parks in the city; JK, Marina, Hamilton, etc.) to provide some reassurance. I do not see how this would anyway conflict with how people use the lawn as a “civic venue.”

    @ Matt –you must not have more than one child or not yet have a child who is old enough to want to run around without you while you pay attention to your younger one.

    1. Totally agree — it’s already extremely difficult to keep track of one kid, much less two at that playground unless you station yourself on the bridge for a 360 view. @matt – and a parent who is hovering over their kid at every moment is doing the kid a disservice. Kids like to play with other kids or explore on their own too… it’s healthy for them.

  22. I am a dog owner and a parent, and think a fence would be great. Why the reluctance? Dog owners wouldn’t have to worry about a kid getting knocked over or worse, and parents could bring small children without worrying about dogs running around. I am not worried about my kid running out of the playground — it is well set up to prevent that — but it’s not well set up for dogs who are off leash. The city had better hope nothing bad happens or it will find itself facing a big lawsuit.

  23. I’m a parent. No freaking fence please. people are scared of their own shadow in this town. how about you get off your phone and play with your kid — that way a dog won’t be able to knock your kid down — and just maybe your kid can say hi to the dog in a nice way — ohmygoddogsandkidsplayingtogether.


    1. @matt – thank you for your sanity. It’s a rare virtue in this town these days. Your child does not need a fence, it needs a better parent.

      1. @Tweety: You are an awful person. Way to go!

        @Matt: Thanks for being awesome. Well done, sir. Your kid’s going to be a good one.

    2. I have a 3 year old and I play with him constantly but often he likes to run off and play by himself or with friends. I can not helicopter him all over the playgrounds. As much as parents should keep an eye on their kids, dog owners should do likewise. Dogs do not recognized the “visual barrier” created by the landscaping and can just as easily come into the playground as kids can go out. The problem here is not the parenting — sure parents should keep their kids in the playground — that’s not the issue. The issue is dogs, including many off leash pitbulls– are roaming all over the park and I many are not under control of the owners. I agree that this issue is a disaster waiting to happen, and I think showing concern now before a toddler gets mauled, is just prudent.

    3. Reading the response from “Tweety”, I feel that he/she may have been misunderstood. Given his/her positive “thank you for your sanity” response to Matt, I think the additional “your child does not need a fence, it needs a better parent” comment was directed not to him, but to the over-protective parents who want to fence their kids in and deny them the chance to interact with the larger community (including dogs).

  24. My kids are old enough that I can sit and enjoy the view while they play, and I won’t worry about them running off or being trampled. But it was not so long ago that I would drive to other playgrounds that had low fences so that I could do the same with my toddlers. It is a glaring omission that, at the very least, the area for younger children was not fenced in the new playground. It is obvious that the planners attempted to do this with landscaping, but landscaping does not keep children in or dogs out — just look at the number of children climbing all over the south walls, which I am sure was not intended.

    It was foolish to not have a low fence built, and the attempts to justify not including it are even more foolish. At some point, Nancy Gonzalez Madynski is going to have to step away from “her” playground and let people who are actually using it have some input.

    1. On the contrary, a fence would be the height of foolishness and a capitulation to the fearful, authoritarian mindset. A few off-leash dogs in the area from time to time is nothing to get worked up about. Dogs are kind of like terrorism in that the odds of you getting harmed by either are very low, but people get excessively worked up over sensational stories in the media about these “threats”. Children have many more positive than negative interactions with dogs, and we shouldn’t try to take this experience away from them.

      1. On the contrary, when I was a child (< 7 years old) I had more negative experiences with dogs than positive.