Community members look over maps of Dolores Park during the Dolores Park Rehabilitation Project's Open House on Feb. 6. Photo by Carly Nairn.

The Dolores Park Rehabilitation Project unveiled its long-awaited plans for the iconic park Wednesday evening, with many community members scrutinizing the maps set up at Dolores Park Church.

Plans for the revamped park, originally expected to be available for viewing last August, were delayed by an 11-month environmental review by the city’s Planning Department. The redesign of the almost century-old park protects its historic features while providing space for an array of activities, from soccer and tai chi to bike polo.

“I think that there is a big sense of accomplishment,” said Jake Gilchrist, the project manager from San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department. “This is an important step.”

Gilchrist said much of the review entailed the preservation of some of the historic parts of the park. The California Environmental Quality Act requires identification of any potential environmental or historic preservation impacts.

The review notes that the Muni stop next to the bridge onto Church Street is eligible for induction into the National Register of Historic Places.

Other aspects of the plan, such as the south restroom, would “impact an area that hasn’t been touched” and needed to be addressed, Gilchrist said.

In the project’s first phase, restrooms and the south side overlook near 19th and Church streets will be installed, and construction will begin on the operations and maintenance complex, which will be under one of the tennis courts on the north side of the park.

The second phase of the work will focus on the park’s north side — the sports courts, the pathway running along the courts — and finishing the operations building.

All of the plan’s architectural structures, including a pissoir, a public urinal that will be by the Muni rail stop, and the inside of the operations building, were on display at the open house.

Other features that will change the face of one of the best-known parks in the city include a multiuse court on the north end, benches and tables along the playground outline, and a footpath across the park that will link all the activity areas. The footpath was especially noteworthy to the community and the project designers, as it will help the park become more accessible to people in wheelchairs.

Susan Aitken of H+A Architects, the firm that designed the restrooms and operations building, said she appreciated the give and take with the community during the design process.

“There was so much community input. It was like 120 clients who all had a voice in the design.”

Trash was a major concern for many residents, Aitken said. The plan includes more trash receptacles throughout the park, and the planned operations and maintenance building will help the custodians and gardeners do their work in a timely manner.

The community has a role in the park’s cleanliness too, she said. “People need to step up and take responsibility.”

The notion of a space for different kinds of activities was also important to community members, Aitken said.

“There is a field for soccer players and a place for bike polo,” she said, listing off some of the distinct requests. “There is a quiet place to do tai chi, and space for dog owners.”

Aitken mentioned that of the six tennis courts currently on the north side of the park, three will be refurbished and three will be rebuilt.

Not everyone’s wishes were granted in the redesign. Bill McLeod, a Mission resident for over 20 years, wanted to keep the historic clubhouse in the middle of the park.

“I fought to keep the clubhouse that nobody cares about,” he said. The structure did not make it into the final plan.

McLeod said he also disagreed with other Mission residents about the need for a fence around the updated playground area. “They wanted to keep the teenagers out,” he said. The current plan does not include a fence around the playground.

“My biggest feeling is the need for an open space,” he said. “Dolores Park is wonderful and unique.”

“I think they have done an excellent job,” Robert Brust of Dolores Parks Works, a nonprofit advocacy group, said of the project’s planners. “I have hopes that by the end of the year they can start building.”

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A Modesto, CA native, Carly has been working in the news industry for the past five years. She has worked with The Portland Mercury as an Arts Intern, The San Francisco Bay Guardian as a News Intern, The Lewis County Chronicle in Centralia, WA as a beat reporter, and was the student opinion editor for her undergraduate newspaper, The Daily Vanguard, for Portland State University, in Portland, Ore. She currently lives in San Francisco, CA.

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  1. Didn’t we just spend beaucoup bucks on a ‘rehab’ project, including the playground, is that gonna be ‘reconfigured’?

  2. I really hope the bike polo area is just a bit of green space where people can play sports, or have a picnic or really do anything other than play bike polo.

  3. The primary planned improvements are new bathrooms, a new maintenance building under the tennis courts, a drainage system under the north field, and some new and/or improved pedestrian walkways.

  4. The conceptual design looks great. I think it conforms with how the park is being currently used. I am glad that the panoramic view from the southwest corner is being preserved, and the expanses of multi-use open areas will remain. Accessibility will be improved which is good. Fencing around the playground won’t really keep teenagers or anyone else out, so its omission is not too concerning. Safety is an issue though, so hopefully we can figure out something else going forward.

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