Urban Putt owner Steve Fox listens to other members of the Engage SF group, which met Monday evening. Photo by Laura Wenus.

The youths shown in a now well-known video refusing to leave Mission Playground’s soccer field when a team wearing Dropbox t-shirts comes on with a permit, had been frustrated for weeks with being kicked off their usual playing field and decided on the Thursday the video was taken to refuse to leave, according to Edwin Lindo, vice president of external affairs for the San Francisco Latino Democratic Club.

Lindo made his comments Monday night at a regular monthly dinner meeting organized by Engage SF, a group of tech and old residents formed a year ago to help bridge cultural gaps and defuse animosity.

Though one of the first group of soccer players was the person behind the camera, the video was not arranged ahead of time, Lindo said.

In the video, the team of youths refuses to leave only briefly while they wait for the adults to produce the $27 an hour permit. It is is clear from the video, however, that both sides are upset and confused – the young players by a system that boots them a free soccer field where teams generally rotate onto after one scores a goal and the adults by a city that has sold them a legitimate permit.

In the days following the video’s posting, Dropbox and some of the players have apologized.

Lindo called on those at Monday’s gathering, which was hosted by Urban Putt, to participate in a Thursday 9 a.m. protest at City Hall against the Recreation and Parks Department’s reservation policy.

Though the soccer field controversy instantly sparked spirited discussion on Monday night, most speakers seemed to agree that the problem stemmed from Rec and Park’s poorly planned policy rather than from the attitudes of either group of soccer players.

Founding Engage SF member Christina Olague said the lack of bilingual signage and access, a barrier to less technically literate or connected residents, and a lack of sensitivity to those who have limited access to open space were some of the problems with the current permitting process.

Anna Duning, a member of Engage SF since its early days, added, “I think this shows city government is having a hard time figuring out who to represent and how to move San Francisco forward.”

A group member who wished to be identified only as Diane because she sometimes works with the Recreation and Parks department said, “The issue is with Rec and Park. They’ve created this privatization issue.” She described the department’s approach to permitting as showing “a lack of forethought.”

A few group members briefly voiced concern that those without access to a mobile app would be excluded from booking the field, others refuted the involvement of any app, since the reservation process goes through the Rec and Park website.

“Whether there is an app [involved] or not, the issue is policy,” said core group member Chris Murphy. “Let’s not create a boogeyman out of an app.”

Lindo encouraged members to write to the Recreation and Parks department to voice their opposition to the permitting policy.

Erick Arguello, a member of the cultural corridor group Calle 24, which helped bring Engage SF together, said the conflict between players accustomed to a tradition of rotating pickup games and newcomers following the Rec and Park rules has been going on for much longer than the frustration at Mission Playground. He said the issue has been developing since many of the city’s parks began undergoing renovations, and is one of the many controversies that peak and then recede again. Whatever an improved policy might look like, he said, “the solution has to come from the community in general.”

Steve Fox, who owns Urban Putt and hosted the meeting, said he doesn’t have much of a stake in the discussion about a soccer field, but recognizes the tensions and changes in the community.

“It can be really polarizing, but I suspect that that’s not the intention on either side,” Fox said.

For their part, Engage SF leaders suggested the group could take a role in helping to mitigate the conflict before steering participants to mingle with one another before the discussion became too heated.

Murphy encouraged group members to “take ownership” of any events or actions they would like to plan at the beginning of the meeting, suggesting some kind of peacemaking game at the Mission Playground soccer field as one possibility.

Olague echoed him, saying, “maybe we can be the ones to extend a hand and offer to play together.”

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40 Comments

  1. So now it turns out that the original incident was planned and contrived as a protest?

    There is a correct way to achieve changes in city policy, and that is via city hall. If these lobbyists can convince the decision-makers then fine. But the taxpayers of this city have sent a lot on these park renovation, and expect some return in terms of broader usage and revenue collection.

    I’m not sure going back to a free-for-all where those who hang out there the most get to monopolize the pitch is optimal.

    So, sure, blaming Parks gets all the bad actors off the hook, but I have’t heard a valid argument for change here. Perhaps a few signs in Spanish wouldn’t hurt though, explaining to these kids why the policy is what it is. I feel sure those kids want to be good citizens.

    1. No, the incident was not contrived. The kids had gotten kicked out before, and this time they decided to push back. And there’s an excellent argument for change in the policy: parks shouldn’t be reserved, and especially not for a fee.

      Parks are public property and should be available to the public. We have gotten used to the privatization of our parks, with well known instances happening in Golden Gate Park, but it is a bad public policy. The government should not be monetizing property that belongs to all of us.

      1. Except that this isn’t about privatization. That is a highly misleading word to use because the park has not been sold to a private for-profit entity. All that has really happened is that there is excess demand and so some system of allocating use of the pitch had to be introduced (for just a few hours a week) so that everyone can get to play there and not just the regulars.

        And there is nothing new about paying to use special features of the parks. There are any number of ways to spend money in GG Park, and those funds go towards helping run the parks, without which we might see closure of facilities, reduced hours, staff firings and so on.

        Just because something is public doesn’t mean that it is free of charge or always available.

        1. the regulars already had a utopian system in place where everyone could play, all they had to do was just show up and wait their turn like everybody else. furthermore, no money needed to change hands. why should money change hands when we are talking about a noble pastime that keeps kids out of trouble?

          its the ‘entitled access just for me and my kind’ which is the problem here. there are other football pitches in SF which don’t have a decades long pickup game culture, why not make reservations there?

          of course parks and rec need to improve their regulations …

          1. “We can’t seat you until all the people in your party are here.”
            The “playground” system worked, signage will not fix what is at issue. The problem arises around the idea of shared use.
            TeamDB, is used to being legislated and seeking regulation for the efficacy of their wishes. This is how they understand how to communicate their needs and because of their familiarity with the process, they expected them to be met, as they would on a campus, and pretty much without question.
            What their longer goal is, is to corporate sponsor the local schools, perhaps by buying time on their “pitches” first, and then once in the door as the “good guy”, re-orient the district towards the business model.
            However, what is now before us, is not the ejido, the commons, or the need for more by everyone, but the lack of recreation facilities for the privileged among us, who with their access to legal authority via the process, age, employment related resources, and relatively large discretionary incomes, outpace the local youth in everything but likely their ability to play well enough to win the field nearest their very expensive dwelling and so…they should probably move to a newer building with a rock climbing feature, or something. Seriously they should put a rock climbing feature in this playground so people waiting for the field can still get in some quality recreating, instead of standing around all akimbo while their friends look for parking.

        2. A public-private partnership (in this case, with City Fields) IS a kind a privatization. It’s right there in the name!

      2. Um, this is nothing new and it’s not “privatization”. It’s not even the same as renting out GG Park for music festivals etc. For as long as I’m aware, picnic areas, barbeque pits, soccer fields, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, etc, have been available for reservation and rental. In SF as well as every other place I’ve lived. This is a way that everyday people can rent a nice public location for their wedding, birthday party, BBQ, soccer game, tennis match, etc. It could be a new policy at this particular field but I know of other fields, including ones in the Mission, that are available to rent. If fields were not available for rent *sometimes*, you couldn’t have soccer leagues and camps, for example.

      3. Robert… it has nothing to do with privatization… SF Park & Rec for years has had a system to allocate usage time for a large number of groups. The problem is there is a greater demand for fields than supply.

        The Reservation Process has proven to be the best way to allow access. And they have to charge a fee…. otherwise people would reserve and not show up. It would be mess.

    2. So, where is the pickup park going to be now? Most people engage in recreation spontaneously. That’s why it’s called recreation. Telling someone to plan and reserve their play time is like telling a creative person to be creative on a schedule. That’s not how it works.

      Even if the reservations were free, it’s still a stupid idea. It’s elitist, passive-aggressive and antisocial … like the people who use apps to play in a park.

    3. I’m a taxpayer and most definitely do NOT expect “broader revenue collection” out of my parks, new or otherwise. Most people aren’t looking to turn a profit on the city parks. Are you? Is that what public space is for, to generate revenue for the city???

      The parks are there to be used be people. This was a corporate game between two tech companies. They should lease a private field of that type of event. Corporations aren’t people. The parks are there for actual live humans who live in this neighborhood.

      Also, that particular park has a +20 year tradition of pickup games, so yeah just waving around a little piece of paper that says you can play there isn’t going to cut it.

      Perhaps the techies could be “good citizens” and respect a longstanding tradition that predates them by many many years and realize that this is a pickup field not a reservation field.

      1. I think you’re misunderstanding how this generally works. This really has very little to do with corporations, any more than the Giants vs. Cardinals series has to do with an epic battle between AT&T and Busch beer.

        Company teams are usually just made up of a bunch of people at a company who like playing a sport. They get a side of people together and say “hey, I have a friend at a rival company who likes to play soccer, maybe he can get some people together and play us.” If they are organized enough, they might hit up their company for actual uniforms.

        Any organization could have a soccer or softball team — it doesn’t have to be corporate. The Fire Dept, Rainbow Grocery, a union, a Mission Street merchant’s association, or an arts organization. You could even just get a team together and ask the local pizza place or Taqueria to pay for uniforms that bear their logo.

        Meanwhile, corporations aren’t people — I totally agree. But they are made up of people and they employ a LOT of people. People who work for corporations aren’t any better or worse than anyone else. They are just people, and people like parks and sports. People who work at corporations have every right to public parks that others do, no more, no less.

        1. Misunderstanding how WHAT works?

          The techies wore corporate branded clothing. Their companies made official apologies. You can quibble whether they were ‘company teams’ but the fact is that they chose to explicitly represent their corporations.

          I imagine the whole thing would have gone down differently if the techies would have donned some kind of ‘disguise’ to blend in. Of course minding the community and traditions can’t hurt either … but it must have been to hard. Or the techies just don’t care.

          Your corporate defense plea fails. Corporations do various harm: economic, social, environmental, criminal. Of course it is not the corporation itself but the employees that actually perform these negative actions. However, they are able to hide behind a vague legal construct and eschew any personal responsibility. Sounds good, right? Lots of countries have seriously punishing laws to deal with this, not here.

          Not to mention that it takes a completely different kind of moral standing to join a corporation, usually for explicit profit, as opposed to someone who renders direct, not-for-profit services to society and citizens — it is a sad state of things that the service providers that everyone relies on often struggle economically. How many techies would be swarming to SF if the pay was en par with teachers?

          1. I was arguing against the notion that because the players wore corporate jerseys and worked for tech companies that the two tech companies should rent stadiums to play in. The companies apologized because the incident was bad PR.

            People who work for corporations are generally as “responsible” for their corporations actions as people who live in the US are “responsible” for our foreign policy. Which is to say, sure, a little bit, but we are all just trying to get by aren’t we?

            Your assertion that people who work at corporations are somehow morally worse than other people is about as petty and hateful as words of the guy in the video who said “who cares about the neighborhood.”

        2. JC, why are you so fixated on defending corporations? This isn’t about corporations. Its about letting a community continue traditional use of a City recreation area and not being pushed around by newbies from a specific corporation use their $$$ and smarts to their advantage over neighborhood people with less $$$ and not the same sophistication to work the system.

          1. My original point, elsewhere in this thread, is that it is a common and longstanding policy of Rec and Parks fields to be available for rental and reservation. Perhaps when this field was just asphalt it wasn’t nice enough to bother renting. Now it’s available for this purpose a whopping 4 hours a week. Whoopdeedoo. I’m glad that most of the time it is still available for pickup, though, because it sounds like the traditional use is wonderful and communal.

            As for the “smarts” and “advantage”, it’s a simple phone number you call to rent a field, $2/person. Maybe that is actually harder for the average person in 2014 than if it WERE done via app, but it looks better to be on the side of old tech in SF nowadays. Meanwhile the kids at this field are clearly smart enough to do lots of things. They have phones that record movies, they know how to upload to youtube, they even got a corporate response from Dropbox, etc. You’re telling me they can’t book a field?

            And as for corporations I don’t recall ever defending them. Just the people who work for them. If you don’t work for a corporation, good for you, but I bet your mother or brother or cousin or neighbor does.

          2. Okay, you might sincerely believe that corporations and the people who work for corporations are separate entities but you can ‘t overlook that the corporation in question has actually expended effort to “cleanse” the image they have been detected as. And yes, maybe some of the locals have cel phones, etc., but they still were there first, for years in fact, and have had a working system that allowed everyone to play in pickup games at times that did not infringe on other organized uses. If you don’t see the unfairness of fixing a traditional system that wasn’t broken to begin with then this rhetoric will just go on and on .

          3. The field itself was gentrified. For better or worse. I doubt anyone was protesting the nice facelift that the playground was given until now. Change has good and bad sides to it.

  2. Let’s not forget that DPW long ago privatized the LGBT rainbow flagpole at the public Harvey Milk Plaza. DPW gave control of this important piece of public space to the Castro Merchants group. As a candidate for District 8 Supervisor, I am calling for _all_ public space to be controlled by the public: http://tinyurl.com/Petrelis-4-Supe . I hope the Mission Playground controversy sheds light on all public spaces and who has access to or controls them.

  3. You cannot reserve the field(s) online. Here is the policy:

    “http://sfrecpark.org/permits-and-reservations/athletic-fields/occasional-reservations/”

  4. In all honesty, the screams and yells demanding and end to the permit process is going to be on deaf ears with the parks department and those who operate organized leagues.

    Think of the baseball diamonds around the city; baseball and softball leagues, from little kids to adults pay the city for permits to have their practices and games. They can’t do “pick-up” games, coaches tell their players they have the permit from a set date and time to practice or play their game, and they can’t sit around for hours waiting for their diamond to open up.

    1. well, how many people play pick up baseball? on top of that, there are few sports where you can just show up in shorts and sneakers and everyone can play.

      rather than being hard headed, its simply a matter of recognizing that certain fields and sports work less well with permits than others. the history here is important: this field was used for decades by local kids, who played football on a terrible asphalt surface. now that the park has been renovated, everyone wants a piece…

      a separate question is whether the city needs to charge for permits and reservations. residents already pay various taxes. it is preposterous that during boom times when multi-billion dollar companies get tax breaks, the city ‘needs’ to make a few thousand dollars on a little neighborhood football pitch. let’s see — 5,000$ = about a work week for an average engineer in SF … while 27$ dollars is quite a bit for regular teens …

      and yes, the city needs lots more athletic fields and facilities. this seems like great territory for local tech to give back to the community, and enjoy mutual benefits. maybe its time to raze some of the golf courses …

      1. The history is important, yes. This field was used for decades as a piece of asphalt. The field is now turf, after a 7.5 million dollar overhaul to the Mission Playground. The field is now rentable by individuals for 4 hours a week. Paying $27 is a lot for a teen but it’s only $2/player. But there are plenty of free pickup hours still available at that field. Do you think the pickup players would trade those 4 hours for going back to asphalt if they could? Doubt it.

        The reservation fee, by the way, is a way to ensure that renters actually make good on their reservation and also give a little back to the parks. If you feel like you already pay enough taxes you can use it during the free hours.

        Meanwhile, I understand the need for free pickup soccer and love pickup soccer, but it’s different than playing on a team, or with a bunch of your friends, in an organized way.

  5. I wonder if anyone from Parks and Rec actually went to that soccer field and observed what went on before they made their policy.

  6. If Lindo’s protest is successful, would it mean that the men’s league that reserved and played on this field on weekends during the summer and the kid’s league that currently reserves this field and plays there on the weekends would no longer be able to reserve the field for their leagues? Would be a shame. Both these leagues seem to run without controversy. Does the process that these groups follow differ from the one that is being protested by Lindo’s group?

    Mission Local: have/did similar problems come about with the men’s and kid’s league at this park?

    Sometimes it’s ok to have organized events activities on park space. If we do not allow some activities at our parks to have a nominal cost, we would also likely lose many activities like those offered at the pool next to the 19th/Valencia field. I imagine that without the small fee charged at the pool it would hurt the pool’s ability to offer swim lessons and specified lap times. In times/environments when finding more funding for our parks is difficult, it seems a small price to pay to have some activities generate some revenue for the parks. In addition, various sports leagues and other organized activities operate in city parks across the country – and often add vibrancy and community to our cities.

      1. That’s exactly my point. Charging a nominal fee for a very small portion of activities in our city parks is nothing new and, at times, helps offer very valuable programs and recreational activities – like swim lessons. This protest is very selective in its focus and the success of a movement to end any type of reservations, renting, or payment-based use of park facilities will have some negative repercussions.

  7. As a native San Franciscan, I see this as a definite gap between “the haves” and “the have nots”. Neighborhood parks are just that, neighborhood parks to be enjoyed by the people in the neighborhood. And if the neighborhood people have been enjoying pick-up games for the last 25 years why should the new gentrification neighbors break what wasn’t broken to begin with? They have $$$ to enjoy a sport which was essentially free for many years before they arrived and because they have access to $$$ to pay for permits and access to get to Park & Rec, that doesn’t and shouldn’t give them the right to oust – and that ‘s what it is when you tell others outside your own group that they can’t play on the fields, ousting – this creates the current problem. A system has been in place which allowed sharing the field; if you won you get to play longer, if you lose, the next group of players gets a chance to play. Simple, no? Not so simple when newbies to the neighborhood have $$$ to get permits versus the longtime locals who are at the other spectrum of the economic scale. My solution would be to leave it as it stood before the gentrification neighbors arrived; if they want to play they can wait their (pickup) turn like their neighbors before them have done for years. Wealth should not have its privilege, particularly in the Mission!

  8. Really? Lack of bilingual signs? What type of dumb comment is that? The kids spoke English? Stop trying to be politically correct and feed into the stereotypes. Those guys deserve to get their ass beat OG Mission style.

  9. Talking, talking and a lot of listening. This is community. Talk to each other. Listen to each other. Respectfully, even if you disagree. Listen, listen, listen. Assume the best of everyone else and be the person your grandmother wanted you to be, and the person you want your grandchildren to have as a role model. Make peace. Don’t listen to the voices that want dissent. Listen to your neighbors and to your own best self.

  10. Cristina Olague and the Democratic Club opossed proposition I for artificial turf in the Beach Chalet, which will create more time to be used

  11. if the kids want to play ball, let the kids play ball! what’s next, the city will charge kids to skateboard too?

  12. Whatever happened to the age old playing field policy of “winner stays on?” On every patch of open space across the planet that’s how it’s done. A group of players shows up and waits to challenge the winner. There’s no need for Apps and mobile phones and any of that other kind of rubbish.

    The kids, who are more than likely from immigrant families, seem to understand the concept. You see they grew up with the game. They didn’t just suddenly take it on as the trendy cool new thing, like the U.S. tech workers who seem to think there’s an app for every bloody thing. By the way stop calling it soccer. It’s football.

  13. For years now, Rec and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg has been working overtime to privatize and limit access to as many SF public parks as posssible, and this is just one of the latest festering pustules on the Ginsburg / Scott Wiener / Ed Lee / Mark Buell corruption machine.

    We already pay a fortune in taxes and bonds for unrestricted access to our public parks here in San Francisco.

    The people in this neighborhood already had a great system worked out for prioritizing who is allowed to play on this field, which was based on sharing and allowing everyone to play.

    The problem here stems from greedpigs like Phil Ginsburg who cuts budgets for Recreation Center employees and gardeners while (with the help of Scott Wiener, of course) allocating millions of taxpayer dollars to six figure middle management, public relations hacks and an ever increasing recreation and park security patrol force. Meanwhile, Ginsburg wants to restrict park hours and charge you to use them.

    As an additional bonus, Ginsburg and Wiener recently made it a crime for you to visit any of the public parks you pay for after the ungodly hour of midnight.

    If you care about parks and don’t want to see rich entitled adults and corporate parties kicking out children, feel free to contact Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Scott Wiener to give them some feedback on Phil Ginsburg and our parks:

    Mayor’s Office
    City Hall, Room 200,1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett PlaceSan Francisco, CA 94102
    Telephone: (415) 554-6141Fax: (415) 554-6160
    Email: mayoredwinlee@sfgov.org

    Supervisor Scott Wiener
    1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett PlaceCity Hall, Room. 244San Francisco, Ca 94102-4689(
    415) 554-6968
    Scott.Wiener@sfgov.org

  14. Seriously! What has our City become! Now charging to use a “Free public parks”…where are our Mission youth to go for safe and unharmful fun! San Francisco is not cheap, it has become a greedy money bag….Thanks to mayor Ed Lee, who also is granting and putting up all these housing buildings and NOT fixing our mess up streets. What is he doing with our city money? Let everyone play for free and fix our streets!!!

  15. Engage SF probably has NO Tech workers in it. Olague landed there did she? I’m willing to bet that Engage SF’s funding comes from SF City Hall. Olague needs to get a REAL JOB. Not just be a professional activist her entire life. And I saw the video btw.

    The Tech workers were being BULLIED by the guy with dreads and his “team” of bullies.

  16. What lead me to this blog, to try to figure out the “real story”, was a post that I saw saying that WITHOUT community approval, a private foundation decided to issue permits to use the small traditional pick-up soccer field. So the important thing to me is that this is all being done “without community approval. As an outsider, just listening in on everyone’s comments, this has the appearance that “money talks” and the corporate dudes are just having their way over the local youth who have been playing there for years. Community approval is necessary on all projects.

    1. According to Rec and Parks, there was “community approval” — the comment you are referencing comes from the (anonymous?) poster of the video. Apparently the upgrade to Mission Playgrounds was discussed with the community at public meetings, whether or not the kids who played at the field were there. It may be that those kids SHOULD have been there, but whether that’s the fault of the city or the kids themselves is pretty hard to figure at this point.

  17. There are 800,000 people live in San Francisco in 46 square miles. It would be nice to have a laissez-faire system, but that’s just not realistic.

    And ‘public’ doesn’t mean that any one person or group can simply do whatever they want to with the a given space. It means that the ‘public’ decides on the rules of engagement for such a space. Those rules can be changed but through a process, and even young people have to get used to that.

    I would hope that this serves as an experience in civic awareness about the process and order of sharing, but it seems that it’s being made to be a “the proverbial ‘man’ is against us” case instead. That’s not helping.

  18. This is ridiculous. Parks and Rec rent fields out all over the city. I ran a women’s soccer team for 10 years and had to go through the process to rent fields all over the place. If they had a permit and paid for use of the field, they should have been able to use it. My team ran into situations where people would refuse to leave the field we had paid for. So you show them the permit and if they still refuse, you call parks and rec and they will usually send someone out to deal with it. As far as a long standing tradition to play pick up here without renting the field, well if that’s the case, parks and rec should not have ever rented this field in the first place. But to blame the Dropbox employees is a cop out and placing blame in the wrong place. It’s just so typical to hate on tech culture right now. They had a permit. End of story. Would this had been a big news story if it was a recreational women’s soccer team like I ran? Probably not. These kids should have taken it up with parks and rec and not been such a bunch of entitled whiners about the whole thing. Jeesh.

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