The Love Dolores campaign, a partnership between park officials and local merchants, has set its sights on a new target: removal of all glass from Dolores Park.
“Glass can fall and break, and it’s a hassle to clean up and causes a hazard,” said Sarah Ballard, director of policy and public affairs at the Recreation and Parks Department. “The focus of Love Dolores is really on keeping the park clean and safe for everyone.…Having glass in a park isn’t good for maintenance and it doesn’t help [us] make sure it’s safe.”
Businesses like Bi-Rite and Delfina have joined the crusade, changing some glass products to cans and reminding customers to recycle or make sure the empties get into the trash. Tweets from Bi-Rite like “Have a lovely day at Dolores Park for #SFPride – and please remember to clean up your stuff!” offer friendly reminders.
Cerveceria, on the corner of 18th and Church, even bought a crowler machine that cans beer on the spot, eliminating all bottled beer from its bar.
“We have zero glass,” said owner Jim Woods. “Everything that leaves the brew pub is either in a can or food.”
“We actually saw the writing on the wall well before we talked to [park officials],” he continued. “I started seeing a lot of the photos that people were posting and it was a total mess, people were just leaving all their stuff, and every time I saw a picture I thought ‘God, I hope one of my bottles isn’t there.’”
Drinking and smoking are also outlawed in the park, and park rangers have been seen ticketing people for these violations. But at this point Recreation and Parks is using its limited resources to focus on glass and other trash, which are more destructive to the park.
“We are always enforcing park code violations,” said Connie Chan, director of public affairs with Recreation and Parks. “[But] we definitely have been limited to doing as much as our resources and staff allowed.”
“At the end of the day, this is really about park users,” she continued. “This is exactly why the Love Dolores campaign is working hard with merchants to say ‘Please love our park, we can’t do this alone.’”
Trash is a persistent problem for Dolores Park. Up to 10,000 people visit every weekend and leave behind some 7,000 gallons of trash. And glass bottles are of particular concern: In February, two vandals shattered bottles in the south side sandbox, meaning 20 tons of sand had to be replaced before the area was safe.
Not all business are as gung-ho as Cerveceria, however. Zuhdi Kalil, the manager of Pay ‘n Save Grocery on the corner of 18th and Guerrero, says he can only be expected to do so much.
“You can’t tell everyone to use a can,” he said. “A lot of stuff doesn’t come in a can. No champagne I know of comes in a can, and there are like 40 wines – What do you want me to do? Tell every company to switch to tetra because of Dolores Park?”
Though Kalil has changed out some of his bottled beer to canned and placed stickers on his products reminding people to recycle, he thinks the trash problem is more to do with a lack of receptacles in the park.
“[Park officials] came by and asked ‘Can you try to tell people to recycle?’” he said. “What am I their mother? It’s already obvious: Don’t throw it on the ground. You need more recycling… I’m sure these people aren’t just throwing it on the ground because they’re dirty. It can’t be that simple.”
Some park-goers agree.
“There should be garbage cans everywhere,” said Marta Rodriguez, who says she comes to Dolores Park almost every day. “I think that would solve things because once you get buzzed, you don’t want to walk to the edge and throw your stuff away.”
Instead, park officials have opted for staffed “eco pop-ups” around the perimeter of the park, saying it would be impossible for Recology to pick up trash from within the park.
“We cannot service the interior,” Ballard said. “We cannot drive a vehicle through [the crowds]. [The trash cans] just overflow and we couldn’t get to them, we couldn’t serve them.”
Ballard also pointed to research showing that “80 percent of littering behavior” has to do with social norms not the proximity of a trash can, which has prompted park officials to try the educational route. Signs directing park-goers to the nearest trash can now adorn Dolores Park, and recently official erected a large orange highway sign warning of a $192 fee for glass.
“The sign, albeit quite ugly, was really just an attempt to get people to be aware that glass is not permitted,” said Ballard, adding that the fee is nothing new but that no one has been ticketed. “This is aimed solely at taking care of the park.”
Which doesn’t preclude enforcement against other illegal behavior like smoking or drinking in public. One man even was even charged with “malicious defacement” for having a hammock in the park, though no one appeared to testify against him and he got off scot-free.
And Ballard was clear that though park officials keep open lines of communication with the police, they have their own style of managing park follies.
“SFPD does have jurisdiction in the parks as well, and they have their own approach,” she said.
Still, for park officials, education trumps enforcement for now.
“We’re enforcing park codes throughout our park system,” said Chan. “But we’re limited in resources and staff. What’s important is that it’s really about outreach.”
“The focus is on being good stewards of the park,” Ballard added. “We feel like our responsibility is to get people aware,” that the main message is “‘Hey, when you come, use a can.’”
A culture-changing PSA courtesy of Recreation and Parks: