The San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department has begun to allow reservations of parts of Dolores Park — for a fee ranging from $33 for groups under 50 to $325 for those larger than 400. Interested groups must complete an application and pay a $200 security deposit.
A graphic on the department’s website shows eight areas available for reservation from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Three are open-grass areas, four are picnic tables, and the last is the overlook in the 18th and Church Street corner of the park next to the now-infamous pissoir at the park.
The reservation system makes Dolores Park one of several parks city-wide that can be partially rented, said Elton Pon, a spokesperson for the department. Pon clarified that the permit system was in place before the years-long renovations at Dolores Park and was recently reinstated.
“A few areas of the park are made available for birthday parties and picnics to provide more accountability and to ensure our parks are left clean for all visitors and residents to enjoy,” Pon wrote in an email. “This is nothing new. Similar permits are issued throughout our park system.”
Pon said the permitting process helps ensure that groups pick up their trash after events, pointing to a website explaining the process after swift backlash to the reservation system online, including from Supervisor Jane Kim, whose district does not include Dolores Park. An online petition asking to abolish the permitting had more than 10,000 signatures as of Tuesday morning.
I’m opposed to the plan to rent space at Dolores Park. Our city’s not for sale and it shouldn’t be for rent either.https://t.co/zMlDbgGFta
— Jane Kim (@JaneKim) May 24, 2016
Kim followed that on Tuesday morning with a press release announcing that she would introduce a resolution at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisor’s meeting opposing the permit process at Dolores Park, writing that it would “limit access to a popular park” and increase inequality in the city.
“We could well be on a slippery slope where the very wealthy are the only ones who can fully enjoy public spaces in San Francisco,” she wrote. “We already have a growing income gap between the ultra-wealthy and everyone else. We shouldn’t have a park gap too.”
Ivy Lee, a spokesperson for the supervisor, said the reservation of open grass was particularly objectionable.
“They’re talking about permitting the grass, plots of grass,” she said. “This is not about picnic tables or kid’s birthday parties. This is about forcing people to rent grass in a public park.”
Asked whether Kim would oppose the permitting process at other parks city-wide, Lee said the supervisor is focused on Dolores Park for now but “would like to see our public spaces be available to folks regardless of income.” She said an income-based fee system for picnic tables and other non-grass areas would be preferable, but that Kim would have to inspect whatever proposal is put forward by the Recreation and Parks Department.
The department, for its part, says the permitting process helps alleviate the long-standing trash problem at Dolores Park. Trash sometimes blankets the green space after busy weekends, and the department says it spends $750,000 annually to clean up trash just at Dolores Park.
The Recreation and Parks Department has already tried a variety of campaigns to combat littering, including a ban on glass and the installment of eco pop-ups around the perimeter of the park, which helped reduce the amount of trash going to landfill by 68 percent earlier this year.
A clash over similar reservations of soccer fields at Mission Playground and Pool in 2014 made national news when a group of men — some wearing Dropbox t-shirts — attempted to tell neighborhood kids that they had to leave the field because it was reserved.
The incident came after weeks of frustration with the pay-to-play policy and caused the department to back off from the reservations and make the soccer fields at the Mission Playground park free to use.