Hundreds of 4/20 celebrants chose to avoid the increased security at Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park and observe the unsanctioned holiday – free of city-imposed restrictions – at Dolores Park.
“I know Hippie Hill is the place to go on 4/20 but I heard this morning that police were checking IDs and stuff, and I’m not even going to try that,” said a 4/20 reveler named River.
“I feel intimidated by police. Some of my friends are immigrants,” added River. “I think it’s unsafe for certain people in marginalized communities to go to Hippie Hill if cops are going to be there.”
Others were also not happy with the changes.
“[The city] left me with no options – I didn’t get the choice about where to celebrate. It was alway organic and now they’ve taken the fun out of it,” said Santino, who traditionally would migrate to Hippie Hill with a group of friends on April 20.
“This is definitely a different scene, but we are making the best of it and starting a new tradition here,” he said about Dolores Park.
For others, the smaller and much more mellow celebration at Dolores Park was the preferred alternative.
“We came to chill, and here, it’s a lot more peaceful,” said 21-year-old Marcell. “At Dolores, there are better vibes and a little more older people for sure.”
Marcell’s friend, 21-year-old Lidoshka, agreed that the 4/20 festival at Hippie Hill has in past years been “a mixed bag.”
“I try to avoid [Hippie Hill] because there are just so many people coming from everywhere because 4/20 is a thing,” said Lidoshka of the celebration that attracts thousands. “So it does get kinda trashed sometimes. It’s not like here, where we have more of the locals and they usually they wouldn’t do that.”
Months after marijuana use by adults 21 and over was legalized in San Francisco, trash and safety concerns prompted city officials to impose regulations for the first time on an event that has evolved organically and largely unregulated over decades.
What in past years was a free for all tradition now requires a city permit, and a group of Haight Street merchants stepped up and shelled out to provide the required amenities – increased bathrooms, medical services and extra cleaning crews.
Some who spent the day at Dolores Park said they appreciated the mellow crowd and said there was no love lost in celebrating pot in the Mission.
“When I’ve gone to Hippie Hill it was always packed, and traffic was terrible. The people sitting around me were ok but in different crowds you probably wouldn’t feel safe,” said a man who gave his name as Wilber.
Trash, said Wilber, was a problem at Hippie Hill that he hopes won’t spill over to Dolores Park this year. Last year’s celebrations ended with eight arrests and some 11 tons of trash scattered throughout Golden Gate Park.
“The day after 4/20 it’s always in the news that Golden Gate Park was damaged and there is a lot of garbage because people litter,” said Wilber. “I think here people look out more.”
The new rules include a ban on glass, unpermitted vendors and pot peddlers, increased security and a fence gating Hippie Hill to keep the party enclosed and minors out.
“This is chill but we were looking for something with a lot more people,” said 18-year-old Ocean. “We didn’t go to Hippie Hill because it’s being more regulated – glass isn’t allowed. How are we going to smoke then?”
Dressed from head to toe in marijuana prints, Ocean said she came to terms with the forced change of location, as many of her friends are minors.
“We are having fun but it’s not as good as it has been in the past.”
For some vendors, the new permit requirements at Hippie Hill seemed unfair.
“I decided to hit up some friends and was like ‘yo, I’m going to try to see if I can sell some of my pastries [at Hippie Hill],’” said Keren Gutierrez, a Mission native. “I called in to Park and Rec and they told me they were having that whole permit thing. I asked if I can be a vendor and they said it’s too late, [applications] already closed.”
At Dolores Park, Gutierrez offered cannabis-infused lemon bars, lime bars with blueberry and triple fudge brownies for spread out on a blanket for sale.
“I’m getting more of the ‘San Francisco thing’ here at Dolores Park – the mom-and-pop shop, people who grab their shit and go, ‘hey let’s make it a farmers market’ kind of thing,” said Gutierrez. “Everyone else over there [at Hippie Hill] with permits are businesses that probably own a company or have something with money and can afford to get a permit.”
Gutierrez said that in addition to her home-made goods, she brought trash bags and helping hands to Dolores Park.
“I have plenty of people who are hopefully going to clean up afterwards, so that we can keep [4/20] a community thing here,” she said. “We need to keep it a community thing instead of making it about money and going through the city because [people] are trashing the park.”