Glorious Saturday transforms Dolores Park into a trash dump by Sunday

Six workers from SF Rec and Park arrived at 6:30 a.m. Sunday to find Dolores Park blanketed with the debris of what had been a beautiful Saturday. They picked their way through glass bottles of Corona, Modelo and Bud Lights, empty cartons soggy from the morning dew, a cornucopia of recyclable food containers, a picnic table, uneaten watermelon and plenty of hard liquor bottles, their pieces strewn along the principle pathway through the center of the park.

Few of the revelers, it appears, had read the signs to  “Keep Dolores Park Clean – Recycle, Compost Take it Home” or that no alcohol or glass containers are allowed.

“We will not finish,” said one of the crew members. They are only on duty until 10:30 a.m.

It is like this every weekend the temperature goes over 65 degrees, the crew said. It hit 73 degrees on Saturday and will reach 70 today.

While Rec and Park has a pack and carry policy at Dolores, which means there are no trash bins inside the park, it appears that more are needed on the perimeter.

The more than dozen bins on the perimeter overflowed with debris that had to be bagged and prepared for pick up.

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The crew worker had a theory on why the grassy slopes of the park looked like there had been sudden exodus of picnickers who simply had to leave their whole picnic behind.

“They’re just too drunk,” the worker said. Will it be the same next weekend and tomorrow? Probably, the worker said, adding that the only real deterrent was rain.

For an update on what the park looked like on Monday morning, go here. 

Too broken to take home.

The overflow at just four of the bins.

This was after two hours of cleaning up.

An attempt to at least gather a picnic.


What did the park look like on Monday morning? Go here.

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77 Comments

  1. Ben Goering

    What a bummer! I’d love to see this report as a weekly column. Is it always this bad? Is it getting better or worse? Maybe Rec&Park can add a call for volunteers to help pick up (and provide access to a truck to takeaway). I live a block from there and would come help sometime.

    • Lydia Chavez Post author

      Good question. I just moved to this part of the Mission and walked over to see how the “pack and carry” policy was working at Dolores Park. I will be back.

    • Marisol Harper

      Historically this has never been an issue. However, it started to become an issue as the Mission became more gentrified and Dolores Park became the “cool” place to be on a sunny day. So in short, yes it’s always this bad. I will say though, I appreciate the fact that you view this with concern and are offering to volunteer.

    • Janice Melara

      Many of us have grown up in this area and park & rec never had this problem anywhere close to this. I think it’s great that you’re willing to volunteer to help clean up. It really should not be necessary. Maybe it’s the police that should get involved and actually ticket people as they’re leaving or come around every couple hours or every hour and as people get up to move out. These people are going to want to take their stuff with them as opposed to getting a ticket for littering.

    • rebecca dickherber

      It IS always this bad, unfortunately.

    • Kim

      It is getting WORSE. I’ve lived 1/2 block away for nearly 30 years. Drunk people who are entitled assholes think they own the park, I imagine their living room coffee tables look as bad as the park on Sunday and Monday mornings. They use the neighbors doorways to piss as they are too drunk to go stand in line when there is time, they just our homes as their bathrooms. I see drivers all day looking for parking, so many are not locals, they come in to get drunk, make a mess, then DRIVE HOME!

    • Rebecca

      I live a block away too. I’d be down to help clean up too. Another way of fixing the problem would be to hand out rash bags maybe? I know it’s almost impossible to get a plastic bag nowadays in SF as it is. Paper bags tend to break especially when they get wet. Handing out big black trash bags to groups that look like they may be in need would help out a lot. Maybe we could also get the city to help out volunteer clean ups with with the tools to help clean up like bags, gloves, trash pick up sticks, etc.

    • it happens every week, they need those big bins inside the park, no matter how ugly they look.
      Jim Sullivan

    • This is a law enforcement issue. Put a squad of police officers to issue littering citations. What good is a law if it’s not enforced?

  2. Sue Taylor

    If there are insufficient trash cans, what the hell do you expect? Stupid (lack of) planning in the part of SF!

    • Romel

      So basically what you’re saying is that it’s the city’s fault that people get drunk and leave their trash everywhere? Got it.

      • Chris

        Yes. When they remodeled they removed 95% of the trash cans. Public space + lack of trash bins = litter. I know. I live in the TL where they removed all the trash cans.

        • Kim

          There are trashcans, haul your stuff in, haul it out. Not too hard. If you are not too drunk to give a damn

        • Tim

          That’s not accurate. The number of garbage can around the perimeter of the park increased many fold, along with regular pick up. I don’t think it’s too much for people to carry it out to the cans along the street and if they are full take it home!

    • Albert

      Really? As teenagers in the 70s we took our trash with us…. STFU

      • Pat

        Take your stuff with you where? They’ve removed all the trash cans in the neighborhood. Are they really expected to take their stuff to the bars and restaurants that people go to after the park? This is stuff they buy at the local grocery stores and restaurants in the neighborhood for the most part. There should be sufficient trash receptacles in the park for people to throw away their garbage. It’s not realistic to expect people to haul this stuff with them for the rest of the night when they go to all the local businesses after the park. Also, if people are expected to follow the rules (no bottles, etc), the rules have to be enforced. Is anyone out there handing out tickets for all the people I see using glass bottles in the no-glass-bottles park?

    • annamouse

      How about taking your trash out with you? Is that concept too far-fetched to imagine? Glad I’m from an older generation. We know things you apparently never will.

    • Chelsea

      I expect you to take your shit with you. Sheer laziness on your part if you can’t.

  3. Sue Taylor

    Not enough trash receptacles? Failure of SF to plan realistically for the use of thisnpark. Period. Stop trying to demonize the residents.

    • If you can pack it there, you can pack it home. Is this too complicated to understand or perform? Lack of trash cans is a pathetic excuse.

    • Romel

      The number of trash receptacles was about the same a few years ago…. this wasn’t a problem back then. What does that leave us with? Oh that’s right, shitty people.

    • Janice Melara

      I totally disagree. No…You bring it in & take it as you go. There’s NO excuse to leave your trash behind. Please don’t excuse bad & irresponsible behavior.

    • Liane

      Scuse me: It’s not “the residents” nor “the techies.” I live on a street just above the park. Dolores Park has become a destination hang out for out-of- town people on sunny weekends. They cause parking/driving hell on our street, and often return to their cars loud and trashed. But you havent seen anything: come to the park early morning during “Pride” week. Nothing to be proud of there. These city guests get trashed and trash our park. Sad comment on the Bay area.

  4. Sue Taylor

    Good grief…no way to know my first comment was “awaiting moderation”. No way to delete one of them. Coders for MissionLocal? Wherefore art thou?

  5. Seems so odd in this progressive area that some of the folks who use our beautiful park think nothing of trashing it.

    I imagine many of the folks are strict about how they dispose of their garbage and food scraps and recycling while at home, but when they get to Dolores Park, those home rules are forgotten.

    What would be great is if *all* patrons of this public park left it a bit cleaner and neater than when they arrived to enjoy the sights and sounds.

    Much appreciate the facts about the cleanup this weekend.

  6. alan hakobe

    Looks like an episode of Mad men

  7. Fran Taylor

    While affluent users of Dolores Park get coddled with new bins and helpful signs, Rec and Park hassles day laborers and homeless people just looking for a bench to rest on at Rolph Playground near Cesar Chavez and Potrero, removing the benches entirely and restoring them only after neighborhood outcry, then removing the trash bins or locking them up (they’re now back, too, after similar protests). Life in Ed Lee’s San Francisco.

  8. Sfmary

    Entitled assholes! This is just wrong!

  9. Susie Denegree

    Oh, it’s definitely been worse. Any given Monday off holiday’s trash aftermath makes this look like nothing.

  10. Elizabeth Zitrin

    Yes, people should pack out their trash, but we have a reality problem here. How about more trash bins, at least for the weekends? Do it like Paris: metal frames that hold transparent plastic bags. These are smaller, less likely to provide hiding places for explosives, and acknowledge reality. You can probably make them easily movable, with bolts on the perimeter of the park.
    Give people an easier way to do the right thing. And educate them. But make it easier.

    • Janice Melara

      That sounds reasonable but seriously these are grown ups that should know better than to leave their trash behind. Period!

      • Elizabeth Zitrin

        Yes, they should behave better, but while everyone complains and perhaps a brave few try to intervene and make all those people change their behavior, let’s also try to help functionally. Maybe some volunteers could talk to people as they come to the park and remind them to be considerate (not handing out flyers). Or better signage, or a better campaign. But meanwhile, let’s provide inexpensive, even removable, trash bags. Education, peer pressure, good communication, and make it easier to do the right thing.

    • Jay

      Second that. Adults should be adults and pick up after themselves. However, that’s not the reality, and more trash cans would help to mitigate the issue.

      Clearly obliviously here, but why aren’t there more trash cans? Seems like a nobrainer.

      • Caitlin

        I think it’s a lot to do with non-friendly urban architecture. The bins are only located on the perimeter of the park. It implies that they want you to pick up and promptly leave. The same reason there are anti-homeless bumps on railings and windowsills, or bars in the middle of benches. Before the remodel, there were plenty of bins inside the park at common junctions, like the paths, bus stops, picnic tables, etc. If a drunk person can’t visibly see a trash can, they’re likely to not get up to find one. I read an SF Gate article a few years ago saying that the city also relies on the people who go around picking up recycling to trade in, as its “unofficial recycling collectors”. And I dont see them around as often anymore either. I do agree about the out-of-towners being the most likely to not care either. It’s not their backyard. But it’s nearly impossible to enforce a no alcohol policy at Dolores Park, and I know locals can be just as guilty of getting too drunk to pack their trash out. I actually saw the aftermath on Saturday night and attempted to pack as much trash as I alone could, and it was an impossible task. The cans were overflowing even on the street. More cans and more accessible urban planning would benefit everyone in the long run.

  11. Ricco Max

    Disgusting…there is no entitlement here. Pick up your trash when finished. It’s called respect.

  12. Sienna Dawn

    Im not making excuses for the assholes that do this, but also, maybe the city needs to rethink their no trashcans policy.

    • I agree, it has gotten MUCH worse since they took the interior bins. The article also noted the overflowing perimeter trash bins, so seems obvious they need more bins. It also mentioned drunks – a drunk is more likely to toss trash is there is a bin nearby than if they have to schlep trash out.
      Also, worth noting that they got rid of interior cans to save money, not much saving if it takes more time to clean the aftermath.

  13. Dorothy Payne

    This infuriates me! As someone who has been coming to Dolores Park for decades, who lived just a few blocks from it for years, I am absolutely certain Mission youth and families NEVER left the park looking like this! And we wonder why this city is over run ny entitled, immature 30+ year old brats!

  14. Grace Jones

    Pretty soon they will ban drinking in the park altogether. These idiots are ruining things for the rest of us who do pack out our trash ?

  15. J. Anderson

    Why does the city continue to refuse to just put some god damn trash cans inside the park. The existing trash cans are always overflowing onto the street and sidewalk anyway. It’s much easier to call out fellow park goers for not picking up their trash when you can point and say “hey there’s a trash can right there man!” As opposed to now where the cans are on the complete opposite side of the park.

    • Janice Melara

      It still doesn’t excuse them leaving it laying around. Pack it in pack it out.

  16. Shell

    If people can carry stuff into thepark, they can carry their trash out as well. It’s their junk and they are responsible for it. Simple as that.

  17. Using “lack of trash cans” or “needs more trash cans” is a lazy excuse that reflects all responsibility. Would you go to a beach and leave your trash because the trash cans are too far, too full, or non-existent?

  18. I’ve lived across from the park for 9 years. It’s gotten MUCH worse over the years, especially since they took the interior bins. The article also noted the overflowing perimeter trash bins, so seems obvious they need more bins. It also mentioned drunks – a drunk is more likely to toss trash if there’s a bin nearby than if they have to schlep across the park with their trash. Also, worth noting that they got rid of interior cans to save money, not much savings if it takes more time to clean the aftermath.
    It might be worth “hiring” volunteers to go around the park for a few hours in the late weekend afternoons to begin picking up discarded trash, bagging overflowing trash, and gently reminding people to pack out their trash – people are less likely to litter if they know some one is watching.

  19. Joan Bastoni

    There is something really gross happening here, and I do think it relates to why so many people want to leave San Francisco under #LEEdership.

    When there is a story about the 1,000s of homeless suffering on the streets, or someone getting killed, it gets like two comments.

    When its a story about people behaving annoyingly, but in a way that is entirely natural to the human condition, 28 Comments!!! wtf.

    Simple, people love DP, that’s why its crowded af, hire some people to help clean it. That what other businesses do after people come to buy dinner, go to a movie, etc. People need well paid jobs, not Uber half jobs. Just help the people out, and give some jobs.

  20. John Thompson

    When the entire Mission is full of graffiti and trach all over the streets, why should Dolores Park be any different? Yes, people should pack up their shit, but they don’t so fix the damn problem. More trash cans will be cheaper than hiring people every week to clean up the mess. Get off you high horse and just be practical.

    • Pat

      Yes you’re right… it’s called Common Sense. But SF progressives prefer to force a specific ideology down everyone’s throat, rather than be practical.

  21. Natalie Palinski

    The writer should balance this article by writing about the friend creating experiences and lasting memories of the 10,000 people that made a crowded Dolores Park a place to be this weekend. There are few places in the world that concentrate that amount of friendship and human emotions as Dolores Park on a glorious Sunday.

    And these wet towels are complaining about a $1,000 or so?? 6 workers for 4 hours is 24 hours, if they are paid $50 an hour that is still less than one thousand dollars.

    Get a live and stop be jealous that other people \enjoyed the glorious weather with new and old friends.

    • Aaron L.

      I’m going to take a wild guess that you live nowhere near the park. Your entitlement and privilege is baffling, yet hardly surprising lately. These people (illegally, I might add) blast music, get wasted and then, like either spoiled brats or untrained animals, just leave their waste wherever they please. “Oh well, someone else will fix it… after all, they get paid, right?” Who thinks that way other than someone blindingly drunk or a toddler with a live-in maid?

      By the way a lot of your “lasting memories” are picked up by neighborhood volunteers who just don’t like living near a fermenting trash pile. I live near the park so seeing the wreckage of your “glorious” Sundays is a sad, maddening Monday morning experience for me.

      Tell you what: Please post your home address so I can invite 10,000 of my newest friends to dump trash all over your front lawn on a weekly basis. Then you can pay to have it cleaned up. What “human emotions” are you feeling now?

      • Natalie Palinski

        That is impossible, you don’t have 10,000 friends. But there were 10,000 people at the park enjoying it.
        I live near the park, and I’ve partied in the park. We should be able to expect that the City can hire people to care for the parks. And six employees working 4 hours on a park with 10,000 people is understaffed.

        Anyplace with 10,000 people is going to have some issues. Dolores Park won’t be pristine after a busy day, but neither is Mission Street. Cleaning public spaces is part of the price of living in a civilized society.

        As to what I’m feeling now, I feel attacked by a jealous person. Other people enjoy socializing and making friends, please don’t look for petty excuse to block those who are sociable people from getting together.

        • annamouse

          Okay, maybe he doesn’t have 10,000 friends. How about if he brings over 100 friends to party in your yard? You keep pulling the “jealous” card maybe because you can’t come up with a rational (I said rational) reason why littering is okay. We just don’t like slobs who think someone else should clean up their mess. Simple. Nothing to be jealous of here… sad for maybe, but jealous? Nah! To paraphrase you: Taking responsibility and NOT littering is part of the price of living in a civilized society. You feel attacked?!!? Awwww.

        • Aaron L.

          Jealous?! Astonishing. You’re absurdly missing my point. For the love of god, I am not trying to block people from enjoying the park. To the contrary, I want to ensure that ALL of us can enjoy it. I want to stop the entitled, privileged few (including, I can only assume, you) from treating a PUBLIC space as their PRIVATE dumpster. I think it’s fantastic that we all have a wonderful open green space to enjoy—collectively. If you think that “socializing and making friends” is directly related to dropping tons of garbage all over the ground then I think I’d really like to pass on whatever you call friendship.

          It’s the height of entitlement to just assume that because there are more people in a single location than they can abandon common sense and decency and just behave like barnyard animals. I was raised to believe it was my job to clean up my own mess and put trash in its place—all the time. Why? Because that’s what civilized humans do. The fact that we have to argue over this point is terribly depressing to me, and strikes me as a terribly sad indictment on the changing culture of our city.

          I agree that picking up the occasional can or piece of trash is reasonable to expect from the city, and they do that. But look at those pictures, or see this in person on a Sunday or Monday morning—this is out of control. Considering the far more pressing city issues like homelessness, education or any other number of real problems, hiring park maids seems a relatively low priority issue to me, especially when you consider that the simple act of complying with some basic laws and acting with a selfless sense of human decency would largely solve this problem.

          Again, if you think any of this is a personal attack, or some sort of grumpy War on Fun, you’re completely missing my point. This is about getting the selfish to realize that their private fun is harming something that’s supposed to be a public good.

          • Natalie Palinski

            I’d then encourage you to bring a blanket, a bottle of water, some bread, cheese, and sliced meat, or whatever picnic is your pleasure, and join the thousands of people in the park on a crowded sunny afternoon.

            I don’t want to make assumptions about you, ( as in it doesn’t sit right with me that you assume I leave a mess in the park, when what I’m saying is I wish Rec and Park would ramp up the number of workers at the park) , but it sounds like you pass by the park just by yourself after the event is over, rather than coming in and experiencing it.

          • Natalie Palinski

            I think talking about bringing 10,000 people to my front law was targeted attack, but it was also the kind of internet nonsense that one doesn’t take to serously

      • Natalie Palinski

        What houses near the park even have a front lawn??

        • Aaron L.

          Again, really not getting the point. Let me explain: I live right by the park, so it’s kinda-sorta like my front lawn even though of course it’s not mine since it’s a public space… ugh… get it? I can only assume you missed the day figurative language was taught in high school.

          Sorry, it must seem like I’m attacking you again—but I give up. Be “sociable” to your heart’s content, Natalie. The grown ups will just clean up after you, apparently.

    • Anastasia P.

      Natalie Palinski: Your argument is so ridiculous that I’m taking the time out of my work day to actually comment on this. Wet paper towels?! I have a suggestion: make lasting memories while you: TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS. Isn’t that a simple concept? The urban wildlife being harmed from eating the abandoned trash, the surrounding residents, responsible lovers of Dolores Park, and our hardworking Parks and Rec Dept should not have to ignore or cater to an avoidable problem bc drunk/high people are too lazy to take a minute out of their “lasting memories” to pack out what they carry in. There are no excuses at all for litter. Period. Especially considering that after you drink and eat, what you would carry out is considerably lighter than what you carried in and since there are ample city placed trash cans that cater to your every need and desire is a privilege (not a bad one) but is definitely not a necessity. Whoever wants to argue that there should be more receptacles need a reality check: since the renovation, the park’s waste capacity has increased 20,000 gallons. 20,000 gallons! And yet the litter has increased. Why? just bc the locations of the receptacles are now only on the perimeter of the park and not inside, that gives people the right to leave bottle caps, bottles, cans, rotting food, furniture, etc. Why is this a problem? Bc people like you EXPECT someone else to clean up after your party. And $50 an hour for trash collection? What planet are you from? Some people with degrees don’t even make that much in this city. $1,000 a day to clean up after an avoidable mess. How much is that per week? Per year? There are FARRRRR bigger problems this city needs to focus its time, money and energy on rather than catering to the irresponsibly children that can’t clean up after themselves. Sorry not sorry. And jealous? Get a reality check. Chances are most the responsible people cleaning after themselves have been enjoying Dolores Park far longer than you have been alive and only wish to preserve this lovely park for all residents and future generations. Check your privilege.

  22. Anne K Vrolyk

    Studies have been done that show that if trash bins overflow the whole scene gets worse – if the bins are big enough, or emptied fequently, people will use them. The park needs more bins and they need to be emptied more often. Parks are for people – but we all need to also remind folks we see (leaving their trash) that they are RESPONSIBLE to pack out their trash – LEAVE NO TRACE.

  23. Cameron P.

    Please…”the friend creating experiences and lasting memories of the 10,000 people..” … give me a break. The park was trashed by your entitled old and new friends. Why don’t you pay the $1,000, take up a collection among your new friends, or get Bi-rite, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods to foot the bill. It’s also a little tough to make the argument that more garbage cans are the answer when garbage was left all over the park. It’s a sad state of affairs.

    The easy and logical solution is to ban alcohol from Dolores Park.

    • Eric Klinenberg

      Yes, YES.YES. I’m already paying my taxes. I’d much rather that the be spent keeping the park clean that building some stupid wall. We could build lots of parks with the money for that stupid wall

  24. Adam SR

    Totally deceptive reporting/spin. The city of SF has intentionally not put trash cans INSIDE the park (like every other park in every city in America does) to save money on trash collection. They’ve only put trash cans at two edges of the park next to where trash trucks can pull up. No matter how many people have asked for trash cans be inside the park, the city has refused. Another case of SF refusing to do what works based on actual human behavior vs. wishful thinking that people “should” pack their trash up and carry it all the way to one of the edges of this very large park (which may not even be the way people are exiting the park). Shame on the city.

    • Here’s a tip: take your trash with you. You brought it there, you can remove it too. Pack it in, pack it out. Don’t make other people pick up after you.

  25. Carol crewdson

    I work cleaning up after events professionally, and while I’m as pissed and irritated as the rest of the responsible population, I think this issue is not getting better via just shaming people. They need trash cans through out the park, trash cans at the bathroom, and a larger team of dedicated staff to really address this issue. I wish people weren’t slobs too, but this isn’t burning man and the drunken frat boys don’t care about Leave no trace.

  26. Sanjay

    How about less drinking in a park made for kids and people to enjoy. The park wasn’t made for people to get wasted. A beautiful day in a PARK where you can’t even bring kids anymore..

    • Eric Klinenberg

      There are lots of parks with nearly zero drinking, how about equal rights and a few parks for those who like to drink

    • Dennis Riz

      Wonderful that you public display your religious values, but please do not feel threatened by the temptation of the knowledge that there are thousands of people who enjoy drinking in the park.

  27. WOW so according to this article, “Rec and Park has a pack and carry policy at Dolores, which means there are no trash bins inside the park”. Seriously!! They have no trash cans inside the park and wonder why people leave trash?? Put some effin garbage cans out idiots!

  28. Drink cans. Compact them, pack them out, recycle them. Real simple. It is not the City’s fault. It is the people who get too drunk to care, drinking bottles.

  29. Research on deliberate littering says that trash bins are very key to reducing litter, especially around perimeter of parks where there is often loitering and public parking. There are cutting edge cans that protect against birds and vandals.

  30. Elizabeth Zitrin

    Interesting that even in the San Francisco bubble, some Americans will revert to type and assert that there is no middle ground between No Alcohol and Too Drunk To See a Trash Can.

  31. Increase the number of trash cans and have a team of community helpers direct people to the trash cans and remind them to dispose of their trash properly. Have a police squad issue littering citations. Be tough on egregious offenders. What good is a law if it’s not enforced?

  32. Republican rallies are the worst.

  33. sullivan

    Is there a neighborhood community group that can meet about this? Surely locals are not trashing this park.

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