The life and death of a pilot program in San Francisco’s Dolores Park shows that the cringeworthy idea was doomed from the start.
Well, that was quick.
Not 24 hours after SFist broke the news of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department’s three-month pilot program allowing people to reserve plots of grass for $33 to $260 (plus a $200 security deposit), it’s over. Kaput. Left to expire after it runs its course through July.
In a statement, Rec & Park explained themselves:
Given the recent debate regarding the reservation of specified lawn areas for large group picnic, wedding, and birthday parties in our beloved Dolores Park, the Recreation and Park Department, in consultation with Supervisor Scott Weiner, is suspending the issuance of permits for this use.
Reading between the lines: they screwed up, and they know it.
Dolores Park—like many public parks—has a longstanding policy requiring reservations for picnic tables. But the new pilot also slapped an online reservation process and a hefty fee onto what a now-vindicated Change.org petition that sprung up in the wake of the program’s announcement described as a “park for the people.”
Once word of the pilot hit the Internet, the outrage came fast and furious. The Change.org petition collected 14,000 signatures (and counting). Jane Kim, a member of the SF Board of Supervisors and a candidate for the California senate, Tweeted: “Our city’s not for sale and shouldn’t be for rent, either.”
For longtime San Francisco residents and natives, who have watched their numbers dwindle as the tech industry boom pulls rents to ever-more-impossible heights, the commodification of the park in the midst of the rapidly gentrifying Mission District was the last straw.
One especially virulent Tweeter, who grew up playing in the park, wrote that through the program, Rec & Park had devised yet another way of cordoning off the city for the rich. “They’re literally making this a playground for the gentrifiers,” she wrote. “And designing it for their liking…it’s sad to see and witness the direction this city has been heading in. Bland. Culture-less. Lacking so much diversity.”
Essentially, the pilot program separated the “public” from the park. And San Francisco was right not to stand for it.