by Joe Kukura
The very kids who got kicked off a soccer field by tech bros in an infamous viral YouTube video took to City Hall Thursday morning to protest a soccer field reservation system they say still discriminates against immigrant youth. Fresh off winning a minor political battle last night when SF Rec & Parks removed the pay-to-play reservation system at Mission Playground, these kids described in adorably teenage fashion how Rec & Parks is still putting the screws to their pick-up soccer game culture in an increasingly wealthy and gentrified San Francisco.
“They’re kicking me out of my second home,” said Everett Middle School student Nathan Garcia, who was on the field during the YouTube video incident. “You’re not going to disrespect me in my second home.”
Young Nathan’s second home might be a little safer now that department manager Phil Ginsburg already pledged to kill the paid reservation system at Mission Playground (though it remains in effect at other SF parks). The boys also received apologies from one of the tech firms involved in the YouTube video dispute. “I found out that HotBox, uhhh, wait, DropBox made an apology to us,” 15-year-old Gregory Garcia told the assembled crowd of nearly 300.
But advocates for these youngsters remain riled up over English-only Rec & Parks communications, the possibility of cancerous carcinogens in the artificial turf and the sense that the department is inappropriately privatizing these parks.
“There’s a bigger issue at hand.” says Catania Galvan of the SF Latino Democratic Club, who lives near Golden Gate Park’s Strybing Arboretum. “As a citizen, if I want to enjoy a walk through there, I have to make sure I have my ID with me and pay a $7 fee to enjoy something that I used to enjoy [for free] at the spur of the moment. This has to stop. These our parks.”
The protesters also argue that SF Rec & Parks is in blatant violation of the San Francisco Language Access Ordinance, which requires that city departments provide communications in not just English, but also Spanish, Chinese and Tagalog.
“Every sign in these parks is English-only,” Ms. Galvan told SFist. “Their outgoing messages are English-only. Their websites are English-only. How are you supposed to know your rights, your privileges and your benefits if it’s English-only?”
But the pay-to-play, alleged privatization of SF parks was the protestors’ biggest concern particularly as the city is simultaneously gifting tax breaks to tech firms.
“We’re giving giant tax breaks, and then telling the kids that we can’t afford to let them use the parks for free,” Harvey Milk Democratic Club president Tom Temprano said in a public comment session where frickin’ everyone went way over their allotted two minutes. “Stop the profit model. This is not what San Francisco is about. This is not what our parks are about.”
SFist would like to informally propose that a “Dropbox Bros vs. Mission Teens” charity soccer match be scheduled to resolve all these issues indisputably. The winner of this charity soccer match would then decide Rec & Parks field reservation policy for all fields going forward and all box office and concession stand proceeds would go to Dropbox’s community advocacy/CYA charity organization of choice.
Until then, we are looking at more debate over privatization, English-only signage and the pay-to-play system remaining in effect at every SF park not named Mission Playground.