This should end well. A two-month pilot program from the Recreation and Parks Department now allows people to reserve sections of Dolores Park for periods of at least seven hours. And no, not the picnic table areas (which you've always been able to reserve), but just straight up sections of grass near Hipster Hill/Fixie Flats. What's more, on weekends Rec and Parks plans on having staff on site to enforce the reservations — so you better not sit in someone's spot.
Yes, it costs money. And yes, the primary way to book the spots is online. The new practice of course calls to mind the infamous Soccer Field War of 2014 in which longtime, Mission-born players ran up against a new reservation system being used by recent transplants and tech employees, ultimately causing neighborhood kids to get kicked off what they saw as their own fields.
According to the Rec and Parks website, in order to reserve your own little piece of Dolores heaven, now all you have to do is apply and pay the fee of $33 to $260 (depending on group size, and not including the $200 security deposit). "All requests for Mission Dolores must complete an online Picnic Application," the site explains.
SFist reached out to Rec and Parks' spokesperson Joey Kahn and asked if the only way to reserve a spot was through the website something that arguably disenfranchises some, if the fees didn't already. Kahn simply replied "To reserve a space, visit [the reservation website]." (Update: Kahn clarified that if you don't have internet access, you can call the Parks Department and they will "find a way to get it done." "We can always walk people through the permit process [over the phone]," he emphasized.)
Kahn further confirmed the general details of the pilot program explained above, and noted that "[on] the weekends, we have staff on-site to make this a seamless process including a system to ensure groups clean up after themselves."
A sign announcing a reservation was on display yesterday at Dolores. "Picnic Lawn A," it seems, was reserved from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. What, exactly, is Picnic Lawn A? As you can see on a new map on SF Rec and Parks' website, it's a pretty sizable chuck of grass (see "NW-A") down by the tennis courts.
According to Kahn, the pilot program started at the beginning of May, and spots are already booked through mid-July. And it looks like this system is here to stay.
"After a two-month period, we may make minor tweaks to ensure that the system works for the public and the Department," he explained. "However, our intention is to continue a picnic reservation process at Dolores Park."
Photo by Kevin Montgomery
Update: No sooner did we report this story, Supervisor Jane Kim (whose district does not include Dolores Park) spoke out on Twitter against this pilot program.
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
Second Update Less than 24 hours after we first reported on the pilot program, SF Rec and Parks announced (following intense backlash) that they would allow it to expire in July.
This post has been updated to reflect that you can secure a spot by calling Rec and Parks on the phone.
Related: Video: Wow, The New Dolores Park Rangers Sure Aren't Messing AroundImage via Rec & Parks.