San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department will not extend the Dolores Park reservation pilot program we broke the news on yesterday following its mid-July scheduled completion. The program allowed people to reserve sections of grass in the popular park for $33 to $260 (depending on group size), and on weekends included Rec and Parks staff members to help regulate the rental process.
The pilot program had all the signs of being made permanent park policy, with Rec and Parks spokesperson Joey Kahn telling SFist yesterday that the "intention is to continue a picnic reservation process at Dolores Park" after the pilot program ended. We now know that this will not be the case at least for open areas of lawn, because picnic table reservations have been longstanding policy, and not controversial.
News of the pilot program sparked widespread frustration among San Francisco residents — a protest has been scheduled, and as of this writing a change.org petition requesting that the city stop the rental of grass space in the park had already gathered 11,000 signatures.
The program found opposition in City Hall as well, with Supervisor Jane Kim announcing this morning plans to introduce a resolution "urging" the Recreation and Parks Department to end the program. “Our city shouldn’t be for sale and it shouldn’t be for rent either,” Kim wrote in a statement emailed out by her office. “I’m very concerned that not only does this limit access to a popular park; we could well be on a slippery slope where the very wealthy are the only ones who can fully enjoy public spaces in San Francisco."
"We already have a growing income gap between the ultra-wealthy and everyone else," Supervisor Kim observed. "We shouldn’t have a park gap too."
Dolores Park, of course, is not in Kim's district. Instead, it is in District 8, the jurisdiction of Supervisor Scott Wiener. Wiener just so happens to be Kim's opponent in an ongoing state senate race. SFist reached out to Supervisor Wiener and his staff to inquire about the program, and he responded with news that it will not be extended, though it sounds like reservations will be honored through July.
He also clarifies that reserving park space is nothing new, but obviously this gets sensitive when we're talking about some of the busiest pieces of park real estate in the city.
"Despite this program being consistent with long-standing policy in Dolores Park, I do share concerns about reserving lawn areas in the park, given that green space is extremely limited on weekends due to large crowds," writes Wiener. "To address this concern, I worked with Rec & Park to change its reservation policy by limiting reservations to picnic tables. Thus, Rec & Park will not be allowing additional reservations of the lawn area."
The full statement from Wiener includes a note that park space is for rent in Kim's own district before noting that "it’s important for politicians to avoid hypocrisy." And how did Dolores Park become a central battle point for these two senate candidates?
Regardless, unlike the state senate race, it seems this pilot program will be short-lived.
Update: Rec and Parks spokesperson Joey Kahn emailed out a statement confirming that the pilot program would be allowed to expire in July.
"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 Wiener, is suspending the issuance of permits for this use," reads the statement in part. "We want to take a step back to have more open public dialogue regarding our long-standing reservation policies at Dolores Park that are designed to provide accountability for the use of our public parks by larger gatherings. The picnic table areas at Dolores park primarily used for children and family parties will continue to be permitted during this time."