It will no longer cost money to sit on grass at San Francisco’s beloved Dolores Park.
A day after SFist ran a snarky piece criticizing a permitting process where large parties of 25 or more would have to reserve and pay for pieces of lawn as well as picnic tables, the city’s Recreation and Park Department on Tuesday announced it has reversed course. At least a little bit.
The reversal-in-part comes after a phone call from Supervisor Scott Wiener, who is running against Supervisor Jane Kim for the 11th district California Senate seat to replace outgoing Democrat Mark Leno.
Wiener said he worked out a deal with the parks department to continue charging for picnic tables. But anyone, no matter how big the group, can sit on the park’s grassy lawn without a reservation or without fees ranging from $33 to $260, depending on how large the group.
“I do share concerns about reserving lawn areas in the park, given that green space is extremely limited on weekends due to large crowds,” Wiener wrote on his blog. “To address this concern, I worked with Rec & Park to change its reservation policy by limiting reservations to picnic tables.”
Wiener’s call came after Kim tweeted: “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.” Plus, a Change.org petition was started in the name of “no picnic reservations at Dolores!!!” By Tuesday afternoon, the petition had 13,000 supporters - 6,000 more than the morning. One source said the park and rec department was getting an "avalanche" of opinions on all sides.
In an interview Tuesday, Kim's spokeswoman Ivy Lee said, "the supervisor doesn't believe you shouldn't commodify and rent out grass. Picnic tables is one thing. But it's grass."
The park is not in Kim’s district. It's in Wiener's.
Dolores Park, with its glorious palm trees and sweeping views of the city, must have some type of political clout. The park and rec department still requires permits for lawn areas – yes, grass – in these parks: Golden Gate Park, Duboce, Precita, Allyne, Buena Vista, Cayuga, Marina Green, Kimbell and others.
Park and rec spokesman Elton Pon told NBC Bay Area the permits and fees are not to make the city rich, they are to “manage the chaos.”
Dolores Park presents some unique challenges, Pon said, where on a sunny weekend, as many as 15,000 people hang out, have fun and create a lot of trash. The park district estimated that it costs the city $750,000 to pick up trash left at Dolores. Park and rec officials declined to comment on why Dolores Park was getting special attention.
Wiener, however, made sure to make a dig at Kim in his statement regarding Dolores Park. “There are parks in Supervisor Kim’s own district — for example, South Park and Victoria Manalo Draves — where park space can be reserved for picnics and parties. It’s unclear why Supervisor Kim opposes this longstanding program at Dolores Park but not in her own district. In addition, Supervisor Kim voted, in 2013, to establish the fee schedule that authorized these precise fees. While I’m thrilled that Supervisor Kim is now interested in Dolores Park — after many of us have spent years and huge effort to renovate the park and make it more usable by the community — it’s important for politicians to avoid hypocrisy.”
Kim's spokeswoman said the supervisor wasn't interested in getting into a "tit- for-tat" with Wiener.