The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department has ended adult paid permits for the Mission Playground after a video showing tech workers arguing with local youth over use of the soccer field went viral, sparking protests.
The incident — which park department officials say took place on Aug. 18 — was posted on YouTube in September and created a buzz on the Internet after getting picked up by the Uptown Almanac last week.
The video shows a group of Dropbox employees with a permit trying to kick some regular pick-up players off the Mission Playground soccer field located at 19th and Valencia streets because they had paid to reserve the slot.
"We paid $27," one of the men arguing in the video can be heard saying.
"You don’t understand — this field has never been booked. How long have you been in the neighborhood, bro?" a young man who was already playing soccer in the field asks one of the tech workers.
"Over a year!" came the response, to which the local players start laughing.
And then the young man asks again: "How long have you been playing here for? Because my whole life — I've been born and raised here for 20 years — we've been playing here."
Neighbors who have seen this video say that it highlights some of the tensions they have seen with this latest tech boom — a snapshot of what gentrification has done to the Mission District. "It's not just about one playground — it certainly represents more like people being uncomfortable about changes that are happening," said Greg Dillon.
Fredy Bolvito, who plays soccer at the Mission Playground, said that the regulars never thought there would be a permit for the field. "We've been playing for more than 10 years without reservations — We never thought that the high-tech guys are going to take away our tradition, which is the Mission," he said.
Others said they can't blame the Dropbox employees because they had paid for the spot and deserved to use it. One of the Dropbox employees in the video eventually apologized on Twitter, saying: "What I said was insensitive and embarrassing to both Dropbox and me. In case it helps, we worked it out that day so everyone got to play."
Deeply sorry about the Mission Playground incident. I do care about my community. — Jean-Denis Greze (@jgreze) October 12, 2014
Nearly a hundred people showed up at City Hall Thursday to protest what they claim is the unfair privatization of parks. "When you have grown adults tossing children out of a playground, it’s wrong, intrinsically wrong — permit or no permit," said Catania Galvan.
Park officials say that it all boils down to a lack of playfields for both youth and adults to play. The city has renovated its athletic fields with turf and lights in recent years, adding nearly 80,000 hours of play for everyone.
Park department officials met with Mission youth and soccer advocates Wednesday to discuss more open play hours and decided to end adult permits until further notice.
"It’s great to have this support — it’s the best feeling," said Hugo Vargas, one of the kids in the video. "We know now that the city has our backs, our community is on our side — I thought we are just teens and no one’s going to listen to us."