Pay For A Spot In The Park? San Franciscans Thwart Money-Making Scheme

The way to hell is paved with good intentions - and so the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department tried to rent out parts of Dolores Park.



The two-month pilot program from San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department allowed people to reserve sections of grass at Dolores Park for at least seven hours. The initiative began earlier this month but quickly met its end amid uproar.

Picnic table reservations are nothing new, and they are allowed at parks citywide, but it was the inclusion of lawn space that angered people.

During the trial period, al fresco diners could claim a section of the park via the department's website, for as little as $33 with a $200 security deposit for 50 people.

Supervisor Jane Kim, of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, called publicly for an end to the program, citing concerns that it would exclude lower income users from enjoying public space.

“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,” she said. “We already have a growing income gap between the ultra-wealthy and everyone else. We shouldn’t have a park gap too.”





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Slate’s Henry Grabar deemed it “a fifth-column scheme to incite class warfare in San Francisco’s desirable Mission neighborhood…”

Not one but two petitions went up in less than 24 hours.
It got results. Scott Wiener, of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, announced he had worked out a deal with the Recreation and Parks Department to end the lawn space rental scheme.

“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,” he said.

“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. Allowing reservations of picnic tables in our parks is a reasonable policy. I also asked Rec & Park to engage in further evaluation and dialogue on this issue before making any future policy determinations.”

Joey Kahn, a spokesperson for the parks department, also confirmed the lawn reservations would be suspended.

“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,” he wrote in a statement.

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