Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 49 / 7 December 2017
 

Dolores Park renovation
wraps up

NEWS


m.bajko@ebar.com

An artist rendering shows a man using a discreetly placed pissoir, center, that's located at the edge of Dolores Park, near the Muni train tracks. Photo: Courtesy SF Rec and Park
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The years-long renovation of Mission Dolores Park is nearing an end.

The multi-million dollar project, begun in March 2014 with a complete overhaul of the open space's northern section, is slated to be complete in 2016 shortly after the new year.

Many of the upgrades in the southern half of the park that straddles the city's Castro and Mission districts are expected to wrap up this month. The work has focused on addressing drainage issues and a lack of bathroom facilities at the heavily used green space.

San Francisco Recreation and Park officials are planning to have a grand opening ceremony for the southern half of the park sometime in mid-January. The party is expected to be similar to the one held this summer to welcome users to the new northern half. The silent disco will likely make a return for the celebration.

"We are about to open the entirety of the park," Sarah Madland, the department's director of policy and public affairs, told Castro business leaders at their meeting December 3.

The park's northern section opened June 18, and at the time, a rec and park spokeswoman had told the Bay Area Reporter that the southern half, including the popular "gay beach" section near the intersection of 20th and Church streets, would remain closed until the fall of 2016.

But department officials recently told the B.A.R. that was a miscommunication and that the rest of the work was always expected to be complete by the end of 2015.

Gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose district includes Mission Dolores Park, said he is excited to see the renovation project wrap up.

"I am looking forward to having a fully useable, beautiful park and having the crowds be able to spread throughout the park instead of being concentrated in just one area," said Wiener. "It will be awesome to have the full park back. To have it in much better condition than it was before and more accessible, it is going to be terrific."

Since the summer work crews have been prepping the park's hilly terrain along its 20th Street border in order to replace the irrigation system, install new ADA-accessible pathways, build a new overlook at the corner of 20th and Church streets, and construct a new bathroom facility built into the hillside at the opposite corner by 20th and Dolores streets.

Close to the existing Helen Diller Playground, which was renovated a few years ago and has remained open during the construction work, additional picnic table areas are being installed that park users will be able to reserve. New sod has been put in place and new walkways are now being paved.

 

More bathrooms, pissoir

Along the park's western boundary between Church Street and the J-Church Muni line tracks will be a new sidewalk running the length of the park between 20th and 18th streets. Adjacent to the sidewalk, near the 20th Street Muni stop, will be a pissoir, or public urinal, the first such amenity to be installed in one of the city's parks.

It was purposefully situated at that location due to the nearby hillside within the park that is known not only by its gay beach moniker but also as the "fruit shelf" and "homo hill." On sunny weekends the area can attract hundreds of gay male sunbathers to the park.

"It is the first public pissoir in San Francisco that we are aware of," said Madland. "Basically, it is a trough that is shielded."

The lack of restrooms at Dolores Park, which can attract tens of thousands of sun-seekers on warm weekends, has been a major problem for years. Prior to the renovations, there were only four restrooms in the 13.7 acre park.

Another issue has been the over abundance of garbage park users leave behind, with far too few trashcans in place to accommodate the refuse. Madland acknowledged that the department was "really asleep at the switch" in the past when it came to addressing the issues.

"We did not have the appropriate number of trashcans or bathrooms, so you would have people peeing in bushes or in front of people's homes nearby the park," she said.

As part of the first phase of the project, a new bathroom was built near the reconstructed tennis courts along the park's 18th Street boundary that has a total of 16 toilets, including urinals and two unisex/family bathrooms.

The southern bathroom being built near the playground will have a total of 15 toilets, which also includes urinals and two unisex/family bathrooms. Not including the pissoir, there will be a total of 31 toilets in the park.

Over the last year parks officials have set up eco-pop ups to encourage recycling and have worked with trash company Recology to increase garbage pickup on busy days. They also launched the "Love Dolores" campaign to encourage people to clean up after themselves and either recycle or pack out whatever items they bring with them to the park.

Local businesses have also been recruited to promote the message, with Bi-Rite Market adding stickers that say "recycle me" on the alcoholic and other beverages it sells. Stores near the park are also being asked to sell cans of beer rather than bottles.

This spring, when the warm weather returns, parks staffers are planning to expand the Love Dolores campaign.

"Garbage is still an issue. There is still a lot of litter in the park," said Wiener. "The department has done a good job. Part of the problem is too many staff resources are being used to pick up people's garbage, so it is a continuing challenge."

The project has cost the city $20.5 million. The 2008 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond included $13.2 million to improve Mission Dolores Park and the rest of the money has come from the city's general fund.

For more information about the renovation project, visit http://sfrecpark.org/project/mission-dolores-park-improvements/.






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