Yesterday, after I learned that the Recreation and Park Department had instituted a “pilot program” to allow for reservations of park space in Dolores Park for picnics, birthday parties, etc., I spoke with Rec & Park to find out what was actually going on. It’s important for elected officials to obtain the facts before making public pronouncements, rather than grandstanding based on no information.
To be clear: reserving picnic tables and lawn areas is common practice throughout San Francisco’s park system and has been for decades. Indeed, in Dolores Park itself, it has long been the case that a few areas of the park — both picnic tables and lawn areas — can be reserved for picnics and parties. So, this is not new in Dolores Park or any other park in the city. Rec & Park is simply reinstating the previous state of affairs.
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. 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.
Shortly after news broke of the reinstatement of the preexisting picnic program in Dolores Park, my colleague, Supervisor Jane Kim, quickly condemned the program and stated her opposition to “renting” public property. However, 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.