Dolores Park Community Reviews and Revises Draft Park Rehabilitation Plan

On last Thursday evening at Mission High School, over 100 Dolores Park community members gathered to review and revise the first draft of the Mission Dolores Park Rehabilitation Plan (click link below).  The draft plan was the first attempt to bring together all the collective planning the community has done at three workshops and over 20 meetings held since May. 

FRAMEWORK PLAN_med_res

Community members had a wide range of reactions to the draft plan.  Some aspects of the plan were judged to be on target, while others were widely seen as in need of revision.   Thursday’s workshop will be followed by similar sessions in September and October to review and revise successive drafts.  The goal is to collectively create a plan that reflects the community’s desires while also meeting the requirements of accessibility laws and park maintenance. 

At this week’s session, community members from four working committees joined the project team to present the draft plan.   Representatives of the Mayor’s Office on Disability and the Recreation and Parks Department also provided background on accessibility and maintenance requirements.

  • The presentation began with a review of the project goals set by the 2008 Clean and Safe Parks Bond and articulated by the community at the first workshop. The bond mandates two objectives: 1) rehabilitating all aspects of the park from the paths to the sports courts to the irrigation and 2) making the park accessible to all visitors.   At the first workshop, community members articulated a clear vision, “fix the problems, but don’t change the park.” The design team has taken the community’s vision as their mission, adding their ideal of long term inclusionary planning—creating a design that will serve all current and future park users.
  • The Project Team then presented the proposed universally accessible main path, which sets the framework for other improvements.   The team drew the course of this path by finding the simplest, least intrusive way to connect the key experiences in the park at a slope of no more than 5% (or 1 foot rise over 20’), which is the maximum slope allowable under federal and state accessibility laws.   Then team considered whether to create a separate maintenance route or to combine the two functions—and decided one path would have less impact on the park than two.   The combination of pedestrian and maintenance access set the width of the path—4’ with a 5’ passing/turnaround space every 100’ is mandated by law for pedestrians and between 6’ and 8’ is needed for various maintenance vehicles. The result in a path that ranges from 10-12’ depending on what kind of vehicle access is needed.
  • The Team also shared the locations of the bathrooms and picnic areas that were decided by community members at the last workshop.
  • The committees of community members then presented the plans for key aspects of the park rehabilitation. The Western Edge Committee, went first, presenting their proposal to improve the safety of the park entrances on Church St. and selectively thin the vegetation surrounding the MUNI tracks to open up views and increase safety.
  • The Tennis and Bike Polo Committees then reported their support for the plan to reorganize and improve the tennis and basketball courts and add a multi-use bike polo court. 
  • Leaders of the dog community shared their plan to refine the boundaries of the multi-use dog play areas, expanding and improving southern play area and while reducing the area on the north side down to the frontage along Dolores St. between the courts and the promenade and up to the ridge of “hipster hill.”
  • The Northern Field Committee reported their plan to improve the condition of the field to make it useable for all activities, including organized sports, but definitely not add any lines, fences or lights.  The workshop participants were them asked by the North Field Committee to vote to support the Committee’s letter to the Recreation and Parks Department asking for a written plan to maintain the field once it is improved.
  • Following the committee reports, John Paul Scott , Deputy Director of Physical Access with the Mayor’s Office on Disability, explained the legal requirement of making all the park’s amenities accessible and the City’s “moral obligation” to create a universally accessible park.
  • And finally, Park Service Manager Eric Andersen shared the Department’s goal of making maintenance as “invisible and efficient” as possible. 

With all this background, workshop participants then toured the park with the draft plan in hand to experience how the plan felt “on the ground.”   Everyone then returned to Mission High to work in small groups to review the plan in detail.   At the close of the meeting, each group reported its top three or four revisions to the plan and its proposal for the reuse or removal of the clubhouse.  

Groups shared a wide range of proposals and critiques, but clear patterns emerged.   Several aspects of the plan received wide support and seem largely decided:

  • Groups thought the location of the bathrooms and picnic areas was on target.
  • The sports court renovation plan was nearly universally supported.
  • The placement of the maintenance facility under the sports courts was also nearly universally supported, though groups commented on the size and exact placement of the building.

Several aspects of the plan were also widely critiqued.

  • Many groups questioned the width of the main circulation path, asking why it couldn’t be narrowed or even removed in certain areas.  Participants were particularly concerned that the connection from the northwest corner of the park (18th/Church Sts) to the promenade would “ruin” or “breakup” the “wide open lawn… that is such a special part of the Dolores experience.”  
  • Several groups questioned the continued placement of an off-leash dog play area along Dolores St. in the area that has become known as “hipster hill.” 

These two topics will be the focus of the Steering Committee, the Path Committee, the Dog Play Area Committee and the Project Team over the coming month.    The Project Team and the Recreation and Parks Department will research all the possible options for the creating a less visible path and then evaluate these options with the committees.  The goal is to have the lowest impact option possible ready for presentation at the September workshop.   The Dog Play Area Committee will meet to consider the critique its plan received and how it can best respond to the community’s concerns.

The final topic of discussion at the session was what to do with the Clubhouse, now that its former uses-bathrooms and maintenance—are being moved to new locations at the edges of the park.   Thursday’s session was just the beginning of this discussion.  7 of 12 groups initially wanted to reuse the Clubhouse for a new function; 5 of 12 initially wanted to remove the Clubhouse.   Reuse advocates proposed a range of options from a youth center to passive adult recreation to a cafe and made the case for preserving a historic park building.  Removal advocates in turn made the case for creating more open space, opening up views across the park and removing a magnet for graffiti and drug use.   Evaluating the alternatives and making a collective decision on the future of the Clubhouse will be a focus of the next workshop.

As Thursday’s session showed, the Dolores Park participatory planning process had made significant progress, but key decisions remain to be made.  Please watch this blog for the announcement of the next workshop and join the community to make these key decisions.  (The date of the workshop has been announced as September 29th, but that conflicts with the Jewish High Holidays, so a new date is being found.)

If you have any questions before the workshop, please contact the project manager, Jake Gilchrist,  at 415-581-2561  Jacob.Gilchrist@sfgov.org

If you would like to share ideas or comments before or after the workshop, please visit the project website and download the comment form at http://sfrecpark.org/doloresParkProject.aspx  Just click on the “meeting materials” tab, download and fill out the form, and then email it to the project manager at  Jacob.Gilchrist@sfgov.org