MISSION LOCAL: Less Play In Dolores Park For Now But Worth It When All is Done

Dolores Park Playground Construction Means Less Park Play for Seven Months

By: Octavio Lopez Raygoza | May 22, 2011 – 6:19 am

Almost half of the south end of Dolores Park will be closed to the public for seven months while a new state-of-the-art playground is installed, beginning June 1 and continuing through the end of the year.

Most immediately, this means the disruption of various summer events, including the San Francisco Symphony’s concert, Dolores Park Movie Night and the San Francisco Mime Troupe’s annual appearances.

“….you can see that it’s not just the playground that is fenced off,” Robert Brust of Dolores Park Works wrote in an email to Mission Loc@l. “We will not have the little meadow where the symphony, the Sisters, Dolores Park Movie Night and so many others like to set up.”

The symphony has said it will not hold a summer concert in Dolores Park this year. Alfonso Felder, the organizer for Film Night, said the group will show Caddyshack on June 18 on the flat field, just south of the tennis courts. Presumably, other organizations will use the same space.

“They are also closing off a block of the sidewalk between Cumberland and 20th and fencing in the tall palms where the slack-line and jugglers set up,” Brust pointed out. “This is going to be hard, but I believe worth it when all is done.”

Most affected will be families with children who play on the playground, the visitors who use the picnic tables nearby and those who set up slack-lines on the five Guadalupe palm trees on the south end of the park.

The palms are considered to be in poor health and will be removed along with 18 other trees in the area. Forty-eight new trees will be planted during the construction period — a mix of tree species, including Guadalupe palms.

“There is no other spot for us,” said Sasha K., who has slack-lined for more than a year at Dolores Park and added that it is a shame to be displaced. The group is likely to move to the Panhandle. “They also choose the best time of the year for construction,” he said, referring to the heavy use of the park in the summer months.

The working site, a large area that centers on the playground but includes a wide swath along its circumference, will be occupied by Bauman Landscape Construction, which was awarded the $2 million-plus contract in April.
An older sketch shows less of a construction impact on the south end of the park.
The new playground will include such features as a custom-made shipwrecked boat and a 36-foot super slide that will be built into the hillside behind the playground.

“That’s great,” said Mark Berenstein about the slide. “It would be a shame if they remove the old playground, though. I have pictures of my son when he was three years old.”

Once the playground is completed, the city will begin work on the rest of the park. Exactly what that will entail is up in the air, but community planning meetings begin June 2 at 6:30 p.m. at Mission High School’s cafeteria.

“This is a very exciting milestone, which means we are on the brink of realizing our goal of creating a world-class playground at Dolores Park,” Nancy Gonzalez Madynski, chair of the Friends of Dolores Park Playground, said in a press release.

Phil Ginsburg, general manger of the Recreation and Park Department, added: “This is a perfect example of community advocates, generous individual donors and a city agency coming together to create a state-of-the-art playground. This project underscores our department’s strong commitment to provide children and families with healthy recreation activities in our parks system.”

Dolores Park Works was not part of the negotiations, Brust wrote, but “the park department and Jake Gilchrist, Dolores Park project manager, have committed to keeping some of the park open at any one time. Now we will see what that means.”

The playground will be named the Helen Diller Playground in recognition of a $1.5 million donation to the project from Mrs. Diller and her family, long-time residents of the San Francisco Bay Area who are committed to the advancement of education, science and the arts.

“We had a couple of overarching goals — first, to create a truly unique, artisan playground, and second, to help keep families living in and enjoying San Francisco,” said Jackie Safier, Helen Diller’s daughter.

As of May 23, construction workers will be on site installing a barricade around the construction site. Work will begin June 1.