San Franciscans Dump Controversial Program in Less than 24 Hours

Often making change in your country or your state or even your neighborhood takes a long time. Months. Years even. But not always...

Yesterday, San Franciscans put an end to a particularly controversial Recreation and Parks Department program less than 24 hours after it was announced.

On Monday, SFist broke the news that the Recreation and Parks Department would allow people to reserve sections of Dolores Park, one of the most popular parks in the city, as part of a two-month pilot program. Reservation fees would range from $33 to $260 in addition to a $200 security deposit.  And the department planned to have staff on-site during the weekends to enforce reservations.

In a city already struggling with a rising cost of living and an ever-widening income gap, this announcement did not sit well. San Francisco resident Matt Haze Kaftor was so opposed to the program that he started a petition to stop it.

“Mission Dolores Park has always been and will continue to be a park for the people. We will not allow SF Rec and Park to privatize access for those with the resources to make it their personal playground,” he wrote.

“As we saw at Mission Playground last year, there is no need to change the existing free use of a park with limited space and diverse population. This reservation program disenfranchises residents and further fractures the already fragile balance of the Mission's cultural ecosystem.”

Over the next 24 hours, the petition became one of the most popular petitions on Change.org. It garnered nearly 15,000 signatures in that time, with many supporters expressing why they were so upset with the pilot program in the comments:

But people weren’t just showing their disapproval on Change.org. Another San Francisco resident, Jacob Kaufman, planned a protest for this coming weekend.

“I say we do what we San Franciscans always do in this situation: THROW A BIG PARTY in which we openly express our opinions about the situation,” he wrote in the Facebook invite, which was sent to more than 500 people (29 of whom are definitely attending).

In just one day, the Dolores Park debate also became fodder for a state senate race between SF Supervisors Jane Kim and Scott Wiener. Supervisor Kim was quick to comment on the program at Dolores Park, which is in Supervisor Weiner’s district.

“Our city shouldn’t be for sale — and it shouldn’t be for rent either,” she wrote in an email to SFist. “I’m very concerned that not only does this limit access to a popular park; 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."

With all of this noise, the Recreation and Parks Department promptly decided -- in consultation with Supervisor Weiner -- that the program would be allowed to expire in two months (there are already reservations booked through July).

"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,"  Department spokesperson Joey Kahn wrote in an email to SFist.

Again, all of this happened in just one day.

What do you think you can change in one day? Tell us in the comments.