Dolores Park Community Meeting Recap

The Dolores Park Community Meeting at Mission High School wrapped up at 8pm Wednesday. There were a lot of strong opinions, but the meeting stayed civil. We focused on two main topics:

Traffic Safety on 19th and Dolores

Neighbors and park-goers agree that 19th and Dolores is a dangerous intersection. With the unlikely combination of dog walkers, children, and intoxicated you-know-what-sters it’s a miracle that the street doesn’t get a splattered with a daily red paint job.

Manito Velasco of the SFMTA did most of the talking and plainly stated that no new stop signs will be installed. They have have studied the traffic flow on weekdays and don’t think it meets federal guidelines for signs. One guy said that they should study the traffic on weekends because, like doye, it’s totally different. Zing. Velsaco said he’d do that. Also, nuh-uh to traffic lights, ’cause those sons of bitches cost $350,000.

What they do propose is some combination of the following:

  • High visibility and way-fun “zebra striped” crosswalks (you know, for kids)
  • Yield notifications
  • Pedestrian Xing stencils
  • 20th and Dolores traffic light timing tweaks

They are also looking into:

  • Disallowing U-Turns (To which one neighbor replied to the effect of, “But then I can’t go home without doing a lap around San Francisco first!” Somebody get this lady google maps STAT.)
  • Remove some parking spaces on the corners to increase visibility
  • Reduce the San Jose 280 offramp to one lane to discourage people from taking shortcuts through the Mission

After some prodding from the audience, Velasco conceded that they are “not opposed” to stop signs but want to check out other options first. Oh ok, so “no stop signs” is now “maybe stop signs”.

Sorry what were we just talking about again? I got distracted looking out the window at the people in Dolores Park having an awesome time in the 70 degree weather. Oh yeah, traffic on 19th and Dolores.

Two diagrams for the redesigned intersections were shown, featuring neat “bulb outs” and “pedestrian refuges”. A guy pointed out that the diagram showed a clip-art car making a dangerous U-turn, or a sorry excuse for a left turn. Someone fire that illustrator.

Enforcement of Park Rules

Supervisor Bevan Duffy gave a long rambling introduction for the Mission Police Station’s Captain Corrales in which he called the dude a total hard ass, but damn it all, he respects him. Corrales, who would really rather have been at the Giants game, reminded us that drinking and smoking have always been illegal in Dolores Park. That being said, if there are no complaints, they don’t go out and bust people. He added that after the park stabbing in early August neighbors got spooked and increased complaints about drinking, smoking, and other fun stuff in the park so they sent those motorized robocops around to issue citations. How many? 28, to be exact. 19 for drinking, 9 for smoking. He then rolled his eyes about emails whining that the sight of patrolling police cars was “ruining the ambiance” of the park. This guy is pretty snarky! I like it. He should write a blog.

On to the comments which, like on a Mission hyper-local blog, is where things get a little tense.

This guy whose name rhymes with “Tevin Tontgomery” said that SF has a history of not enforcing laws and that the city often pioneers the legislative destruction of outdated laws. He added that cops should be busting killers and stuff, and not jerking around fun-loving 20-somethings which is “ageism”. Corrales shrugged and said, “speak for yourself, dude. I have been enforcing the law for 40 years”. Wow! That guy is cucumber boy, as in “cool as a”. Bevan Duffy got HELLA PISSED and said some stuff about how immigrants are protected by law and that he visits crime victims in hospitals, which was sorta confusing, but got some woo-hoos and applause.

A Latin-American 20-year resident of 19th and Dolores who kinda looks like John Tuturro brought up how young brown kids growing up in the ‘hood see cops turning a blind eye to the whiteys in the park partying down, while busting them for the same stuff, leading to the perception that cops and hipsters are full of shit. Touché, sir. No one’s touching that one.

Neighbors holding babies chimed in. They’re not “anti-fun”, just anti-people barfing on their doorsteps, dancing on their cars, stealing their cell phones, leaving trash everywhere, and having loud non-permit raves (Fun facts: only 2 permits are issued for Dolores Park events a month, and none of them allow events after 6pm). One reminisced about the old days where the young people would chillax with one discreet bottle in hand, as opposed to wheeling in kegs and smoking the doobies everywhere. They also zinged the cops for the handling of the nighttime crowd dispersal last week, which involved bullhorns and bright lights. Cops said they would try to do better.

Later that night, the cops dispersed the crowds in the park with bullhorns and  bright lights from a menacing cruiser. Not that I was, um, there or anything.

One park-goer commented on how she drinks in the park (Oops! Hear that Captain Corrales?) but totally respects the space, sympathizes with the neighbors, and cleans up after herself. Yessir, it’s probably those ruffians with the arm tattoos that are just ruining it for everyone. Neighbors nodded in approval as if to say, “you’re one of the good ones, babe.”

Then there was some more chatter about the trash can and bathroom situation. In short, the renovation will address all these things. For now, port-o-johns on somewhat arbitrarily selected days will have to do. As for trash? No word, but you’d be surprised how much of it you can stuff in a medium Timbuk2 messenger bag.

Wrap-up

I haven’t been to a lot of these sorts of meetings, so I’m not sure what to make of the outcome. Crystal Vann Wallstrom of Dolores Park Works was optimistic about everyone coming to agreement which didn’t happen. In the end, she shrugged and said, “we’ll keep doing this every year until we all agree”. No hurry, folks. On the other hand, it was a chance for people to be heard by parties on all sides, which must be positive.

In all seriousness, thanks for Dolores Park Works for setting up the meeting. It was a good experience to hear all sides of the argument in a controlled fashion. Organizing and moderating these meetings seems exhausting, and it’s not a task I’d be up for. I hope you all make it to the next one.


Author: Vic Wong

I own a sword. I like to write. I am a software engineer for pandora.com. I am a gypsy jazz guitarist.

27 thoughts on “Dolores Park Community Meeting Recap”

  1. Thanks for the blog post. It’s an excellent summary and saves me from writing one. I guess it really doesn’t. I’d like to add that at one point, we counted 88 people, not iincluding the city reps. Good turn out. Unfortunately, it looked like there were only about 10 under 30. Yep, I profiled. It was mostly neighbors. Peeps need to show up if they want things to change. Perhaps next time. Thanks!

    1. As a candidate for mayor I am finding out that locals don’t show up for meetings about their hood, but are the first to complain, so just hang in there I am coming in 2011….

  2. I was in the meeting last night and I think that is not just about urinating only, it is also about respecting the people who live around there. It is OK to have fun and have a couple of beers with friends in the park, but as I mentioned last night it just doesn’t end at 10 pm. A group of people stayed until 4 in the morning, yes… this happened just right after the meeting. Drinking, thrashing and urinating are problems that can be solved. But if people keep staying til the next morning I think that is the biggest problem, and the first one that needs to be fixed.

  3. I don’t think peeps want to show up because they probably don’t want things to change. And they probably don’t live around the park area. Trust me, they would show up to meetings like this if they had hundreds of people doing the same shit they do right outside their houses.

  4. It’s unfortunate that Mr. Tontgomery is so determined to paint neighbors with such broad strokes. This is a VERY open neighborhood. We tolerate a lot, and many of us live here because it’s fun! No one wants to be the fun police, but at some point, we have to be able to say that we’ve put up with enough that goes over and above normal behavior. Honestly, most of us don’t give a crap about the booze when not in excess, but really just about respecting the fact that people DO live here and are entitled to a modicum of decency and safety, especially late at night. Is it really so much to ask that the park (gasp!) actually close at night? I’m pretty sure most parks do.

    Dude, if your neighbors through a raucous party until 2 am that resulted in your home being vandalized and your kids not being able to sleep, well, you might let it go once or twice… but if they did it every reasonable warm night for 5 years??? Well, even you might ask the neighbors to relent a bit. Or maybe not. Regardless, your desire for an unabated park party with boundless noise is simply ridiculous. The fact that this is the Mission does not excuse and should not enable this inanity to continue unabated. There is a certain irony in your focus on booze. You see, if we can’t compromise on everything else (like noise and closing), it’s the booze and drugs that will disappear as those are the only things the cops can easily enforce. Keep acting like children, and the police, park patrol and neighbors will treat you like children. I’m sure you think we’re no-fun jerks, but damn, most of us are making a good faith effort to work out a reasonable compromise. The least you could do is respect that effort and help work toward a solution.

    1. I think your logic then is a bit misplaced since calling the cops on people during the day time isn’t really affecting what goes on there at night. They are almost two separate scenes with some overlap (ie some day people stick around all night). However, targeting the “day people” isn’t going to do anything to discourage the night people from showing up and doing what they’ve apparently been doing in that park for time immemorial which is sketchy shit/annoying the neighbors. I think the best solution to your issues with the current state of the park is to focus the police presence on clearing out the park and making it no longer be viewed as a place to go, or stick around at, until the wee hours. This could easily be accomplished by simply time shifting those daily/hourly bike patrols a few hours to start at sundown and proceed through the night. This combined with a concerted effort during the day to police littering would essentially solve both problems. you’d make the area inhospitable to assholes and petty criminals while still allowing the odd passersby and other peeps to enjoy a few hours of sunshine and friendship without having to be worried about being ticketed (unless they litter).

      It’s pretty clear that you have the ear of the people in power, so why not suggest a more reasoned approach for them to address your concerns that makes you the neighborhood hero for saving the fun while excluding the jerks.

      1. I think your distinction between “day people” and “night people” is not a bad one. Way better than any police patrol during the day would be if the cops/park rangers/official-looking volunteers showed up with 1 hr to go until closing handing out trash bags and recycling bags, getting people to stand up and clean up, and basically playing the same role as bar staff at closing time.

        It might not take people long before they learned that the police are coming at the end of the day, so they need to get out early or get ready to work cleaning up!

      2. Spot on. It’s really all about the late evening/early morning issues. It was actually mentioned at the meeting that it is inane for the cops to run hondas all day and then stop at 5 when in reality the shifts could start at 5 (or later) just to prep the park to close at a reasonable time.

        And, for the record, I have never once called the cops before 10pm and I don’t plan to. Like I said, most people simply don’t care what happens during the day as long as folks pick up after themselves and are respectful of the neighbors. What I was getting at is that a likely conclusion to all of this from the police perspective (not mine!) is to simply crack down on everything and the daytime drinking/drugs (aka “fun”) will be the easiest target. Please don’t confuse that with my personal desired outcome. Thanks.

      3. Lapidgeon, you’re totally right except in presuming that the neighbors are directing the daytime raids. Nobody’s calling the cops during the day. I was the one at the meeting who said to the cop, “It seemed to us that a guy got stabbed at night, so you started giving tickets to dog walkers at noon,” or some such. Corrales said that the stabbing was a coincidence, that the Honda Cops (on motorbikes) were called in response to noise and trash complaints, but then Bevan contradicted him and said that he pushed for the Honda Cops in response to the stabbing, so whatever.

        Anyway, we seem to be reaching consensus: we need gentle official or semi-official encouragement of good behavior (cleaning up and being quiet and/or leaving) at night. Now if only we can get the cops on board.

  5. If the problem is that neighbors got spooked after the stabbing and started calling in complaints, maybe whenever you’re in the park around sunset you should call the police station to register a non-complaint. “Hi, I just wanted to say I’m having a wonderful, nonviolent time in the park and do NOT want the crowd dispersed, thank you!”

    Either that or *every* time you walk past 16th and Mission, call the police to report a crime taking place (there’s usually more than one to choose from). Apparently laws aren’t enforced unless someone complains.

    1. What are you talking about? The China man is not the issue. The stabbing of the poor bastard has nothing to do with the late night jerks. Now you peeps are trying to blame it on that f/u crime that happened to that person. Again, the fact that people call the cops late at night is just because they want to have a god night sleep.

  6. I also attended the meeting and although nothing was solved, I learned a lot. There were a lot of nice people there. It turns out the police think moving pieces around on the board randomly is how to play chess. Overall it was positive, a great chance to put faces to the names, and Crystal was amazing.

    On the other hand, Tevin Tontgomery was a complete jerk! Just seconds after Crystal had stressed respect and positive vibes, Tevin launched into a poorly-constructed sneering rant that was clearly designed to please himself rather than do anything to help the community move forward. Feh!

    1. yeah, Tevin pretty much fucked it for the younger people once he opened his soda hole. The sweet girl with the pink hair saved it for the young ones.

  7. I was one of the under 30 folks in the building and I was honestly very disappointed that the under 30 crowd was smaller than I would have liked it to be.
    From what I gather a LOT of people are interested in whats happening with Dolores Park, but few people would like to put in the work to learn a few things.

    Last night I really wanted to say that as a resident that is not a Dolores Park area resident, I can relate. I live on twenty second and bartlett street, my house is on the way to or from a few bars. I have found condoms, feces, piss, vomit, and blood at the end of every weekend. Lets also add that I have a very large stoop that a LOT of people enjoy (from smoking a joint to having sex on it).
    SO, to the Dolores Park folks, I get what you are going through.

    I drink and I smoke in the park and I will continue to do it but, when I’m there I make extra sure to grab my trash and walk it down. I’ve also developed a habit of picking up butts that werent personally produced by me and walk them down with my other garbage.

    I also wanted to say that I think an idea is to tack on a super high fine ($300-$800) for littering in the park as well as starting a basic campaign to make it socially unacceptable to leave your nasty shit in the park. You have a lot of campers and nature folk in the bay area, I’m sure there will be enough folks to pick up on it so that it can be someone of a self policing problem (the garbage). I have seen people yell at dog owners for not cleaning up after the dog makes on multiple occasions in the park. If people can yell at a stranger to pick up shit, I think people should be willing to yell at a stranger to pick up their own shit.

    1. Honestly, fines don’t work. How about coupons for discounts at places like Bi-Rite for volunteers who help clean up and clear out the park?

      The solution to DP will be found by creative thinking about behavior and getting people to do the right things, not by punishments and coercion. Fines and police on motorbikes just make randomly selected people unhappy and don’t fix the problems.

  8. I’m sure the 20+ year property owners around the park feel so happy they could afford to not live on 24th, 16th and Mission Streets for fear of worse commotion. And thank goodness Prop 13 keeps their property taxes low after all these years.

    I can sense these rumblings, “Gate the park!”

    1. 20 years ago, no one wanted to live by the park and everyone who did had security gates and window bars. 20 years ago the park was no man’s land.

      I do remember there being adult soccer leagues in the park about 10 years ago. I hope once the park re-do is done and the drainage fixed, that we can get the sports field back. The park is for more than drinking and smoking…

      1. Perhaps, but most urban parks are for chilling out and sitting with friends because of the limited free space not football. I enjoy the tennis and basketball courts. I think because of the park becoming a destination point we have an opportunity to show what good/new idea the majority involved can do when they want to do something normally considered bad or wrong.

        The 30+ crowd at the meeting seemed to agree that drinking and hanging out is okay but crazy loud noise and urination is not (older sis/bro). There are places where drinking and police can coexist. 4 drinks per person in a party? Gantries allowing only resident cars/deliveries in but otherwise closing off the streets to cars?

        If it was shat 20 years ago my comment on prop 13 is even more relevant. The composition of park visitors does change.

        Of course their are limits to this. And Kevmo’s end game sounds to be anarchy of some sort. He counts on other crime to allow drinking in the park but I do see an agist (sp) culture clash going on here. However, I find a hard time believing it will work for the Police to do their job and write drinking/smoking tickets in the park while more serious crime is going on.

        To be sure I respect the pov of people who live on the streets around the park and it sounds like it’s been bad – I just look at it differently. Maybe someday it will be one great big underground parking lot with a flat cement space on top for sitting, buying a latte and renting a tennis court. I would encourage these people to look for some kind of ‘bright side’ solution they should start to try to look towards that involves the majority of the park users.

  9. I liked it better before they put in the soccer field and the park just slope down. We should go back to before they put in the soccer field. Or maybe we should go back to when it was a cementary.

  10. I’ve met Coralles before. We had terrible problems with a social club that hosted murder and drug trafficking. He was a wanker who reminded us his mother grew up in the Mission in Eureka Valley. I was like huh? He basically told us there was nothing he could do. I was like Bullshiat. He was like ‘doh. Fortunately ABC was at the meeting and yoinked the club’s alcohol permit. He’s a good ole SF cop boy. Time for the lot of them to be put out to pasture.

    1. …and I tend to like Coralles’s point-of-view – I don’t know the full context of the incident you speak of, so I can’t really respond to it, but from my knowledge (and conversations with others) he tries to keep the police away from any ‘policy issues’ and tries to be low-key whenever possible. I think his take on the above issue was likely ‘yeah, the club sounds sketchy, but that ain’t my beat… if there’s a live problem inside, i’ll gladly send my boys, but if you want it shut down, that ain’t me… ABC, Entertainment Commission, pick a city department, but not the District PD’ –

      On this issue, I sense that Corrales really doesn’t care one way or another, as long as the phone calls stop – which is kinda-sorta valid for his role in this whole process. With the way local politics are played here, this is honestly Bevan’s ball (the Supe should be able to influence local policy of Rec and Park and even the Police under neighborhood/community empowerment initiatives), and I’ll refrain from further comment there.

      Short of influencing Bevan, I think that most other parties will yield to the simplicity of enforcing the laws that the neighbors seem to want enforced, and I can’t currently see any way around that.

      1. Mission Station covers too wide a swath of the city, and has morphed into basically a high speed swat team that is nowhere to be found until shots ring out.

        Its the culture of the place.

        They should break it out and assign east of South Van Ness to the Southern Station, Castro (Dolores > west) to Park, and Split Bayview in two, with Bayview South and Bayview North.

        As for the meeting, it was perfectly fine for Tevin to state his case, and perfectly fine for people to reject it. Which most did.

        I think its because Tevin himself hasn’t been able to reconcile the essential truth: hip things inevitably devolve into douche magnets.

        It has happened so far to everything from Armani to Burning Man to Oaky, Buttery Chardonay. And its happening to Dolores Park really, really fast.

        The next great parks are out there, but I’m not saying what they are. At this point all anyone can do is buy time.

  11. On a different note, the idea of narrowing the 280/San Jose off-ramp to discourage people cutting through the Mission is, really, really stupid. That off-ramp is already very congested. But it is vital to residents of the Mission, Glen Park etc. Creating a traffic jam there seems like a very indirect way of dealing w/ the problem at 19th and Dolores.

    1. He might have misspoken… One of the plans that came out of the SF Planning department was to narrow the entryway from San Jose into Dolores to one lane in each direction rather than two lanes in each direction, and use the extra space as a little park. That might have been what he meant when he said “off-ramp”. That would encourage drivers to take Guerrero, which is tuned for rush hour traffic, instead of zipping onto Dolores:

      Click to access board-Dolores.pdf

      Or maybe he did mean the highway off-ramp, which I agree sounds pretty silly.

      That PDF is from this web site with the record of the plans and a workshop they did last year:

      http://www.sfplanning.org/ftp/CDG/CDG_mission_streetscape.htm

      To see the proposals for Dolores and 18th/19th Streets, scroll down to page 43 in this PDF, and this JPEG:

      Click to access MSP_workshop_4_FINAL.pdf


      The PDFs for 18th and 19th are missing from the Mission Streetscape web site; probably someone mixed up them and the other Dolores one.

    2. He might have meant not the off-ramp itself, but the proposal to narrow the Dolores Street entrance off San Jose. That would encourage drivers to take Guerrero instead of Dolores, which would help the traffic at 19th & D.

      I just posted a link to it but it seems to have gotten my comment flagged as spam, so go to missionstreets dot sfplanning dot org and look for “Dolores Street Gateway – PDF 11 MB”

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