SAN FRANCISCO -- After more than a year of often-contentions deliberations with local community groups, San Francisco's Recreation & Parks Department revealed the final designs for the new and improved Dolores Park during an open house at Mission High School on Wednesday.
The renovated park, tentatively scheduled for completion in the summer of 2014, will boast widened ADA-compliant walkways, two separate restrooms in place of the current bathroom (which could charitably be described as disgusting), a new operations facility, two off-leash dog areas, new multi-use sports fields, an open-air Tai Chi plaza, an improved irrigation system, paved picnic space at the park's southwest corner famous for its panoramic view of downtown and a number of upgrades to the nearby Muni tracks.
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"We are thrilled that the community planning process has led us to this well-thought out design plan" said Parks Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg in a statement. "We look forward to improving and beautifying one of our most beloved parks in San Francisco."
The department has budgeted $11.7 million for the project, with funds coming from a bond measure passed by nearly 75 percent of San Francisco voters in 2008.
The 16.1-acre park is one of San Francisco's most popular destinations. On any given Saturday, over 3,700 visitors flock to this urban oasis amidst PBR-swilling hipsters, hippie drum circles, kids screaming though the playground, organized (and not so organized) games of bike polo and ultimate Frisbee, legions of pot-fueled hula-hoopers, the famous "cold beer, cold water" guy and even the occasional impromptu dance party.
All of these varying uses for the park have led to a lot of different groups pushing opposing ideas about what the future of Dolores Park should look like.
The hipsters didn't want the area termed "hipster hill" converted into an off-leash dog zone; neighbors didn't like idea of the expanded cart paths adding more concrete to one of the Mission's few large patches of green space; history buffs didn't want to see a space that once served as a refugee camp following the 1906 earthquake to lose its historic value; anti-commercial types didn't want the sanctity of the park sullied by the presence of food trucks or coffee carts; the people who gather regularly at the park to play bike polo didn't want to not have a place to do whatever bike polo is; virtually everyone involved didn't want the entire park to be closed during the construction process.
And then, of course, there were some people who simply thought the park was perfect the way it was, thank you very much.
"It's like renovating the Balkans," Supervisor Scott Wiener's legislative aide Gillian Gillett, who has been deeply involved in the renovations, told the San Francisco Chronicle "Everyone's got their different constituencies."
To help unify the all of the interested parties, an outside consultant, Steve Rasmussen Cancian of Shared Spaces Landscape Architecture, was brought on board early in the process to help facilitate conversation between Rec & Parks and the greater Dolores Park community. Cancian helped the department conduct more than 50 external meetings on the redesign and lead small groups of community members on tours of the park.
"Some of the earlier meetings would break down into rancor over different aspects of the plan," Robert Brust, an area resident who founded the advocacy group Dolores Park Works, told The Huffington Post. "Everyone knew it was going to be a tough process, but I think most constituencies are fairly satisfied at this point with the current plan."
The final plan released this week is nearly identical to the Community-Driven Dolores Park Renovation Plan released by the department last November. The main difference comes from recommendations to the design specifics of the new bathrooms made by the city's Arts Commission.
The project is slated to be completed in phases, ensuring that only a portion of the park will be closed off to public access at any given time.
While the vast majority of the construction isn't slated to begin until September, the very first stage of park's renovation is almost done. Due to its relative simplicity compared the rest of the redesign, the complete overhaul of the playground near the park's southern edge was split off from the rest of the planning process and fast-tracked without the same level of community involvement.
As a result, despite the thousands of dollars worth of damage recently done to the playground construction by vandals, the playground is expected to to reopen to the public by the end of this month.
Before construction on the rest of the park can begin in earnest, the plan must first get approval from both the city's Planning Commission and the Rec & Parks Commission.
Check out this slideshow showing what the new park will look like: