This should end well. A two-month pilot program from the Recreation and Parks Department now allows people to reserve sections of Dolores Park for periods of at least seven hours. And no, not the picnic table areas (which you've always been able to reserve), but just straight up sections of grass near Hipster Hill/Fixie Flats. What's more, on weekends Rec and Parks plans on having staff on site to enforce the reservations — so you better not sit in someone's spot.
Yes, it costs money. And yes, the primary way to book the spots is online. The new practice of course calls to mind the infamous Soccer Field War of 2014 in which longtime, Mission-born players ran up against a new reservation system being used by recent transplants and tech employees, ultimately causing neighborhood kids to get kicked off what they saw as their own fields.
According to the Rec and Parks website, in order to reserve your own little piece of Dolores heaven, now all you have to do is apply and pay the fee of $33 to $260 (depending on group size, and not including the $200 security deposit). "All requests for Mission Dolores must complete an online Picnic Application," the site explains.
The predictable Blinding Rage Kabuki followed: (1) Rage Trigger; (2) Angry Twitter; (3) Wait, this isn't a big deal; (4) My dumb opinion.
Number three took the form of tweets like this:
@cynthia_says @michesf With all due respect, I'm not sure I see the story here. You can reserve areas at EVERY park. Am I missing something?— Joe Eskenazi (@EskSF) May 24, 2016
Well, sure. Everyone knows you can rent picnic areas (which is basically a picnic table or two and a grill that has been used so much it looks like it was dipped in molten iron and then hastily left to dry, or maybe Forged in the Fires of the Ur-Griller Carbo. I was at such an event last Saturday in Golden Gate Park, even! Some people even know you can rent the picnic areas in Dolores Park.
But this seems different. We're not talking about a clearly delineated area like a picnic table. No, this is just an imaginary square in the middle of the grass.
See that "NW-A"? Unfortunately, it's not a set-aside area for performances by the legendary Compton ensemble. It's picnic area A, and I guess if you rent it you have the right to control who shall enter and stay upon your private grasstangle. You better get some velvet ropes and a big fucking bouncer, because based on how crowded Dolores Park gets on weekends, keeping the Undesirable and the Uninvited out of your Rented Piece of Paradise is going to be a Grade A Bitch.
So Rec & Parks' position is basically "Nothing new here, it's always been this way, we have always been at war with Eastasia," but I've been going to parks for a long time and I have never seen any square of grass that someone was claiming squatters rights on and telling me not to sit there because they had a fucking permit.
The problem OF COURSE like everything else in Our Garbage City is bigger than just this latest flap. It's about the Public Good being sold off for Private Use and it's just another chapter in the Dropbox Soccer Bros tale of the newly arrived wealthy and entitled kicking the rest of us off of public facilities that we've been paying for a lot longer than they have. RESENTMENT SELLS and gets clicks to boot.
So I don't know, maybe Rec and Parks really has been selling imaginary sections of the park off for daily use since Time Immemorial and we've just never noticed because we've never accidentally trod onto someone's private square of park, but the whole thing seems fishy as hell.
(All that being said, I still don't get why people shove themselves into every square inch of Dolores Park whil,e acres of other parks sit empty. Convenience, I guess. Still.)
UPDATE!!!!!!: It's over. They're not doing it. You can reserve the picnic tables, but the Grasstangles 2016 is dead. RIP grasstangles.
(POSTSCRIPT: I know my assignment today was Day 2 of Computer Generated Week of Blogging, specifically "14 Common Misconceptions About Booze," so just repeat to yourself "alcohol is universally good or bad" 14 times.)