Final Dolores Park
by Peter Hernandez
Nearly a dozen renderings of the Mission Dolores Park redesign from 2013 were placed next to a redesign from 2012 at an open house last week like a game of spot the difference, but few visitors could discern the distinctions.
The differences are due to 16 months of environmental review and debate with the Planning Commission over the historical preservation of the park, which nearly resulted in the design's demise.
"We could have moved faster had we not honored the community input," which spanned eight months of exhaustive workshops, project manager Jake Gilchrist said.
The renderings showed an entirely redesigned park with new buildings, two new restrooms on opposite sides of the park that would replace existing graffiti-riddled facilities, and a wide promenade that would traverse the span of the park diagonally.
What surprised visitors to the February 6 open house was the subtlety of the changes, which Gilchrist said was a cause of the delay.
The planters that will adorn the stairway to the historic Muni station below the Church Street pedestrian bridge were to be buried in dirt, but the station may be designated as a historic landmark.
And other components of the redesign, like a bathroom that would have been built on top of the hill adjacent to the new playground, have been changed so as not to disrupt the park.
Steve Cancian, an architect and an organizer of community outreach for Dolores Park Works, described the steps to the historic train platform as an "attractive nuisance" that invite public sex and said they should have been buried under soil like the community had decided.
Other changes to the park are more apparent.
A 10-foot-wide promenade will be paved diagonally across the span of the park, working as a transportation artery for maintenance vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, and the disabled, to meet ADA compliance of a 5 percent grade or lower across the span of the park.
In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, wheelchair-bound pedestrians will traverse the park at less than a 5 percent grade starting from the intersection at Church and 18th streets to the intersection at Dolores and 20th streets and will surmount a low, railed grade to the bell at the park's 19th Street entrance.
Robin Lewis, a 59-year-old antique shop manager who lives on Dorland Street, expressed grievances of what she considered diminishing grassy areas and the addition of concrete.
"I would be dismayed by more roads being put in," Lewis said at the open house. She had attended three previous workshops and didn't know that there had been nearly 50 meetings.
A new irrigation system will replace the old rusted and broken pipes that cause the ubiquitous flooding in the park, which turns the soccer field adjacent to the tennis courts into a sodden marsh.
The total cost of the park's redevelopment will amount to $11.7 million – $8.5 million for construction of new buildings like the operation and maintenance center near the Church Street Muni station, which will feature amenities like a kitchenette and a caged storage space for maintenance equipment.
Operations are presently conducted in an office riddled by graffiti near the existing bathrooms, and equipment is stored in portable containers on a ridge of the park.
Construction on the southern half of the park is scheduled to begin this October, leaving the northern half open until March 2014, when that side will close for construction. Some areas where buildings will be constructed may take longer to finish, according to the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department's website.