Usually when you’re preparing for a picnic, you make sure you’ve got everything you may need — food, drinks, a blanket, sunscreen… and a permit for the grass you’ll need to sit on. That last thing ticked off many San Francisco residents, prompting parks officials to pull a proposed plan that would’ve had park visitors reserving plots of grass ahead of time.
The parks department unveiled the plan last month for Dolores Park, The Associated Press reports, and the backlash was swift: thousands of people signed an online petition to put the kibosh on the plan within hours, protests were scheduled, and city leaders said the grass wasn’t for sale or rent.
Dolores Park is in the Mission District, which is a historically working-class neighborhood that is becoming wealthier. Making people pay to enjoy the park didn’t sit well for residents who have been dealing with skyrocketing real estate prices and fancy shops popping up in the area.
Under the proposal, rental prices would start at $33 for families and nonprofits, with a $200 security deposit for cleanup. For-profit businesses and corporations would pay more, starting at $260.
City leaders decried the plan, along with residents who felt that while perhaps renting out an area with tables and grills is fine, paying for grass is not.
“We all have the right to enjoy the city’s precious open space and picnic without having every square foot and blade of grass privatized and micromanaged,” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin.
The parks department quickly backpedaled, at the same time defending the prices as reasonable, and pointing out that other parks do it around the city and elsewhere in the country, including Golden Gate Park. A parks spokesman stood by the plan, saying that the park took reservations before its recent two-year renovation, and that each of three picnic areas would’ve been able to accommodate up to 50 people.
Instead, it’ll be first-come, first-served, a lesson anyone who tries to show up at the park late on a goregous summer day with the idea of spreading out has learned the hard way.