What happened when an already-crazed city charged people to haven space during a open park
May 26, 2016 - Picnic Time
Earlier this spring, San Francisco’s parks dialect began a module permitting people to haven corners of one of a city’s many dear open spaces, Dolores Park, for a fee. For $33, nonprofits and particular groups adult to 50 people could claim part of a park for several hours. Larger corporate parties could do a same for $260. The permits, SFist wrote this week, didn’t cover cruise tables or pavilions that are ordinarily indifferent in city parks — but “straight adult sections of grass.”
The really suggestion — open land parceled off for a cost — set off the city’s simply ignited outrage. More than 17,000 people sealed a Change.org petition to finish a reservations. One city supervisor (in a midst of an choosing fight) announced on Twitter that a city wasn’t for sale — or for rent. Deadspin called a story the best discerning encapsulation of “how quick San Francisco has turn a parceled-out stadium for a category of moneyed, efficiency-fetishizing manchildren.”
Within 24 hours this week, a parks dialect had suspended a permits.
The episode, though, says as much about how we perspective open parks — and how simply they turn platforms for anxieties about inequality — as it does any category crusade waged by park rangers. Parks elsewhere in San Francisco use this same system, though controversy. Cities via a nation do, too. And they frequently assign executive fees for those reservations. In New York City, we need a assent to accumulate some-more than 20 people in a city park, and it costs $25. A cruise in Chicago for adult to 100 people will cost we $140 (plus an focus cost and a confidence deposit).
In a certain light, though, this customary use unexpected looks some-more sinister. In San Francisco, a open good requiring a cost — and online focus — looks like a latest push newly arrived tech resources competence pull to displace everyone else. And, this time, from city weed space, of all places.
Online commenters disturbed about a sleazy slope: Today it’s a few “straight adult sections of grass,” tomorrow it will be all of them. The module conjured entrenched fears of a privatization of open space, a commodification of everything. And in a city where housing, restaurants and amenities have grown ever more costly (the newly reopened SFMOMA costs an adult $25!), open parks are what people feel they have left.
But idealized notions of the public park as an unregulated peoples’ space are during contingency with a existence of how they’re run. Not only in San Francisco, though everywhere.
“Peoples’ enterprise in a park is to do accurately what they wish to do, wherever they wish to do it, when they wish to do it,” says Adrian Benepe, a former conduct of a New York City parks dialect who now runs a Trust for Public Land’s inhabitant civic park program. ” ‘This is my park, we recompense my taxes, and you’re ostensible to be means to do whatever we wish in a park.’ “
That conviction, he says, has roots in a 1960s, in places like a Berkeley People’s Park. And cities fervent to enliven deserted open parks that had turn dangerous in an epoch of civic decrease speedy people to come and use them however they pleased.
“So people got used to a thought that we could do whatever you wanted in a park,” he says. “If we wanted to play soccer, you could play soccer. If we wanted to have a barbecue, we could have a barbecue. Except zero kills weed faster than soccer — solely when someone spills a hibachi full of prohibited coals on a grass.”
This do-whatever-you-want opinion can spoil a park, he says, for a same open it’s ostensible to serve. Parks are a scarce and frail resource. And so cities began to do what many do today: They have manners for when we can be there, and what we can do, and how we should play good with others. They set adult a kind of assent systems San Francisco has to conduct competing claims to wanting space. They have to change a final of people who wish an off-leash dog park with a final of people who don’t wish off-leash dogs using by their picnics.
And this partial a open should support: If we wish to lay personal — if proxy — explain to open land, we have to recompense everybody else for it. You have to recompense a deposition so open taxation dollars aren’t left to purify adult after you. You have to recompense an administrative fee so that we’re not funding park staff to make certain we don’t rabble a common space. The fact that San Francisco charges corporate parties significantly some-more than private citizens and nonprofits is in gripping with a perspective that parks should be generally permitted to a latter groups.
Without these rules, Benepe argues, we get a tragedy of a commons. Literally.
On a given Sunday, Dolores Park looks like a site of a festival. Thousands of people in dozens of ways simultaneously use the park, that a city recently renovated for $20.5 million (last year, a parks dialect adds, it spent $750,000 only to collect adult after everybody there). But all of this works since a designated off-leash dog area is distant from where people play soccer games, that is distant from where families picnic. It works since there’s a resource to purify adult a place and income to do so.
There are manners that oversee a park, even if it feels like there aren’t. That doesn’t meant people who adore a place are wrong to be observant about anything that competence bluster a public’s access. But a reservation complement for a singular apportionment of land isn’t indispensably an conflict on working-class picnics.
“Parks and public spaces are during a epicenter of democracy in many cities, so they turn politically and emotionally loaded,” Benepe says. It’s no fluke that a Occupy transformation began in parks, or that a Million Man Mar gathered on a Mall in D.C., or that protests of a 1968 Democratic National Convention formed in Chicago’s Grant Park. Parks are political, and they give people power. And that in itself is value defending.
But then, Benepe says, we also get “politicians pandering observant ‘the weed should be free.’ And that sounds right. But there’s no such thing as truly free.”