Mission Dolores Park, “San Francisco’s front yard,” is one of the city’s busiest parks. On a nice weekend, as many as 10,000 visitors cram their asses and elbows onto it’s 16 acres of trampled lawns and rolling hills. Overflowing with beautiful, interesting, and intoxicated people; it can be an urban paradise.
Here’s a description from Broke-Ass Stuart:
I’ve spent a lot of time away from San Francisco over the past few years and one of the things that I always miss the most is Dolores Park. Seriously, there really aren’t many places like it in the world. It’s beautiful, has a great view, the cops don’t fuck with you, and it’s full of friendly and (mostly) good looking people. Without sounding like a dirty hippie, there’s really something magical about the place.
For such a popular destination, the park is surprisingly ill-equipped. There’s only one bathroom (with 4 stalls) and it’s not possible to directly walk on a paved path from the south section of the park to the north. Not to mention, the park largely hasn’t been upgraded since it opened a hundred years ago. So when the San Francisco Recreation and Parks department announced in 2012 that they would invest $13.2 million to renovate Dolores Park, it was welcome news for everyone.
The only catch? The northern half of the park would be completely closed for more than a year, meaning everyone would need to jam into the south half of the park near the children’s playground and Man Shelf.
Here are my observations:
Let’s cut right to the chase. There’s a new bathroom building with 27 stalls. If you’re a regular park visitor, you can stop reading now. This is all you need to know.
There’s an extra-wide concrete path that connects the north and south ends of the park. It’s now possible to travel from one end of the park to the other without circumventing the park or leaving the pavement. This is revolutionary.
Hipster Hill and Fixie Flats on the north end of the park are now a beautiful grass slope and pristine green lawn. You no longer have to worry about soggy grass under your feet thanks to a surprisingly sophisticated drainage system buried deep beneath the turf. The Rec and Park department posted some fascinating before photos on their blog of the drainage system installation.
There are new tennis, basketball, and bike polo courts on the north end along 18th street. Are hipsters really still playing bike polo? I feel like that was a short-lived fad that died in the mid-00’s.
The center promenade, which is kind of like the 38th parallel between the north and south ends of the park, was completely repaved. The old recreation building that housed the 4 bathroom stalls was razed.
I had to Google “dolores park statue” to confirm this statue of Miguel Hidalgo (full name: Don Miguel Gregorio Antonio Ignacio Hidalgo-Costilla y Gallaga Mandarte Villaseñor; Liberator of Mexico in 1850) existed before the park restoration. Sure as shit, it did. It was always kind of sketch up there in that area with weird street people and meth heads so I probably walked quickly past it with my head down.
I found an old San Francisco Chronicle article about the statue:
Father Hidalgo, who gave his El Grito battle cry in the city of Dolores, Mexico, was executed by Spanish troops before Mexico gained independence. The anniversary is celebrated in Mexico with decorations, and Mexico’s president rings the bell of independence.
“He’s the equivalent of your Abraham Lincoln,” said Mexican Consul General Alfonso de Maria y Campos.
Construction in the park isn’t completely finished. The hilly area north of the playground was fenced in; save for a fenced sidewalk gauntlet leading from the 38th parallel to Helen Diller Playground. I don’t have the strength to Google how long it will take to finish this last phase of construction, but I’m guessing another year because they still have to re-grade the earth and build another restroom near the playground.
Dolores Park is located at 18th & Dolores Streets in San Francisco’s Mission District. Check out the new renovations yourself this weekend.