The Two Sides of Dolores Park

As many know and have experienced, Dolores Park is effectively shrunk 50%. No more soccer field. No more tennis courts or roller hockey. The only thing going on in the northern half that is anything park-like is the mini-grove of dinosaur era looking trees at the corner of Dolores and 18th streets.

The Dolores Park Improvement Phase 1 began March 10 and is in full swing now. The entire northern half is a 6-year-old’ dirt pile dream realized. With piles up to 25 feet high, backhoes, tractors, and super long dump trucks, the place looks nothing like a park.
Dolores Park seen from 19th Street Bridge looking northeast. Image: Urban Life Signs
Dolores Park historic "promenade" under construction. The Clubhouse is to the left. Image: Urban Life Signs.
Luckily the southern half is still open, but a bit more crowded.  While taking these shots, a group playing soccer was very close to the playground. I’m sure they didn’t launch balls towards the playground, mainly because their tiny field (with beer cups to mark the boundaries) was postage stamp sized for a field, but also the playground is dramatically fortified by a thick row of vegetation and concrete berms.

I had a Facebook-reaction-from-out-of-town-friends-who-love-Dolores-Park moment when I posted the picture above. My friend was horrified that the park was being demolished and removed. Luckily it only looks that way. We still have the northern half as shown below.
View from 20th Street looking northeast. Image: Urban Life Signs
So after all the debate about what the park should be and construction staging, what are we actually going to get? Will we notice a change? Based on the maps, Rec & Park descriptions, and many SF blogs, it appears the most needed thing being added is “new restrooms with expanded capacity” (emphasis added). Updating and adding toilets was critical to any park restoration. The current “clubhouse” only had 4 toilets and was notoriously overused and consequently disgusting. The building will be demolished, although the project map quietly states, "return to turf" for the clubhouse site.
The north restroom building will be located near 18th St & Church above the Muni stop, and the south restroom building will be tucked into the hillside just east of the playground. Based on building renderings, “expanded” actually means:

14 women’s toilets (7 north, 7 south)
5 men’s toilets (3 north, 2 south) and 8 urinals (4 north, 4 south)
4 new private unisex restrooms (2 north, 2 south)

This does not include the new pPods to go near 20th & Church.
Existing Clubhouse with limited number of toilets. Image: Gregory Thomas via

New north restrooms with multi-use court (grey) and tennis courts (blue). Image: SFgov
New south restrooms along curved path leading to playground. Image: SFgov
New south restrooms along curved path leading to playground. Image: SFgov

New south restrooms along curved path leading to playground. The final design may or may not have skylights. Image: SFgov
More sexy things include a new massive multi-use court (7,200 sq. ft ; a tennis court is 2,800 sq. ft. for comparison.) with bang boards, and a new overlook plaza at the park highpoint in the southwest corner.
Existing view from southwest corner of Dolores Park (at 20th St & Church). Image: SFgov
Planned plaza for southwest corner of Dolores Park. Image: SFgov

Preservationists and historical advocates will miss the original clubhouse at the center of the park. In my opinion, it is a mildly attractive building that I won’t miss. When was the last time it held a club?

The bullet point list of park renovations and additions:

- New Restrooms with expanded capacity
- Renovated Tennis and Basketball Courts
- New Multi-use Court
- Improved designated Off-Leash Dog Play Areas
- New Bike Racks
- New Pathways
- New Overlook in the Southwest corner
- Improved Irrigation
- Improved ADA Access
- Improved 18th Street Entrance

Let’s hope the new design works well and meets the demand of such a popular park. I hope those toilets are hyper industrial strength! Estimated completion of project is Summer 2015.


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