Bocce courts bounce back after occupation 

click to enlarge Timeout: Hundreds of protesters jammed the Occupy San Francisco tent city in Justin Herman Plaza at its peak, keeping bocce ball fans off the courts for months. - S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • S.F. Examiner file photo
  • Timeout: Hundreds of protesters jammed the Occupy San Francisco tent city in Justin Herman Plaza at its peak, keeping bocce ball fans off the courts for months.

The $250,000 bocce ball courts in Justin Herman Plaza have only been usable for two months since they were completed in November 2010, but with the weather warming up — and the Occupy San Francisco encampment long gone — bocce enthusiasts hope to make use of the court.

“I’m going to go out there as much as I can now,” said bocce player Benji Tosi.

Tosi is the current U.S. bocce champion, a title he’s held for many years. He’s traveled the world and competed in dozens of competitions in Europe, where the sport thrives.

Tosi said the courts at Justin Herman Plaza are some of the best in the country. The mixture of gray granite and oyster flour makes the courts durable, and the length makes it possible to hold international tournaments there. And, of course, there is the view.

But there have been few opportunities to use the site.

“For the first six months, it was pouring rain outside,” Tosi said. “Then when spring finally came, it wasn’t too long after that the Occupy protest showed up.”

Occupy members began camping in the park in October. For months, city officials tried to evict the growing group, which contained several hundred people at its peak. In December, police successfully removed the campers and prevented their return with 24-hour patrols and fences to block off the space. Crews also went to work restoring the courts.

Recreation and Park Department officials said it took another $50,000 for plaza and court restorations. The field needed minor improvements and the grass was resodded.

Tosi said major vandalism had not occurred. Wear and tear was the biggest problem.

Occupy dissipated over the winter months, but demonstrators have begun to return to the original protest site outside the Federal Reserve Bank at 101 Market St., just blocks from Justin Herman Plaza. The City is not taking the resurgence of the camp lightly. Campers have said that every few hours, they are being cited for illegal lodging.

Mayor Ed Lee has previously said that as long as demonstrators abide by the law, including not setting up tents, they can protest.

Tosi said now he would like to get international tournaments to use the courts and local leagues to take over before Occupy returns.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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