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SF to prohibit glass containers in public parks, litter fines stall for Dolores Park

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Under a proposal set to go before the Board of Supervisors next week, glass bottles would be banned at San Francisco parks. (James Chan/Special to S.F. Examiner)

A longstanding debate over the trashing of Mission Dolores has prompted San Francisco to propose a ban on glass beverage containers in all public parks, and that includes wine bottles.

The Board of Supervisors will vote on the glass ban next week after the the board’s Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee approved Wednesday the legislation introduced by Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, who represents the Mission Dolores park area on the board.

In advancing the glass ban, Sheehy has walked back the most controversial aspect of his initial proposal, which would have created a fine of up to $1,000 for littering in Dolores Park at the discretion of park patrol rangers. The proposed fine for littering remains in the board committee and could be revived at a later date.

SEE RELATED: SF officials continue to grapple with vexing litter issue at Dolores Park

Opponents blasted the fine provision when the proposal was last heard at the committee in July. They argued it could be used to target certain groups of people and unfairly penalize low-income residents who can’t afford such steep penalties.

But the glass container ban appears to be moving forward without controversy, although it was noted that it includes wine bottles.

“Would wine bottles be allowed, for example, at Stern Grove?” Supervisor Hillary Ronen asked.

The answer is no, but other options suggested during the hearing was to bring wine or champagne in boxes, cans or filled up in personal non-glass water bottles. “This will be a big behavior change, Supervisor Sheehy,” Ronen joked.

For Sheehy, the measure is a public safety issue.

“Glass containers in our city parks should be banned because it is a danger to park goers, pets and workers,” Sheehy said. “There is a precedent for this. Several other cities and the federal park service already have such restrictions.”

Sarah Madland, a Recreation and Park Department spokesperson, said, “We checked our 311 records. In 2017 already we have had 107 requests through 311 to clean up broken glass in our parks.”

Supervisor Sandra Fewer, whose district includes Golden Gate Park, said, “I think it is a good idea. My concern is about enforcement.”

Madland said the department would rely on education for the first six months after the law was enacted, and afterward park rangers would begin to issue citations. “The goal is not to go out and cite a bunch of people,” Madland said.

The glass ban would fall under existing enforcement rules. Sheehy’s proposal doesn’t change the existing park code enforcement or penalties, which states violators “shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor or an infraction.”

Whether the violation is a misdemeanor or infraction is up to the District Attorney’s Office, according to park code enforcement.

“Upon conviction of a violation charged as an infraction, the person so convicted shall be punished for the first offense by a fine of not more than $100, and for a second offense within one year by a fine of not more than $200, and for each additional offense within one year by a fine of not more than $500,” the code reads.

Vince Courtney, Jr., a representative of the largely construction union Laborers International Union Local 261 that also represents Rec and Park employees like gardeners, supported the glass ban and called for increased enforcement.

“There needs to be enforcement. We don’t really believe that enforcement necessarily equals harassment,” Courtney said.

Rec and Park’s concessionaires could still use glass containers under the proposal.

Fewer noted that the Park Chalet Restaurant in Golden Gate Park, which is in her district, serves wine and beer in glasses.

Madland said that would still be allowed,and defended the exemption for these sorts of department agreements.

“For large events, say Hardly Strictly Bluegrass or Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park, they are required to have a cleanup plan,” Madland said. She added that any permittee or concessionaire has “the legal responsibility under their agreement with The City to ensure the area that is leased to them is clean.”

The full board will vote Tuesday on the legislation.

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