Is it me, or does it feel like we’re being punked? It’s almost like the Ed Lee Regime is just trying to see how far they can push us.
Earlier this week, it was announced that Rec and Park would now be allowing people to pay to reserve parts of Dolores Park. Collectively, we all threw up our hands and said, “Aw, come on. Really!?!”
It was yet another slight to the longtime residents of San Francisco in favor of those who are newly arrived. From getting rid of the chess players at 5th and Market, to banning nudity in the Castro, Mayor Lee and his cronies have been remaking San Francisco in their own image — one that is gleaming and gilded and caters to the sensibilities of the rich.
The day after it was announced, and the ensuing backlash went halfway gonzo, there was a second announcement saying this new pilot program would be discontinued after July. Hooray! We won … right?
Unfortunately, this is just a small victory in a much larger war.
Let’s start out by saying there was absolutely no reason to charge people to be in Dolores Park. While the picnic tables have always been rentable, the rest of the park has remained open to everyone. From immigrant families celebrating a birthday, to gay couples canoodling, to frat bros playing cornhole, there’s been a natural order of mutual respect for the past decade in Dolores Park. Other than some trash issues, the park has been a shining example of what public space can be at it’s very best: a great equalizer where you interact with people from vastly different backgrounds from you.
All of that changes when you give preferential treatment to those with more money. When anything can be bought, those with means feel entitled to everything. And it’s that sense of entitlement that we are really fighting against.
My friend Jamal, a bartender in a fancy San Francisco restaurant, told me a story that illustrates this perfectly. “I had a guy in S.F. actually say that he wanted to be able to buy people out of their seats at the bar. Like, see two people on a date and drop money to get them out. He goes, ‘I’d pay them of course,’ with just a satisfied proud smug look.”
Yes, my friends, THAT is the war we are really fighting. That is what we’re up against. And attempts by Rec and Park to privatize our public spaces only serve to embolden this kind of fuckery. When people think they are entitled to “first dibs” on our public space, think about how much easier it is to swallow the thought of evicting people out of private space.
The only other explanation for this Dolores Park move is that it was all some kind of brilliantly played misdirection. Maybe they think if we focused our anger on that, we’d forget the police shootings, racist texts and the general mess that the San Francisco Police Department continuously finds itself in. Maybe it was the mayor’s way of taking the heat off himself and side-stepping his embarrassment with regards to ex-Police Chief Greg Suhr. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s their version of rope-a-dope. They think if we tire ourselves out fighting against stuff like the privatization of public space, we won’t have enough fight left in us to recall the mayor when the time comes.
Regardless, whatever it was failed. And if we’re lucky, this thing that was meant to drive a wedge between us might just be the thing that gets the newcomers riled up enough to care about what’s going on in San Francisco.
Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com. Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in the San Francisco Examiner.Broke Ass CityBroke-Ass StuartdisplacementDolores ParkhousingMayor Ed LeeSan FranciscoStuart Schuffmantech