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Frosty, the Snow Ban: S.F. Parks Say No to Slush 

Wednesday, Dec 25 2013

Juxtapose the terms "SantaCon" and "illegal dumping" and any number of lurid thoughts ooze down the chimney of the mind. The annual Santa saturnalia features hordes of red-suited merrymakers stumbling through the city, disgorging all manner of cheer.

Large amounts of water would seem to be called for. And yet, large amounts of water led to purported event organizers being hit with an "illegal dumping" citation.

That water, incidentally, was frozen. It's a material those in less temperate parts of the nation refer to as "snow."

And, earlier this month, at Duboce Park, a pair of professed SantaCon organizers were popped while allegedly caught in the act of unloading a pickup-truck's worth of snow onto the green. In addition to failing to acquire a permit before directing several thousand inebriates into a small neighborhood park, shoveling an undisclosed amount of frozen water onto the grass constituted "illegal dumping" in the eyes of the Recreation and Park Department, a violation of Park Code 4.04.

When queried if Santa and Mrs. Claus could have avoided the wrath of the Park Codes by responsibly transporting their snow in a small kiddie pool, department spokeswoman Connie Chan responded in the negative.

You need a permit to take a kiddie pool into a city park, she says, whether it's full of frozen or unfrozen water. A $7.99 pool the size of a hula hoop is "a structure," and "if you're putting a structure in the park, that would be illegal. Injuries can occur. There's liability for such a structure."

City attorney spokesman Matt Dorsey politely declined to wade into queries about kiddie pools. When asked if — really — a permit is required to tote a glorified plastic tub into a park, he confirmed that Section 7.01 of the Park Code allows "broad authority to require permits for all kinds of uses of park property."

While depositing snow in Civic Center Plaza requires the acquiescence of Rec and Park, doing so across the street at City Hall does not. And, every year, the Consular Corps holiday extravaganza features a dusting of faux snow along Polk Street. As in Decembers past, 20 tons of ice was ground up by Arctic Glacier of Fremont. This year's tab, privately paid: $5,546.

That'll cover 29 $189 illegal dumping citations. And, considering every ton of ice produces around 50 cubic feet of snow, it'd fill up 243 3-foot wide, 7-inch high circular kiddie pools.

Snow, incidentally, hasn't fallen au naturel in San Francisco since 1976. Were it to fall again, weather permitting, it remains unclear who would be responsible for permitting the weather.

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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