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Thursday, October 6, 2011

How the New Path in Dolores Park Will Benefit Disabled People and City Trucks

Posted By on Thu, Oct 6, 2011 at 3:00 PM


​The width of the new path that will snake through Dolores Park after the renovation -- toward the top of the hill on the park's right and then bisecting the park's left-side to reach the playground -- doesn't have many fans. Uptown Almanac has called it a "giant concrete phallus of injustice," given the unfortunate shape of an erect cock that the path paves through the park.

As of early August, designers had slated it to be a full 14-feet wide -- a rather large girth for such a confined urban park. This is apparently needed so that the Department of Public Works' trucks can drive through the park for maintenance. The Mayor's Office of Disability Director Susan Mizner assures us that, by law, it only needs to be 48 inches wide, or four feet, for handicap access, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In late August, the designers had reduced the path to 12 feet.   

And now, it's gotten even narrower.

Last week, the designers from Royston Hanamoto Alley & Abbey (RHAA), the landscape architecture firm charged with the park's redesign, revealed that they have shrunk the path down to 10 feet. They said it was the narrowest they could do without the DPW's trucks driving off the edges into the grass. The people on the rehab project steering committee were happy. 

Here's the backstory: A Dolores Park steering committee convened with the designers a block away from the park every couple weeks to squawk about what they want for the park. The scene: There were two bikes, both were parked in the back of the room and probably belonged to the few members wearing messenger bags. Service dog count: One. A rather distracted Golden Retriever sniffed around a drum set in the corner of the room. Supervisor Scott Wiener, who is 6-foot-7, sat in the last row in an extra-tall chair. Planners took turns speaking and taking questions, while facilitator Steve Cancian fervently tried to keep the meeting from collapsing into a shitshow, although not always successfully. A guy sitting next to SF Weekly kept calling Cancian a "motherfucker" under his breath for reasons unknown.

One designer explained that the path will be 6 feet of concrete sidewalk bordered by 2 feet of cobblestone on either side. Yes, maintenance trucks from DPW will be driving down them on their way to fixing the turf, picking up trash, and other various maintenance tasks at limited times during the day. They will be sharing the path with wheelchairs. 

ADA architect Arnie Lerner told the planners it's illegal for vehicles to share the same biway. The designer told her that they'd checked with the Mayor's Office of Disability, which said they were okay with it. "We've also sacrificed some safety, but we got the go-ahead to do that." 

"Once we get 4 feet, we're out of it," Mizner from the Mayor's Office of Disability told us. "I'm going to be agnostic about their maintenance needs. Those are not an ADA issue, and we don't actually support having the path be too wide ... That interferes with program uses of the park."
There was a show of dissent to the 10-foot-wide path from Andy Solow, a private investigator who repeats his vision to put a kid's soccer pitch in the park like a dogmatic mantra. Solow said "I don't see any rational reason why a truck has to be able to drive through the park. That really breaks up the space. At the max it should be 6 feet wide. There's no reason to drive a truck there ... Stop with the truck, that's the point!" 

But he was quickly snuffed by peacemaker, Kelton Finney, a engineer at the meeting. "This is easy to make it an us and them issue. In addition to the ADA issue, I think that path will probably be used by a lot of people. It's gotten as small as it can get and I think we should be grateful we've gotten to this point." Her speech of moderation received claps and a "Hear! Hear!" from a guy in the back row.

So for now, the path is set for 10 feet. Speak now, Dolores devotees, or forever hold your peace.

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Lauren Smiley


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