Supes debate higher fines for Dolores Park trashers

The discussion to increase the fine for park revelers who trash Dolores Park will continue until after the San Francisco Board Supervisors’ summer break.

Supervisors on Wednesday at the Public Services and Neighborhood Safety Committee discussed the proposal to possibly increase the fine of up $1,000 to park visitors who dump trash in Dolores Park. The proposal would also ban glass containers inside parks citywide.

The fine would be set by the Recreation and Parks Department general manager under the proposed the legislation by Supervisor Jeff Sheehy. Dolores Park is in Sheehy’s district.

Under the existing law, anyone issued a citation for littering or dumping trash on any city park can be fined $100 for the first offense: $200 for the second offense; and a fine of $500 for every other additional offense within the year.

Sheehy said neighborhood residents, nearby small businesses and Mission High students use the park responsibly most of the time, but during the weekends and on holidays, the park changes, said Sheehy:

“Some people don’t have the same respect for our park. They shop at local stores and spend a lot of money on food and drink. Sometimes coolers or other packages, yet they leave their trash in the park.”

Sheehy added:

“Who pays for this? Taxpayers.”

Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Sandra Lee Fewer questioned whether increasing the fine would have any effect especially after Rec and Park officials said they believe park patrol officers issued no litter citations to within the year in Dolores Park.

One of the reasons why park patrol officers did not issue citations last year may stem from the current park code where littering in Dolores Park is a misdemeanor, and the citation would go to the District Attorney’s Office to handle.

Sheehy said the office does not have a strong interest in trying cases of littering.

Under Sheehy’s proposal though, those issued a fine for littering by park patrol officers, would pay the citation as if they were paying for a parking ticket.

While Ronen agreed that something needs to be done about the trash problem inside Dolores Park, Ronen said:

“My issue with is this if we haven’t given out a single citation in a year, then I don’t see how upping the fine from $200 to $1,000 or upping the cap really does anything.”

Ronen added that The City is working towards basing fines and fees based on a person’s income, and said this would go in the opposite direction. Ronen also expressed interest in discussing an idea to make those who trash the park to clean the park instead of issuing a fine.

Fewer said she does not think the proposal is the right way to go:

“I think it’s a little bit about a carrot and a little bit about a stick. I think that we start with the small stick.”

Sheehy said his office is working with the Treasurer’s Office to lessen burden for low-income people, but continued to support the increase in the litter fine.

During the warm days in the spring and summer, the park can see up to 10,000 visitors on the weekend, said Dennis Kern, director of operations for Rec and Park.

The park can see around 50,000 people during holidays or special events such as last month’s San Francisco Pride.

Despite efforts from the department in launching a campaign to educate park visitors on picking up after themselves, and putting in additional trash and recycling capacity during a $20 million renovation project, Kearn said staff still sees a large amount of garbage throughout the park:

“Over the first weekend of April of just this year, we had 13 of our gardeners dedicate a total of 44 hours cleaning up the park using 460 trash bags to collect litter that did not end up in the trash can.”

Kearn said that broken glass left in the park creates a safety hazard especially for children and animals, anyone walking barefoot or just lying on the grass.

He added that glass is difficult for park staff to clean up and shards of glass could remain on the park premises:

“In order to keep Dolores Park safe and beautiful and fun for all to enjoy, we do need additional tools to increase safety and cleanliness of Dolores Park.”

Sheehy’s made a motion to continue his proposal until the September 13 Public Services and Neighborhood Safety Committee.