He said he issued a general manager's directive Thursday morning, to be posted at the park immediately, with the following changes:
- Adult groups will no longer be able to reserve the field.
- Free youth league permits will be available for play until 7 p.m. every day.
- The field will be available for open community play from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. every day, including Sunday evening.
Original post (Monday, Oct. 13): You know that excruciatingly difficult-to-watch video you saw popping up all over your Facebook feed this weekend? The one that Spike Lee could have directed, showing a dispute over a San Francisco Mission District soccer field that illustrates many of the complex issues and social dynamics spurred by gentrification?
Well, one of the participants, an employee of the tech company Dropbox, apologized over Twitter on Saturday:
Dropbox also apologized over the weekend, in response to press inquiries:
“We love San Francisco and are grateful to call it home. That’s why we were disappointed to learn that a couple of our employees weren’t respectful to this community. The employees involved are embarrassed and have apologized. We’re sorry, and we promise to do better.”
If you don't know what this is all about, here's the video. It documents an incident that occurred last month when several adult males who had paid for a permit to play on the Mission Playground soccer field attempted to supplant some neighborhood kids who were already using it.
The incident seems to have captured the underlying simmering tension that can crop up in a neighborhood in which the demographics are rapidly changing. Some may see a microcosm of the gap in perspectives between the tech-worker newcomers and those who grew up in the neighborhood in one particularly raw exchange, starting at 1:24 in the video.
"You don't understand," an older looking youth says. "It's not about booking the field ... This field has never been booked." He asks one of the men, "How long have you been in the neighborhood, bro?"
"Over a year," the man says. That prompts a round of laughter among the kids. Meanwhile, another one of the adults says, "Who cares about the neighborhood?"
Later, the older youth says, "You guys think that just because you have money, you can buy the field and take over the field."
Mission Local has a post up explaining the informal system that has evolved over the years to determine who should play at the field and when, a custom at odds with a sign from Rec and Park posted on a gate. From Mission Local:
“The video plays into the resentment that already exist in the neighborhood,” said John Robinson, 49, who eats lunch and chats with players on the field three times a week. “The newcomers know how to get the permit and sort of show up expecting to play, but the field is small and there are other things coming into play here.”
The “other things” are the customs that longtime soccer players have developed. Those include a pickup soccer culture in which teams are formed and play each other until someone scores. Once one side scores, a new team plays the winner. This keeps turnover moving and gives everyone an opportunity to use the field.
This system has been in place at the Mission Playground even before 2012 when the asphalt field was upgraded with artificial turf. ...
The Parks and Rec department ran into similar issues in 2012. Back then, Spanish-speaking players, many of whom work in the service industry, felt that pay-to-play was unfair to low-income residents.
Today, the San Francisco Latino Democratic Club announced a rally to protest the pay-to-play policy, planned for Thursday at 9 a.m. before a meeting of the Recreation and Parks Commission. Edwin Lindo, vice president of political affairs for the club, said he would also meet on Wednesday, along with the kids from the video, with Phil Ginsburg, general manager of Rec and Park.
"It's not necessarily the fault of the folks with the permit that paid $27 to rent the the field, though they did act disrespectfully toward these youth," Lindo said today. "The issue is the processes and the procedures that are allowing individuals to believe that they have a privilege over someone else just because they paid for it."
Lindo said one of the big problems with the two-year-old policy of being able to rent the field is that "there was no community involvement. Many people in the community never actually knew you could rent the field."
He said there have been more reports recently of youths getting kicked off the field because of private rentals.
I asked Lindo about the posted sign on the field that is supposed to lay out Rec & Park's (complicated) rules of who is allowed to play.
"I went to law school, and to read that sign, I actually don't know when I'd be able to play," he said. "And there's no explanation of the permitting process at all."
Another issue with the sign, he said, is that it's only in English, problematic in the Mission.
Lindo said he appreciates the apologies by both the Dropbox employee and the company. However, he said, "We're tired of words, to be brutally honest. We've been hearing a lot of apologies for awhile, here in the Mission. I'm born and raised here. For us, it's a time of action."
Update 6 p.m., Monday, Oct. 13: Connie Chan, director of Public Affairs for Rec and Park, responded to our inquiry about the incident in an email. She said that the video "is most certainly only a snapshot of what is really happening at the Mission Playfield."
Last year, the field was available for free or drop-in play 96 percent of the time, she wrote.
"Only Tuesdays and Thursdays between 7-9 p.m. are available for paid adult permit play."
Chan said the department has "long realized" the limited space for recreation in the city. "We definitely lack playfields for both adults and youth to play," she wrote. "We encourage all our park users to respect one another and share our parks."