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Mike Pomranz
June 22, 2017

Part of the beauty of a picnic is that it avoids all the pomp and circumstance of going out to a restaurant. You grab your food, you grab a hunk of grass, and you eat. But a public park in San Francisco has recently courted a lot of controversy by adding something to the world of picnics generally associated with fine dining: reservations.

As part of a two-month pilot program, the city’s Recreation and Parks Department is offering people the opportunity to reserve parts of Dolores Park. As the SFist points out, we’re not talking about picnic tables or grilling areas or something like that; these are just grass areas in the middle of the lawn. The service is not offered as a courtesy: Reservations come with a $33 to $260 fee depending on the situation, not to mention a $200 security deposit. And of course, it isn’t much of a reservation system without someone enforcing it, so as Rec and Parks’ spokesman Joey Kahn was quoted as saying, on weekends, “we have staff on-site to make this a seamless process.” Why is it that when someone says a process will be seamless, it always sounds like the process will not be very seamless?

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According to Kahn, the pilot program has already proven popular, with spots booked up until mid-July, meaning Recs and Parks believes the program will probably continue. “After a two-month period, we may make minor tweaks to ensure that the system works for the public and the Department,” he said. “However, our intention is to continue a picnic reservation process at Dolores Park.”

That is, if Recs and Parks can fend off the backlash. Once SFist broke the story, major San Francisco sites like the SFGate started fanning the flames of revolt. Needless to say, social media wasn’t pleased either.  On their Facebook page, the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department tried to fight back saying, “This is not a new permit system.” Apparently, it had been there before and was recently reinstated. 

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