SF’s Gentrification Debate Continues Off The Field
This time – the kids win. San Francisco Rec and Parks squashes adult permits at Mission Playground
After a controversial YouTube video sparked a fierce gentrification debate last week, San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department decided to end reserved adult play at Mission Playground on Thursday.
Many San Franciscans saw the video as an embodiment of the greater gentrification conversation throughout the Bay Area and as a result, the San Francisco Latino Democratic Club organized a rally on Thursday morning at City Hall, to demand an end to the private renting out of San Francisco’s parks.
The rally was successful, in that, after hundreds of demonstrators participated in the protest, the City’s parks and recreation general manager Phil Ginsburg decided to make Mission Playground reservations unavailable to adult leagues. The field continues to still be open to youth league permits for after school play until 7 p.m.
SFGate reported that this decision came after city officials met with groups of kids and youth soccer advocates who convinced them that the need for kids to have a safe place to play, outweighed the need to accommodate adult leagues.
Ginsburg was quoted as saying “The most compelling suggestions came from the kids who said ‘This is a safe place we can come and play and we feel like we need more time’…our first priority is kids.”
In 2012, Mission Playground went through a $7.5 million renovation, according to TechCrunch. After the renovation, new rules were set in place, including those about who can rent the space, and when.
Mixed City Reactions In The City
The August 18 video, which was posted in late September, and subsequent gentrification debate, led to a variety of community reactions.
One of which was David Campos and David Chiu, who are running against each other for State Assembly, discussing their views of the situation on KQED’s “Forum.”
On the radio show, Campos said “I think that the problem with what we saw in that video illustrates what a lot of people are feeling in these neighborhoods; which is people who have been long term residents of San Francisco, of places like the Mission, they feel that they are being pushed out.”
According to Campos, “A lot of people feel that the city is for sale; that if you have more money, you can just buy your way into certain things.”
Although both Chiu and Campos agreed that San Franciscans, both old and new, need to come to a “middle ground” on the conversation, tensions between long time locals and the recent new population remain high.
The video, shows a five minute argument between “techies” and a group of local kids,
on whether the tech employees had a right to kick the kids off the field, despite having legally rented out the space from San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department.
The local kids in the video argued that they had been playing pick up soccer games there for their whole lives and that the field never had a history of being rented out.
The gentrification debate won’t end here – 300 people rally outside of City Hall
The video, and following debate and protest, is continuing to draw mixed emotions throughout the City. Despite some residents feeling that its time to drop the Mission Playground argument conversation, Thursday’s protest in front of City Hall shows that the conversation won’t likely end anytime soon.
The Examiner reported that nearly 300 people rallied outside of City Hall on Thursday in order to pressure the Recreation and Parks Department into dropping the reservation system – which for Mission Playground was a success. A fair amount of housing advocacy groups joined the rally.
However, the size of the protest and the growing size of the debate, shows that the video has, perhaps unsurprisingly, become much less about soccer and much more about gentrification. This is emphasized by the fact that Dropbox and Airbnb have received much less public criticism than the City’s Recreation and Parks Department.
Dropbox issued a formal complaint pretty soon after the incident began gaining attention, but at the time this article was written, Airbnb had not.
Although the conversation concerning Mission Playground, in particular, may be winding down, this debate shows that a lot of residents will inevitably mobilize into protest anytime a gentrification debate is on the table. As the city continues to grow, be ready for this type of debate to happen much more often. Stay tuned.