Dolores Park litterbugs could face higher fines

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A San Francisco supervisor is proposing a $1,000 fine for littering in Dolores Park.

"It's time to stop treating this park like a garbage dump," Jeff Sheehy told KTVU, surveying the grassy slopes Friday afternoon.

With warm temperatures, thousands of people were descending on the park with picnics.

Music was blaring, balls and frisbees were flying.

Problem is, when the visitors leave, some leave their trash on the ground, and walk away.

"I do think people are waiting for their mothers," exclaimed Sheehy, " and the city is not mom. You're grownups now!"

The high penalty is definitely attention-getting.

"Whoa, no way," reacted Long Tang, drinking beer with friends in the sunshine.

But he quickly warmed to the idea.

"That's good actually, because it will keep the public responsible and accountable for their trash."  

A major park renovation increased the size and number of trash receptacles, but located them on the perimeter of the park.

It's a longer walk for people to pack out their debris, but many do so without a second thought.

"That's just what you do. I live here, and I care about my city, so I respect it," explained Glecie Cavallero, as she carried the remnants and containers from her lunch to the bins.

Supervisor Sheehy also wants to ban glass in the park, as unsafe and hard to clean up.

That idea, was a little more difficult to swallow, for those who'd brought bottles of wine to sip from.

"I wouldn't be too happy about that," conceded Simi Verma, "because it's a little weird to bring boxes of drinks, or cartons. That would be hard."

Neighborhood activists say littering has lessened over time, but is still a big problem.

City park rangers would enforce the new rules.

Currently, littering is an infraction carrying a $100 fine on first offense, but it's rarely written.

"They have not issued one ticket this year for littering in Dolores Park," declared Robert Brust, chairman of the community group Dolores Park Works.

Under the new penalties, the fine would be administrative, and the District Attorney's office would play no role.

But the ranger would have to catch people getting up and leaving their entire campsite of crap and walking away from it," observed Brust.

"And whether they're going to be able to sit and watch for that? That's the question.".

The $1000 penalty is the maximum to be considered.

The actual amount, once approved by the full Board of Supervisors- could be less.

Sheehy hopes it will happen in time for the summer season.

The park has also become the subject of "Love Dolores" campaign urging visitors to take care of the park and clean up after themselves.

"We are asking people in Dolores Park to behave just like they would in Yosemite, respect the park - pick up after yourself and don't bring glass," said Phil Ginsburg, general manager for Recreation and Parks. "Your
choices are the difference between a clean park and a mess.

The legislation is expected to go before the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee in June.