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What's the Real Reason There Are No Garbage Cans in Dolores Park?

This is not a trick question, but it does have a trick answer.


After the whole mess of, well, mess left in Dolores Park after Pride Weekend, park boosters predicted that a similar fate would befall the San Francisco Eden after Fourth of July and, indeed, after every big weekend from now until forever. Then July 4 came and went and, surprise, garbage! 

Our first instinct is to shame the litterbugs, and, certainly, they deserve blame. But scapegoating trash-throwers probably won’t get the job done, and the folks at Dolores Park Works point the finger squarely at the city rather than the public: “The city needs a clear plan to protect the park and the neighborhood, now.” 

The thing is, there are not actually any trash cans in Dolores Park. None! There are trash cans outside the park, all around the perimeter, in fact, but none actually inside the park itself. It's like a clever optical illusion. So why is Dolores merely encircled by receptacles, rather than interspersed with them? “There were cans inside the park in the past, and many still left their trash behind,” says Recreation and Parks Department spokesperson Connie Chan.

This is a fair point, but how in the world is removing cans suppose to mitigate the problem? What are we missing here? Nothing, apparently. Rec & Park seems under the impression that garbage cans somehow create litter. No, really: Since cans often overflow and people have a habit of leaving garbage on top of or just off the side of an empty can, a certain civic theory goes that cutting out the cans will in turn cut out the overall garbage. Admittedly, there is a certain logic to this, in the same way that chopping off your hands prevents arthritis.

The department also points out that the number of cans around the park has increased and says that putting them at the perimeter maximizes access. But the question remains, if garbage never gets near said cans, how does that work? No word on that so far. Despite our blinking skepticism, the department is banking on the idea that park users will be motivated to ferry their garbage out by hand if they have fewer places nearby to dispose of it. “This is about park users packing up their waste,” says Chan.

And if you can't handle that, shame shame shame... 


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