Crane Cove Park Going to the Dogs

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Opened in October 2020, Crane Cove Park – located at 18th and Illinois streets – has quickly become a beloved neighborhood asset. But community members are concerned that the seven-acre regional park is being maltreated, with poor landscape maintenance and a lack of enforcement to keep dogs leashed. 

“The Port thinks this park is their greatest victory but it’s quickly deteriorating,” said Dogpatch Neighborhood Association (DNA) President Katherine Doumani. 

The Port of San Francisco transformed a shipbuilding site on the eastern waterfront into Crane Cove Park, preserving historic maritime resources while providing public space replete with a large lawn, picnic tables, benches and grills, a lookout deck with views of the City and surrounding San Francisco Bay, and a beach with direct access to the water.

The $36.9 million spent to develop the park came from 2008 and 2012 Park General Obligation Bonds, the Port, and donations. It’s named for two cranes hovering nearby, unofficially dubbed Nick and Nora, which’ll have their tops replaced if enough money is raised to do so.

Landscaped areas feature native vegetation that needs careful trimming and regular weeding. Otherwise, weeds can choke off the desired plants and kill them.  

“Weeds have been a problem in the beds at the park and were established when the Port took over maintenance responsibilities in October 2021 from the general contractor that built the park,” said Randy Quezada, Port of San Francisco communications director. “The Port does not use herbicides at any of our facilities, so weeds are hand-pulled, which is time- and labor-intensive.”

Joel Bean, DNA’s treasurer, wondered whether landscaping issues at Crane Cove Park may be due to understaffing, or the inability to hire a supervisor orqualified gardeners. 

Quezada nipped those theories in the bud, stating that the Port has four journey-level, union gardeners who have completed an apprenticeship program or are experienced workers, not trainees, fully able to perform their trade without supervision. “At a minimum, gardeners are onsite weekly to perform upkeep and mowing,” he said. “For larger projects, such as spreading mulch or removing large areas of weeds, we work with two youth employment groups for support under the supervision of our gardeners.” 

 A park supervisor will be hired in the next fiscal year, charged with ensuring care standards at all Port parks are uniformly met across the waterfront. The Port budgeted for two additional positions to support Crane Cove Park: a laborer and a gardener, both of whom started in April.  

“The Port is also preparing to launch a new two-year apprenticeship program for gardeners and laborers in the next fiscal year,” Quezada said. “This program will provide additional resources to maintain all Port parks and open spaces. At the end of the program, graduating apprentices will become eligible for permanent gardening and laborer positions available at the Port and within the City.” 

In addition to maintenance concerns, Crane Cove Park’s poor appearance may be influenced by a plethora of off-leash dogs.  

“The signage with the dogs is an abomination,” Doumani said. “That creates tons of conflict for anyone who has children because the dogs are all over the lawn and poop everywhere.”

According to Quezada, “For the benefit of all park users, there is signage throughout the park with rules clearly identified, including the prohibition of off-leash pets. Temporary signs noticing the prohibition of off-leash pets that have been removed or vandalized are promptly replaced. The current signage program will be updated with more signage to better educate park users and gain more compliance.” 

San Francisco Animal Care and Control isn’t responsible for policing off-leash dogs on a day-to-day basis.

“We have a small team of 11 Animal Control Officers, with two or three in the field at any given time,” said an SFACC staffer. “Our agency doesn’t have the resources to monitor areas for off-leash pets. If someone should call about a dog off-leash, the guardian and off-leash dog would likely be long gone by the time an officer could reach the location.”

Doumani and Bean are concerned issues related to dogs that have beset Esprit Park, where off-leash dog owners and other visitors regularly clash, are being replicated at Crane Cove Park. 

“No way people are going to keep their dogs on a leash. That’s not realistic as we’ve seen with what’s happened at Espirit Park,” Bean said. “The only way to deal with dogs is to build them a specific area. People are just not going to abide by on-leash signs. It’s just not where the world is today.”

Bean suggested that when the park’s eastern half is developed a section be created as a dog run, allowing existing lawns and picnic areas to be dog free. However, despite the almost $40 million paid by taxpayers and philanthropists, the Port has run out of money for additional improvements. 

“Funding for a dog run, as well as a children’s play area and restoration of the historic crane tops, was not included in the total budget to construct the park,” Quezada said. “If future funding becomes available for a dog run, an approximately 9,000 square foot dog run will be installed in the southeast corner near the slipway.” 

“It’s so easy to criticize and so difficult to find solutions that please a majority of park users,” Bean said. “I want to make sure people realize what a jewel we have in this park but it’s going to take concerted effort to keep it in the shape it was in when it opened a year and a half ago. Hard use requires more maintenance, and more maintenance requires more funding.”

A sign indicating that dogs must remain on-leash at Crane Cove Park is hanging by its hinges. Photo: Katherine Doumani