Park restrooms a balance between safety, convenience 

Whether the Recreation and Park Department should employ more people on the weekends has been raised after a 17-year-old girl was nearly sexually assaulted in a playground bathroom in the Mission.

At least two men, possibly three, attempted to assault the girl in the bathroom in Garfield Square Park on a Saturday evening earlier this month. After the incident, Recreation and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg said he’d like to both keep bathrooms open on the weekends and employ staff members, but resources are thin.

Garfield Park used to have staff members on the weekends until monetary constraints rearranged schedules and eliminated some employees about a year ago, according to a park supervisor.

However, the door to that bathroom is still opened and closed by park patrol on weekends for the convenience of parkgoers, but it’s one of about 30 left unattended because regular recreation hours are during the week.

“It’s a delicate balance between the desire of the public to keep our restrooms open and the resources we have to staff our facilities,” Ginsburg told commissioners at their regular meeting. “It is something we are looking at, to see if we can more dynamically deploy staff on the weekends where we think there might be problems.”

Rec and Park has also been kicking around the idea of using remote bathroom locks, but that’s in the preliminary stages.

Right now, it’s using $8.6 million from a voter-approved neighborhood parks bond to renovate or replace 22 bathrooms and $2.8 million — the remaining balance from the bond — to build as many as possible.

A restroom task force that was responsible for deciding how to prioritize the money incorporated safety into the design of the renovations.

“We are using a design that’s easier to see into with greater permeability and less dark corners,” said Neighborhood Parks Council Executive Director Meredith Thomas, who sat on the task force. “It will be much more difficult for someone to be in there needing help.”

Several police stations also have officers on park patrol until they are called to a scene, according to the Police Department. Garfield Park is one of several that are routinely monitored by police.

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com

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Kamala Kelkar

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