UPDATED: One Year After Tragedy, Why Are Rec and Park Vehicles Still Driving in Holly Park?

solin.hollytruck.2

solin.hollytruck.3

solin.hollytruck

It was a tragedy when Christy Svanemyr was killed by a hit-and-run San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department vehicle in Holly Park last September. Yet if any possible good might come from such a horror, it is the knowledge that policies were put in place to ensure that such a thing will never happen again.

That probably explains why Neighbor Roger Solin became livid when he saw a Rec and Park vehicle driving through Holly Park last weekend, apparently in violation of the department’s new guidelines for operating vehicles in City parks.

This is Neighbor Roger’s open letter to Rec and Park General Manager Philip Ginsburg, D9 Supervisor David Campos, and Mayor Ed Lee:

Dear Messrs Ginsburg, Campos, Lee:

As a result of the 2013 debacle in Holly Park where a SF Parks employee ran over and killed a person, I was pleased to recently read in several local publications that Mr. Ginsburg has implemented new policies for operation of vehicles in the public park system, including, “…installation of a toward-moving aural signal,” as well as “…drivers who are alone must exit their vehicle, walk the anticipated route through the park and inform park users about the intended passage”.

I was therefore shocked, when walking through the park with my two daughters when I observed a SF Parks truck with a single employee, who drove his truck through the park, This happened on August 16, 2014 at approximately 11:10 am, when the driver did none of the following:

  • Did not use a forward-moving aural signal
  • Did not walk the anticipated route and inform park users about the intended passage.

Attached are photos documenting this most recent incident.

As a SF and Bernal Park Resident, I request to know who is accountable and responsible for this continued mishap and negligence and what steps will be taken to rectify the situation? Do we need another death in Holly Park, or perhaps some other changes?

Sincerely,

Roger Solin,
Resident, Bernal Heights

UPDATE: 20 August, 4:45 pm - Inspired by Neighbor Roger’s example, Neighbor Jack also wrote to our City officials regarding the incident described above. He received the following response from Dennis Kern, director of operations for Rec and Park:

From: Kern, Dennis (REC)
Date: Wed, Aug 20, 2014 at 1:25 PM
Subject: FW: Continuing SF Park & Rec negligence in Holley Park
Cc: “Ginsburg, Phil (REC)”, “Campos, David (BOS)”, “Lee, Edwin (Mayor)

Dear [Jack] –

I am responding on behalf of our General Manager, Phil Ginsburg, to your e-mail supporting Mr. Roger Solin’s recent e-mail regarding vehicle operations in Holly Park. Attached below is Department’s response to Mr. Solin.

Thank you for your interest in our parks. I hope that this information is helpful.

Dennis Kern
Director of Operations
SF Recreation & Parks

 

From: Kern, Dennis (REC)
Sent: Monday, August 18, 2014 4:40 PM
To: Roger Solin
Cc: Ballard, Sarah (REC); Chan, Connie (REC); Ginsburg, Phil (REC); Campos, David (BOS); Lee, Edwin (Mayor) (ADM)
Subject: FW: Continuing SF Park & Rec negligence in Holley Park

Dear Mr. Solin,

Thank you for your recent e-mail regarding your concern for vehicle operations within our parks. We immediately log all such communications when received, investigate what occurred, and take appropriate action. I am responding on behalf of Phil Ginsburg, our General Manager, to your recent e-mail regarding vehicle operations within our parks.

We take the issue of safe vehicle operation in parks very seriously and — as you mention — last year we instituted new policies for vehicle operations within our parks as we perform our park maintenance mission. I have looked into your description of your observation of our maintenance worker and his vehicle in Holly Park this past Saturday and can provide you the following information:

* Our Vehicle Operations Policy requires all staff to operate vehicles within parks on paved access roads to the maximum extent possible. When doing so, the driver is to maintain a maximum speed of 5mph or no faster than a person can comfortably walk. The use of a spotter or the requirement for the driver to walk the intended route of travel is only required by our policy when the vehicle must leave a paved access road and travel over unprepared surface (e.g., grass) to perform the required maintenance. In the photos that you provided with your observation, all photos show the vehicle to be on the paved access road in Holly Park. Further, a check of our GPS records for this vehicle at the time in question show that the vehicle’s speed while in Holly Park was 3mph. This being the case, our driver operated his vehicle in full compliance with our Vehicle Operations Policy.

* In your e-mail, you point out that this vehicle did not utilize a forward-moving aural signal. Your are correct. This vehicle does not yet have the new signaling device installed. Due to the size of our fleet (over 600 pieces of rolling stock), we are installing these new aural signals in vehicles in phases. This particular truck is scheduled to have its aural signal device installed within the next month.

Thank you for your interest in our parks and bringing your concern to our attention. I hope that this additional information is helpful and that you and your family continue to enjoy Holly Park and all of our beautiful San Francisco parks.

Dennis Kern
Director of Operations
SF Recreation & Parks

PHOTOS: Rec and Park vehicle in Holly Park on August 16, 2014, by Roger Solin

About these ads

23 thoughts on “UPDATED: One Year After Tragedy, Why Are Rec and Park Vehicles Still Driving in Holly Park?

  1. Thanks Roger for stepping up and saying something! Very sad that even a death by criminal negligence still does not wake up the folks at City Hall.

  2. Oh c’mon. It’s not like trucks in Holly Park are a constant threat.

    One parks employee did a stupid thing, and now all park workers for eternity have to pay?

    These people are WORKING and their work involves EQUIPMENT. You want the guy who paints over graffiti to walk around the park carrying his supplies, or drive around the perimeter and carry his supplies up to where they are needed? Are you happy with him doing 1/5 the work he could accomplish otherwise?

    The fact is, park workers need to drive their trucks in the park if they are expected to get their work done. Handicapping them because of one parks workers stupidity is typical San Francisco.

    Perhaps what the parks staff should do is close the walking paths when they need to get work done.

    • Or maybe they need to actually sound an aural alert and walk the intended path before driving? That surely won’t limit them to 1/5th of the work they would otherwise do. Even having a helper walk in front of the car would only be 1/2 the work during the span of the drive (minutes) and they would presumably make up lost time by having two people, say, covering graffiti rather than one.

    • many parks crews use electric golf carts in places throughout the country, why can’t RPD do that? simple solution.
      I live near the park and go to the park EVERY day, we have reported many instances of RPD driving their huge trucks around the park and to no avail.

      I disagree it is a constant threat can no longer enjoy laying the in park on a sunny afternoon since the tragedy.

    • The point is that this city employee, like the one who killed Christy Svanemyr, is not following the city’s own regulations for operating a motor vehicle in a city park. These were in place previously, and are in place now.

      • Driving slowly with a forward warning system is fine, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect such an alarm installed on all city vehicles. Perhaps it would be reasonable to post notices at each entrance when vehicles are being used in the park to conduct maintenance.

        This worker is nothing “like the one who killed Christy Svanemyr.” That worker drove across the grass irresponsibly. That doesn’t mean all park workers need to be treated like children.

      • “This worker is nothing like the one who killed Christy Svanemyr.”

        Yes, he absolutely is! He’s not following regulations because he’s not being held to those regulations — exact same scenario as with Ms Svanemyr and Mr Burnoski.

        The only difference is the degree of disregard for the regulations and the sad outcome. The problem is not so much the individual transgressions by the Park employees, but the pattern and practice by Rec & Park of not enforcing their own regulations. Right? We saw tons of reports here after the Svanemyr tragedy that there was a repeated disregard for safety by the Park truck drivers, and that there was an accident waiting to happen, despite repeated citizen complaints. And so it happened. And now there are a few posts on this thread saying that nothing has changed. Who’s surprised? Not moi.

        It really doesn’t matter what’s written in the regulations — their chain of command is so broken that it won’t be enforced. That’s why us citizens must be diligent in making a stink when we see something questionable by the Park staff. We are the only check and balance here, as the system is broken. So I’m very glad to see this post. Let’s be diligent and alarmist and err on the side of safety.

        And if we err too far, and — god forbid — graffiti and weeds get so out of control in Holly Park because the poor guys have to drive their trucks too slow, then we’ll know to rein it in. Have you seen a noxious outbreak of graffiti in the past few months, Byrd? Yeah, thought not.

    • @Byrd: “Oh c’mon. It’s not like trucks in Holly Park are a constant threat”. You miss the point: these are OUR parks and we should have NO THREAT or even A LITTLE THREAT. The policy solution is simple…
      1. Trucks in the park ONLY IF THEY HAVE 2 OR MORE EMPLOYEES (ONE TO DRIVE AND OTHER TO WALK OUTSIDE TRUCK), AND…
      2. Trucks ONLY FOR HEAVY EQUIPMENT MAINTENANCE (NOT for everyday light cleanup), and …
      3. Everyday maintenance can be done with truck on street with worker walking into park to clean, OR, drive a small electric utility vehicle into the park that’s driven onto truck.

  3. At least this Park & Rec worker was driving on the path. Christy Svanemyr was killed when the driver drove across the lawn…which was stupid on a number of different levels.

  4. Didn’t the response letter from Mr. Kern just prove that this worker was correctly following the department’s policy, as proven by GPS & photographic evidence?

      • The use of a spotter or the requirement for the driver to walk the intended route of travel is only required by our policy when the vehicle must leave a paved access road and travel over unprepared surface (e.g., grass) to perform the required maintenance.

        This is the first I, and apparently other people, have heard of this. If this was the policy previously, the city hasn’t done a very good job of making this clear. Previously I understood from other Rec and Park communications that a spotter was required whenever a vehicle was in the park. The current practice seems reasonable, but the city’s been dealing with this for a year so I would have thought they would have communicated exactly what the policy is, and if it has changed in that time.

        Even so, when Christy Svanemyr was killed the city employee was in clear violation of policy, and reportedly had been so repeatedly prior to the accident.

    • @Neighbor B: No, the dept. was not following their own stated policy and it proves little. The policy stipulates there will be a front aural signal in place. It was not and is installed on only a fraction of the vehicles. Secondly, the statement about monitoring with GPS is a specious and distracting point, i.e. if the dept is relying on GPS to determine whether a vehicle is staying on the path or its average speed is less than 5 MPH, then its UNRELIABLE. Google GPS technology and you’ll see it’s INACCURATE inside of 3 meters (9 feet). Would you like to be a person or a dog 9 feet off the path and be hit by a truck?! Secondly, Mr. Kern states the AVERAGE speed was determined to be 3 MPH. AVERAGE SPEED means he could have been temporarily or occasionally driving MUCH FASTER. All it takes is one fast incident to lose control. The Parks Dept is in heavy “Cover Your Ass” mode here with a professional spokesperson response here.

  5. So what is the issue here, that vehicles are in the park? That the truck is too large? I was appalled at last year’s horrific accident- but our park still requires maintenance & upkeep, and some work does necessitate the use of a truck (certainly not all-though I have seen a golf cart used at Holly recently). If anything we should inquire about the length of time it is taking the department to equip ALL vehicles with forward aural signals.

    • @ Neighbor B: The multiple issues here are the Parks Dept has the policy wrong AND it’s not even adhering to its own stated policy. Here’s my proposal….

      1. Trucks in the park ONLY IF THEY HAVE 2 OR MORE EMPLOYEES (ONE TO DRIVE AND OTHER TO WALK OUTSIDE TRUCK), AND…
      2. Trucks ONLY FOR HEAVY EQUIPMENT MAINTENANCE (NOT for everyday light cleanup), and …
      3. Everyday maintenance can be done with truck on street with worker walking into park to clean, OR, drive a small electric utility vehicle into the park that’s driven onto truck.

      Do you agree? If not, why? My name is Roger Solin, roger.solin@gmail.com. Please call me to discuss.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s