Bocce ball courts plan causes uproar in SF


Some say it is the oldest game known to mankind. These days, bocce ball seems to be growing in popularity. On a patch of green across from San Francisco's Ferry Building, where homeless people hang out, two bocce ball courts might be built.

Local businessmen, including one with deep political ties to Mayor Gavin Newsom, are offering what is described as a $200,000 gift to the city to pay for the courts.

"Hopefully this will bring people from their offices, from the farmers market or the neighborhood to come out and have fun," project organizer Chris Gruwell said.

The proposed courts are in Supervisor David Chiu's district.

"Right now during this worst economic recession since the Great Depression, it's really helpful to have gifts to the city, and I thought this was appropriate," he said.

But some are looking that gift horse in the mouth. Jamie Whitaker says his South of Market community group, Rincon Hill Community Association was never consulted and might prefer a playground instead.

"Green space is very valuable to us and it should not just be decided upon by the highest bidder what that park space becomes," he said.

Diana Taylor and Carol Parlette's neighborhood organization was asked its opinion. They like the idea of a playground, but feel it would be short-sighted not to go along with what's actually on the table.

"There is nothing really bad I can say about bocce ball. It seems pretty all-American, or all-Italian or whatever it is," Parlette said.

But another activist came to City Hall adamantly opposed.

"The whole matter is to get rid of the homeless. That's not going to cut it," neighborhood activist Ernestine Weiss said.

The bocce ball courts could be built fairly quickly, and young people in a job training program run by a local laborer's union would do the work.

But for now if you want to play bocce ball, head to Aquatic Park. A vote on the new project has been delayed because so many people have so much to say.

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