The Recreation and Park Commission voted unanimously Thursday to adopt what it has called a “hybrid” approach to pacify the ongoing feud between pickleball and tennis players for dedicated court space in the city.
The decision will add eight dedicated, permanent courts at Larsen Playground at 850 Vicente St. by converting a preexisting tennis court and basketball court into pickleball courts.
During construction at Larsen (the project has an estimated completion date of winter 2023/2024), pickleball players will have the option to continue to play at Stern Grove—without any lines for tennis painted on the courts. After the courts’ completion at Larsen, Stern Grove will revert back to tennis courts with no dedicated pickleball hours.
The decision was one of four proposals the commission outlined after soliciting community feedback and receiving more than 300 emails and lots of intense feeling. The Larsen Playground solution—with its parking, dedicated court space and restrooms—seemed to address the pickleball community’s needs, without overly impacting the tennis contingent.
But not everyone is happy.
Pickleball players voiced multiple concerns, including the significant wind at the playground, the multilevel surface of the courts and the red herring of the restrooms—which several commentators said are not a problem at Stern Grove.
“Larsen’s going to be a joke,” said pickleball advocate Bill Lafferty after the meeting. “It’s gonna be garbage.”
But that’s not how everyone would describe the outcome.
“It’s a huge win for the pickleball folks, said Peg Stevenson, chair of the Tennis Coalition of San Francisco. Vice President of the Recreation and Park Commission Kat Anderson said the pickleball community got “a lot of goodies” with the win, pointing to their strong advocacy. The San Francisco Pickleball Community supported the proposal, calling it a "reasonable compromise" on its website.
But pickleball players point to the fact that there are only six dedicated, free pickleball courts in the city, whereas there are well over 100 permanent tennis courts. Yet tennis players, for their part, spoke to the difficulty they already have in reserving courts.
“They talk about balance, but where’s the balance?” said pickleball enthusiast Joyce Tang. “It’s not a fair compromise.”
But others are trying to cool tempers and change the “us versus them” approach. “The narrative needs to change,” said Rec and Parks General Manager Phil Ginsburg.
“We all want to play in the same playground, but the playground is only so big,” said Commissioner Vanita Louie. “It takes time to expand the playground.”
Perhaps the conundrum would be best solved with an approach like Martha Ehrenfeld’s of the Tennis Coalition of San Francisco.
“I”m bi: I love both pickleball and tennis,” she said.
Julie Zigoris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org