Help Prevent Parks and Rec from Ruining SF Tennis

timtennis

New User
Hi all, tl;dr the city of San Francisco has been piloting a free, online court booking system called Spotery for the last 9 months. It's been available at half the courts at most of the parks in the city. While I've used it regularly, there are some problems: buggy software and no penalty for no-shows, to name a few.

Now, the city is planning to expand this booking system to ALL COURTS in 23 parks on July 10. This will:
  1. Eliminate the ability to walk up and play, discouraging casual/recreational players
  2. Worsen no-shows. Currently, if someone no-shows, the next group in the walk up line can take the court after 15 minutes. But by making all the courts reservation only, no one will be there to take the court and it will just become wasted court time...
  3. Increase the wait time at the few parks left that aren't reservable
Please consider signing this petition and sharing with relevant folks in the Bay Area! Some friends and I have tried sharing this feedback with the department but have been largely ignored.
 

CivicLx

Hall of Fame
Hey TxT, apologies as my reply doesn't have to do with your issue but I was wondering if you have played at the Alice Marble courts. I visited them, as a tourist, a couple weeks ago for the first time and the view is as amazing as I expected (after seeing pics online). I was going to post them in this Tennis Travel forum and what do I know but one of the most recent posts is your thread about SF tennis. Actually, I won't post the pics in your thread but still interested to hear if you've played at those courts. Also, do you happen to know a guy there in SF by the name of Seth? I won't say his last name in a public thread but he's into the tennis scene and I think he's helped take part in some court preservation jobs in SF.
 

timtennis

New User
Hey TxT, apologies as my reply doesn't have to do with your issue but I was wondering if you have played at the Alice Marble courts. I visited them, as a tourist, a couple weeks ago for the first time and the view is as amazing as I expected (after seeing pics online). I was going to post them in this Tennis Travel forum and what do I know but one of the most recent posts is your thread about SF tennis. Actually, I won't post the pics in your thread but still interested to hear if you've played at those courts. Also, do you happen to know a guy there in SF by the name of Seth? I won't say his last name in a public thread but he's into the tennis scene and I think he's helped take part in some court preservation jobs in SF.
Hey there, yes I have played at the Alice Marble courts. Agreed, great view. I think you might be referring to Seth S.? We are indeed in touch and he's helping out as well. Thanks!
 

CivicLx

Hall of Fame
Wow, small world! I don't know Seth personally but we both belong to the same Le Coq Sportif FB group and we met when he referred me to Tennis Warehouse for getting Le Coq here in the states. Had already known about it but we started chatting a bit that way.
 

ollinger

G.O.A.T.
Eliminate the ability to walk up and play
Worsen no-shows.
Seems a bit of a contradiction here. If you an expect a large increase in no-shows, wouldn't that create an opportunity to walk up and play? A sensible approach would be that if the reservation party isn't on the court by 5 minutes after the hour, the court can be used by people waiting. All in all, I think the reservations policy is a good one as people waste too much time waiting to get a court.
 

sredna42

Hall of Fame
Hi all, tl;dr the city of San Francisco has been piloting a free, online court booking system called Spotery for the last 9 months. It's been available at half the courts at most of the parks in the city. While I've used it regularly, there are some problems: buggy software and no penalty for no-shows, to name a few.

Now, the city is planning to expand this booking system to ALL COURTS in 23 parks on July 10. This will:
  1. Eliminate the ability to walk up and play, discouraging casual/recreational players
  2. Worsen no-shows. Currently, if someone no-shows, the next group in the walk up line can take the court after 15 minutes. But by making all the courts reservation only, no one will be there to take the court and it will just become wasted court time...
  3. Increase the wait time at the few parks left that aren't reservable
Please consider signing this petition and sharing with relevant folks in the Bay Area! Some friends and I have tried sharing this feedback with the department but have been largely ignored.
Lot of clubs here have a similar system called "book a court", and like you have found, no shows are extremely common.
People just use the system to bookmark slots even if they only vaguely have an idea that might want to play on that day, like inconsiderate pricks.
 

Flootoo

Rookie
Hi all, tl;dr the city of San Francisco has been piloting a free, online court booking system called Spotery for the last 9 months. It's been available at half the courts at most of the parks in the city. While I've used it regularly, there are some problems: buggy software and no penalty for no-shows, to name a few.

Now, the city is planning to expand this booking system to ALL COURTS in 23 parks on July 10. This will:
  1. Eliminate the ability to walk up and play, discouraging casual/recreational players
  2. Worsen no-shows. Currently, if someone no-shows, the next group in the walk up line can take the court after 15 minutes. But by making all the courts reservation only, no one will be there to take the court and it will just become wasted court time...
  3. Increase the wait time at the few parks left that aren't reservable
Please consider signing this petition and sharing with relevant folks in the Bay Area! Some friends and I have tried sharing this feedback with the department but have been largely ignored.
Sounds like you've identified a few flaws in the system there- have you tried addressing P&R directly?
They might have stats that could even support your argument. Surely no-shows are a scenario they want to avoid too. Don't forget that what you've personally experienced is factual, yet still amounts to no more than anecdotal evidence, and the big picture may show a success city-wide. The stats will tell you the full story.
In such a huge system, changes are slow and not always in sync with needs. But You are right- it doesn't cost anything to make no-shows "expensive" for inconsiderate people. That should be easy enough to address.
 

tenstudent

New User
Hi all, tl;dr the city of San Francisco has been piloting a free, online court booking system called Spotery for the last 9 months. It's been available at half the courts at most of the parks in the city. While I've used it regularly, there are some problems: buggy software and no penalty for no-shows, to name a few.

Now, the city is planning to expand this booking system to ALL COURTS in 23 parks on July 10. This will:
  1. Eliminate the ability to walk up and play, discouraging casual/recreational players
  2. Worsen no-shows. Currently, if someone no-shows, the next group in the walk up line can take the court after 15 minutes. But by making all the courts reservation only, no one will be there to take the court and it will just become wasted court time...
  3. Increase the wait time at the few parks left that aren't reservable
Please consider signing this petition and sharing with relevant folks in the Bay Area! Some friends and I have tried sharing this feedback with the department but have been largely ignored.
Only a small percentage of courts at each location should have reservations. The rest should be free for walk-in on first come first serve basis. For public courts it makes no sense to have a 100% reservation. I wonder how many officials creating this kind of system play themselves.

Signed.
 

Flootoo

Rookie
Only a small percentage of courts at each location should have reservations. The rest should be free for walk-in on first come first serve basis. For public courts it makes no sense to have a 100% reservation. I wonder how many officials creating this kind of system play themselves.

Signed.
I dunno, how many people just decide "hey let's play tennis"? It needs some planning. Would you drive all the way to a park, just hoping that you'll get to play if there aren't too many people waiting?
If I have a reservation, I get there a few minutes early, stretch, run around to warm up, play for my 90 minutes and move on. I can arrange with someone else to show up at a set time.

How do you usually determine when they players have to make way for others? I get tired of walking up to a free access, only to hear the players casually announce 15-love, first set.
 

ollinger

G.O.A.T.
Only a small percentage of courts at each location should have reservations. The rest should be free for walk-in on first come first serve basis. For public courts it makes no sense to have a 100% reservation. I wonder how many officials creating this kind of system play themselves.
No, reservations make perfect sense. With essentially everyone carrying a cell phone, there's no reason not to have a comprehensive reservation system. I don't see a compelling argument against it.
 

esgee48

Legend
I do not have a an internet capable cell phone. Many older folks may have cell phones, but not many have internet capable ones. I protested since walk ons are much more prevalent in SF. I also suggested that they do away with the 15 minute grace period and that the people reserving the court HAVE to be there before their reservation starts just like private clubs.
 

tenstudent

New User
I dunno, how many people just decide "hey let's play tennis"?
I do. Other I play with too.

It needs some planning. Would you drive all the way to a park, just hoping that you'll get to play if there aren't too many people waiting?
Yes that is what I do. I joined a few tennis meetups. They are all at courts that are FCFS.

During the peak times (right now between 6pm and 7.30pm), I been asked by others who are waiting how long we will be paying. Seen this on at least 6 or 7 different locations in the past few weeks.

In my experience the wait is never more than 15-20 minutes when there are four/five or more courts. I routinely play at parks where there are 8 to 12 courts. During non-peak hours there are always a couple of courts empty.

I have noticed that coaches often will stake out the court 15-30 minutes before the lessons start. Or the courts are reserved on certain days at certain times for lesson camps.

I don't know if the interest in tennis has surge. But the courts are busy. I only picked it up due to shut down. While driving by many of these courts during normal time, half of them were always empty.

If I have a reservation, I get there a few minutes early, stretch, run around to warm up, play for my 90 minutes and move on. I can arrange with someone else to show up at a set time.
Where reservation exist most courts don't permit more than an hour? At least that is what the notice says. I had people reach late to the court because they got held up at work or bad traffic and other reasons.

I think if one third to half the courts are reserved only and other half are FCFS, it is a good compromise. People who like to plan ahead can always be assured of court. People who want to play on flexible schedule can use FCFS. Not everyone can plan ahead or likes to plan ahead to the exact time.

How do you usually determine when they players have to make way for others? I get tired of walking up to a free access, only to hear the players casually announce 15-love, first set.
I think people follow honour system. When there are others waiting, people limit their play to 60 minutes or 90 minutes.

Most courts that I go to don't provide mechanism for reservations in the south bay and peninsula. In the city there are public courts that are not on city property.
 

WNB93

Rookie
There is also an online reservation at a tennis club where I usually play.
Just a few days ago, I was only able to secure an hour session because everything was reserved.
But it turned out that most people that reserved the courts ended up not showing. This happens a lot during beach season.
They are liable to pay for what they reserved if they do not cancel more than an hour before the scheduled time. But I dont think anybody enforces that.

To get to the point...I dont think any penalty will deter people from making reservations that they will not honor.
 
There is also an online reservation at a tennis club where I usually play.
Just a few days ago, I was only able to secure an hour session because everything was reserved.
But it turned out that most people that reserved the courts ended up not showing. This happens a lot during beach season.
They are liable to pay for what they reserved if they do not cancel more than an hour before the scheduled time. But I dont think anybody enforces that.

To get to the point...I dont think any penalty will deter people from making reservations that they will not honor.
It really depends on the club. The club where I am a member, they are liable to pay for what you reserved if they do not cancel within 24 hours before the scheduled time and also a penalty fee (equal to the court schedule fee); however, that does not stop people from not showing up because people around here have the $$$ so it is not like they are hurting in the pocket.
 

WNB93

Rookie
It really depends on the club. The club where I am a member, they are liable to pay for what you reserved if they do not cancel within 24 hours before the scheduled time and also a penalty fee (equal to the court schedule fee); however, that does not stop people from not showing up because people around here have the $$$ so it is not like they are hurting in the pocket.
That sucks. It should be common courtesy to cancel if you'll not play because the first thing I think of when I can't play on the scheduled time is "I bet there is someone who would love to have my court. Let me cancel this asap so they can get in on time".
 
That sucks. It should be common courtesy to cancel if you'll not play because the first thing I think of when I can't play on the scheduled time is "I bet there is someone who would love to have my court. Let me cancel this asap so they can get in on time".
There are two types of people at the club where I am at. I call them "the old money" and "the new money" type. The old money folks (Mercedes, Audi) have common courtesy. The new money folks (hi-tech, biomedical, etc, Tesla, BMW) just don't give a f_ck.
 

badmice2

Semi-Pro
Many of the cities in the SF Bay Area we’re requiring court booking, specifically booking only by city residents only. The goal at the time was to have a system in place for contact tracing due to Covid. Many of them have started to relax the rules and allow walk-on. Not sure what’s happening with SF specifically, but I imagine they started the booking process for the same reason. Honestly, where I’m at, it’s nice to be able to book a court so that I don’t waste time waiting/driving around looking for court time. It is also useful since all the school courts are still locked down.
 

tenstudent

New User
Many of the cities in the SF Bay Area we’re requiring court booking, specifically booking only by city residents only. The goal at the time was to have a system in place for contact tracing due to Covid. Many of them have started to relax the rules and allow walk-on. Not sure what’s happening with SF specifically, but I imagine they started the booking process for the same reason. Honestly, where I’m at, it’s nice to be able to book a court so that I don’t waste time waiting/driving around looking for court time. It is also useful since all the school courts are still locked down.
To me it seems opposite. There is no booking process or enforcement on the site. Before May/June when tennis was not permitted in the bay area they had either locked the access or taken off the nets if it couldn’t be locked. I have started playing as soon as the courts were available to play. It doesn’t make sense to prohibit sports like tennis or golf where there is no contact. The risk of infection when playing tennis is extremely low.

I wasn’t playing tennis before Covid. Anecdotally when driving around before Covid, I could see the courts empty. I think more people are taking up tennis as the courts are full everywhere during the peak.

None of the public courts I have been to have anyone checking reservation or players turning up asking people to vacate because they have reservations. I am guessing new reservations have not been introduced where they were not required before Covid. Everyone walks-in I assume. Many courts do have notice which you can tell has been put on years ago mentioning the rules. Some also mention reservations.

Aren’t most of the school and community college courts open for anyone to walk in and play after 5pm.

There are many private and semi-private facilities which run by reservations or members only. May be most people who want to reserve prefer them. By now I have played in 6 or 7 cities in the Bay Area including SF. Didn’t had to wait more than 20 minutes. Not witness anyone checking or showing up with reservations.
 
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badmice2

Semi-Pro
To me it seems opposite. There is no booking process or enforcement on the site. Before May/June when tennis was not permitted in the bay area they had either locked the access or taken off the nets if it couldn’t be locked. I have started playing as soon as the courts were available to play. It doesn’t make sense to prohibit sports like tennis or golf where there is no contact. The risk of infection when playing tennis is extremely low.

I wasn’t playing tennis before Covid. Anecdotally when driving around before Covid, I could see the courts empty. I think more people are taking up tennis as the courts are full everywhere during the peak.

None of the public courts I have been to have anyone checking reservation or players turning up asking people to vacate because they have reservations. I am guessing new reservations have not been introduced where they were not required before Covid. Everyone walks-in I assume. Many courts do have notice which you can tell has been put on years ago mentioning the rules. Some also mention reservations.

Aren’t most of the school and community college courts open for anyone to walk in and play after 5pm.

There are many private and semi-private facilities which run by reservations or members only. May be most people who want to reserve prefer them. By now I have played in 6 or 7 cities in the Bay Area including SF. Didn’t had to wait more than 20 minutes. Not witness anyone checking or showing up with reservations.
they stop checking as soon as the restriction ended. Most public courts is allowing walk-ons and dubs play. I don't deal with private clubs/courts so I can't comment on all the unnecessary drama that goes with them. There are enough public courts around the area that it makes it unnecessary to pay-to-play. SF, and especially Golden Gate park, take it to the extreme to make things difficult IMO.
 
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