It was nearly four years ago to the day (Valentine’s Day 2018) when the Helen Diller Civic Center Playgrounds reopened with a fancy $10 million renovation. (This is not to be confused with Dolores Park’s Helen Diller Playground which was renovated in 2012 and also paid for largely by the Helen Diller Family Foundation.) The remodeled Civic Center playground is home to a high-tech treehouse, a rainbow catwalk, and interactive LED displays.
The $10M newly renovated Helen Diller Civic Center Playground is a fun place for our children to play and explore! pic.twitter.com/mNibXSzbtF— Mark Farrell (@MarkFarrellSF) February 20, 2018
But the playground is also home to a surging infestation of rats, according to KGO. The tweet below shows a pair of youngsters enjoying the park, with a white rodent of unusual size barely two feet away, clearly making him or herself at home around the human kids.
"A little disconcerting, especially for the kids,” parent Javier Posadas told KGO, as one of many parents who told the station they’d seen multiple rats scurrying about. "Hopefully they can maintain or find some sort of sanitary practices.”
This is hardly a huge health hazard, but can be problematic. "Rats can transmit quite a few infections," UCSF professor of medicine Dr. Peter Chin-Hong told KGO. "Number one, wash your hands. Instruct kids not to put their hands in their mouth after running around a potentially rat-infested area."
It’s an outdoor setting, but one would hope that some sort of corrective action can be taken with these rats. KGO did not get a response from Rec and Parks on the issue, and SFGate did not get comment when they reached out to the Department of Public Health.
News of this infestation arrives, uncomfortably, alongside a just-published study suggesting that "cryptic" and highly mutated lineages of the COVID-19 virus, similar but not the same as Omicron, may be circulating amongst rats or other animals and making it into the wastewater of several American cities — including an unnamed sewershed being studied by UC Berkeley.
And at this point, there are merely theories on why so many rats are suddenly showing up at this playground in Civic Center.
“City workers tell me the bushes at the Helen Diller playgrounds used to be trimmed very short but not anymore,” wrote KGO’s J.R. Stone.
So hopefully, the solution to trimming the rat population could be solved with some simple landscaping tactics.