The park bond battle

Why environmentalists and neighborhood groups are opposing more money for parks 

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Fake grass in Golden Gate Park: Activists are angry about plans for artificial turf soccer field.

yael@sfbg.com

Recreation and Parks clubhouses are privatized and cut off from public access. Public spaces like the Botanical Gardens and the Arboretum in Golden Gate Park are closed to people who can’t pay the price of admission. Event fees and permit processes have become so onerous that they’ve squeezed out grassroots and free events.

It’s been enough to infuriate a long list of neighborhood groups who have been complaining about the San Francisco Recreation and Park  Department for years.

And now those complaints have led to a highly unusual coalition of individuals and groups across the political spectrum coming together to do what in progressive circles was once considered unthinkable: They’re opposing a park bond.

From environmentalists, tenant advocates, labor leaders, and Green Party members to West Side Republicans and fiscal conservatives,  activists are campaigning to try to defeat Proposition B, the Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond. 

The bond would allow the city to borrow $195 million for capital projects in several parks around the city. It comes five years after the voters passed a $185 million park bond. 

Environmental groups like San Francisco Tomorrow and SF Ocean Edge oppose the bond, and even the Sierra Club doesn’t support it because “In recent years, we have had many concerns with management of the city's natural places,” as Michelle Meyers, director of the Sierra Club’s Bay Chapter, told us.  

Matt Gonzalez, the only Green Party member ever to serve as Board of Supervisors president, is part of the opposition, as is progressive leader Aaron Peskin.  Joining them is retired Judge Quentin Kopp, darling of the city’s fiscal conservatives.

The San Francisco Tenants Union wrote a ballot argument opposing Prop. B. The left-leaning Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council and the more centrist Coalition of San Francisco Neighborhoods both want the bond defeated.

Many of the people opposing Prop. B have never before opposed a city bond act. “This is very difficult for me,” said labor activist Denis Mosgofian. “Some of us always support public infrastructure spending.”

When we called Phil Ginsburg, the director of Rec-Park, for comment, his office referred us to Maggie Muir, who’s running the campaign for Yes on B. She sent a statement saying: "Unfortunately, a small group of individuals are opposing Proposition B because they disapprove of Recreation and Park Department efforts to improve our parks and better serve San Francisco’s diverse communities.” The statement refers to Prop B’s opponents as “single issue activists”

 So who are these activists, and why have they come together to oppose the parks bond?

 Many started with, as Muir put it, a single issue.  Journalist Rasa Gustaitis  didn’t want to see fees to enter the Botanical Gardens and Arboretum in Golden Gate Park.  West of Twin Peaks resident George Wooding was upset that Rec-Park has been leasing public clubhouses to private interests. Landscape Architect Kathy Howard took issue with a plan to renovate Beach Chalet soccer fields, complete with artificial turf and stadium lighting.

After a few years of fighting these small battles, people like Gustaitis, Wooding, and Howard started to see a pattern.  Park property was being privatized.

THE ENTERPRISE

Some city departments, like the airport and the port, are so-called enterprise agencies. They don’t receive allocations from the city’s general fund, and operate entirely on money they charge users. In the case of the airport, most of the money comes from landing fees paid by airlines. The port charges ships that dock here, and takes in rent from its real-estate holdings.

Comments

Jason Grant Garza here ..would this Bob Planthold who said above "Bob Planthold, a disability rights advocate who is also a member of Friends of Ethics, says that there are issues in the ADA compliance plans for the Parks Bond as well. Planthold says that money from the last bond measure in 2008 was misspent in terms of disability access."

Would this be Robert R. Planthold ( see http://myownprivateguantanamo.com/K1.html ) for the link to the Chairperson 2003 and 2004 of the Ethics Commission - City and County of San Francisco?

Here in this case they could not, would not do the RIGHT THING with a referral from the MINISTRY of SUNSHINE over an "Official Misconduct" finding for a NURSE RATCHED (incorrect, harmful and lawbreaking activity) by the Sheriff's Office? If you look at the paperwork at http://www.myownprivateguantanamo,com you will see where I wrote the UNETHICAL COMMISSION ... I am still awaiting response .... many, many, many years later ... too bad I wasn't ROSS so they could EXTRACT their "POUND of FLESH" from to give a false appearance while not performing as the website ( http://www.myownprivateguanatanamo.com ) proves.

I certainly hope that this is NOT the same PLANTHOLD ... since ALL MY ADA rights, legal rights. human rights, medical rights, etc were all violated by the UNETHICAL COMMISSION.

I certainly hope his NOT the same PLANTHOLD as evidenced by the paperwork at http://www.myownprivateguantanamo.com for as you can see ... it produced NADA, ZIP, NOTHING for the VICTIM but PROTECTED the guilty ... HOW ETHICAL is that?

Sort of like all the LACK of HELP at the MINISTRY of SUNSHINE (Sunshine Task Force) that has been CLOSED, NEUTERED and RENDERED ineffective ( as it has been all along - see articles here in SFBG .)

A Nation of FOOLS deserves what it receives ....

Posted by Jason Grant Garza on Sep. 06, 2012 @ 5:42 am

Very few City employees did more with their forty hours for the City than the playground directors. Kids all over the city had a place to hang out, shoot hoops, play chess or ping-pong, sign up and play team sports, be citizens of their neighborhood and compete with like kids all over town. Their playground was their other home, bought and paid for long ago. Sure there were fifty-cent hot dog sales to buy uniform tee-shirts but no kid had to pay to play.

Golden Gate Park, the Marina, Ocean Beach...all belonged to the people of SF who had paid long ago for their acquisition, improvement and subsequent maintenance. They belonged to the 99%. And what happened?

We started seeing parts of the Park roped off for admission-only events, big white tents in the meadows for gourmets where there used to be pick up games, wedding parties roping off the Shakespeare garden. Pavilions on the Marina greens where kids practiced soccer and barriers across the entrances to public parking. Public space becomes on the biggest weekends. Now you do have to Pay to Play. Where did all the low income kids go? And where, oh where does all the money go? Well we have to help the billionaire raceboat owners put on their show for the tourists..

Now we may have an opportunity to tell the Mayor, the Supes, the park and Rec Commissioners what we think of their pay to play concept. Thanks, George, for getting the ball rolling.

Posted by Guest Paul Gorman on Sep. 06, 2012 @ 3:11 pm

• Perhaps the Planning Dep’t is a closer, more appropriate example of a city department which does not operate via funds from the city’s budget (General Fund).
Explaining why its staff favors developers, especially big developers, over city residents and our concerns is clear when we realize that Planning’s expenses are entirely funded from fees paid by developers to Planning.
So there is a natural bias to bend rules to favor the hand that feeds it:
Planning staff is ever willing to change zoning, increase height limits, etc to benefit developers all to the detriment of the character of the existing areas and neighborhoods.

This can serve as an analogy to Rec&Park Dept (RPD): in its move toward implementing the same sort of funding structure, RPD has increasingly pushed aside lower levels of staff who interact directly with us, the public.
It has fired the $40K/year park directors who were on a first-name basis with the park-users and residents.
RPD has instead hired $[six-figure] managers. Not only is their job to lease out previously free recreation areas, but these managers also work to decrease green areas which need upkeep.
This is why parks are getting “upgrades” that include more paving and other “hardscape” features such as artificial turf.
Because then RPD can fire even more gardeners and park upkeep-providers: green areas require more care than hard, paved areas.

• The [July 2010] proposed Charter Amendment to split Rec&Park Commission appointments between the mayor and the supervisors instead of the existing all-mayoral-appointed commission was removed from consideration by one vote at the Full Board.
This was a result of a deal between the mayor and supes whereby — according to one of the supervisors (who said this as part of the meeting) — the Mayor held it hostage to budget add-backs, holding up funding which was very important to vulnerable segments of the community.

• Campaign proponent manager Maggie Muir’s statement that the opponents are “a small number of individuals” and “single issue activists” is disingenuous.
The Voter Information Pamphlet’s (VIP) Opposition Argument and Rebuttal is from the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods (CSFN).
CSFN is a citywide “umbrella” organization whose members are neighborhood associations. Delegates represent these 48 associations at monthly CSFN meetings.
CSFN represents a huge segment of the city’s residents.
CSFN has considered all manner of issues, policies, procedures, etc at its monthly meetings since 1972.

• CSFN delegates voted to oppose Prop B because of several reasons:
➢ we haven’t been able to find out how and where the money for this bond will be spent.
➢ nearly half of the money from the previous 2008 Parks Bond hasn’t been spent yet.
➢ RPD has wasted millions from the 2008 Park Bond to privatize San Francisco’s parks and recreation areas, all while neglecting their routine maintenance.

• CSFN has supported park bonds in the past, and will again in future. But until the RPD is transparent, responsive, and returns to its former mission of being a good steward of our open spaces, we cannot condone rewarding their poor performance and bad behavior with even more bond funding.

— Judy Berkowitz, President
Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods (CSFN)

Posted by Judy B on Sep. 07, 2012 @ 5:18 pm

• Perhaps the Planning Dep’t is a closer, more appropriate example of a city department which does not operate via funds from the city’s budget (General Fund).
Explaining why its staff favors developers, especially big developers, over city residents and our concerns is clear when we realize that Planning’s expenses are entirely funded from fees paid by developers to Planning.
So there is a natural bias to bend rules to favor the hand that feeds it:
Planning staff is ever willing to change zoning, increase height limits, etc to benefit developers all to the detriment of the character of the existing areas and neighborhoods.

This can serve as an analogy to Rec&Park Dept (RPD): in its move toward implementing the same sort of funding structure, RPD has increasingly pushed aside lower levels of staff who interact directly with us, the public.
It has fired the $40K/year park directors who were on a first-name basis with the park-users and residents.
RPD has instead hired $[six-figure] managers. Not only is their job to lease out previously free recreation areas, but these managers also work to decrease green areas which need upkeep.
This is why parks are getting “upgrades” that include more paving and other “hardscape” features such as artificial turf.
Because then RPD can fire even more gardeners and park upkeep-providers: green areas require more care than hard, paved areas.

• The [July 2010] proposed Charter Amendment to split Rec&Park Commission appointments between the mayor and the supervisors instead of the existing all-mayoral-appointed commission was removed from consideration by one vote at the Full Board.
This was a result of a deal between the mayor and supes whereby — according to one of the supervisors (who said this as part of the meeting) — the Mayor held it hostage to budget add-backs, holding up funding which was very important to vulnerable segments of the community.

• Campaign proponent manager Maggie Muir’s statement that the opponents are “a small number of individuals” and “single issue activists” is disingenuous.
The Voter Information Pamphlet’s (VIP) Opposition Argument and Rebuttal is from the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods (CSFN).
CSFN is a citywide “umbrella” organization whose members are neighborhood associations. Delegates represent these 48 associations at monthly CSFN meetings.
CSFN represents a huge segment of the city’s residents.
CSFN has considered all manner of issues, policies, procedures, etc at its monthly meetings since 1972.

• CSFN delegates voted to oppose Prop B because of several reasons:
➢ we haven’t been able to find out how and where the money for this bond will be spent.
➢ nearly half of the money from the previous 2008 Parks Bond hasn’t been spent yet.
➢ RPD has wasted millions from the 2008 Park Bond to privatize San Francisco’s parks and recreation areas, all while neglecting their routine maintenance.

• CSFN has supported park bonds in the past, and will again in future. But until the RPD is transparent, responsive, and returns to its former mission of being a good steward of our open spaces, we cannot condone rewarding their poor performance and bad behavior with even more bond funding.

— Judy Berkowitz, President
Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods (CSFN)

Posted by Judy B on Sep. 07, 2012 @ 5:21 pm

then I will seriously consider voting for it.

I like the guy who said "I always support public spending". That's exactly the problem.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 07, 2012 @ 5:31 pm

• Perhaps the Planning Dep’t is a closer, more appropriate example of a city department which does not operate via funds from the city’s budget (General Fund).
Explaining why its staff favors developers, especially big developers, over city residents and our concerns is clear when we realize that Planning’s expenses are entirely funded from fees paid by developers to Planning.
So there is a natural bias to bend rules to favor the hand that feeds it:
Planning staff is ever willing to change zoning, increase height limits, etc to benefit developers all to the detriment of the character of the existing areas and neighborhoods.

This can serve as an analogy to Rec&Park Dept (RPD): in its move toward implementing the same sort of funding structure, RPD has increasingly pushed aside lower levels of staff who interact directly with us, the public.
It has fired the $40K/year park directors who were on a first-name basis with the park-users and residents.
RPD has instead hired $[six-figure] managers. Not only is their job to lease out previously free recreation areas, but these managers also work to decrease green areas which need upkeep.
This is why parks are getting “upgrades” that include more paving and other “hardscape” features such as artificial turf.
Because then RPD can fire even more gardeners and park upkeep-providers: green areas require more care than hard, paved areas.

• The [July 2010] proposed Charter Amendment to split Rec&Park Commission appointments between the mayor and the supervisors instead of the existing all-mayoral-appointed commission was removed from consideration by one vote at the Full Board.
This was a result of a deal between the mayor and supes whereby — according to one of the supervisors (who said this as part of the meeting) — the Mayor held it hostage to budget add-backs, holding up funding which was very important to vulnerable segments of the community.

• Campaign proponent manager Maggie Muir’s statement that the opponents are “a small number of individuals” and “single issue activists” is disingenuous.
The Voter Information Pamphlet’s (VIP) Opposition Argument and Rebuttal is from the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods (CSFN).
CSFN is a citywide “umbrella” organization whose members are neighborhood associations. Delegates represent these 48 associations at monthly CSFN meetings.
CSFN represents a huge segment of the city’s residents.
CSFN has considered all manner of issues, policies, procedures, etc at its monthly meetings since 1972.

• CSFN delegates voted to oppose Prop B because of several reasons:
➢ we haven’t been able to find out how and where the money for this bond will be spent.
➢ nearly half of the money from the previous 2008 Parks Bond hasn’t been spent yet.
➢ RPD has wasted millions from the 2008 Park Bond to privatize San Francisco’s parks and recreation areas, all while neglecting their routine maintenance.

• CSFN has supported park bonds in the past, and will again in future. But until the RPD is transparent, responsive, and returns to its former mission of being a good steward of our open spaces, we cannot condone rewarding their poor performance and bad behavior with even more bond funding.

— Judy Berkowitz, President
Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods (CSFN)

Posted by Judy B on Sep. 08, 2012 @ 2:08 pm

Matt Gonzalez and Ted Gullicksen are and have been well intended and worthy advocates for other issues facing the City of San Francisco, but on this one, they appear to have mixed apples and oranges.

To make improvements to the Rec and Park buildings, you need capital funds, and thats what the previous and current park bonds were for.

To operate the park, you need a legally and committed separate source of revenue, which is mostly property taxes, but also fees, such as the non-resident charges at the Botanical Garden, and the leases at the Rec and Park Centers.

Even these are not enough so we need organizations, like Friends of Recreation and Parks and the Strybing Botanical Garden Society to help make up the deficit.

Everyone loves the parks, but who and how will we pay for them?

In 2010 the voters turned down Proposition 21, which would have raised the DMV registration fee for autos on average $18, all the extra funding going to help run State Parks.

When the voters said no, the State, on a case by case basis, shut down State parks.

So my question to Matt and Ted is, since the parks face an operational budget shortfall, in a time when the economy is still recovering, what are your ideas for real and practical sources of revenue, and what is your plan to secure funds, so we can keep the doors open at the city parks we all love?

Michael Olexo
Architect & Landscape Architect

Posted by Michael Olexo on Sep. 10, 2012 @ 6:40 pm

Matt Gonzalez and Ted Gullicksen are and have been well intended and worthy advocates for other
issues facing the City of San Francisco, but on this one, they appear to have mixed apples and oranges.

To make improvements to the Rec and Park buildings, you need capital funds, and thats what the previous
and current park bonds were for.

To operate the park, you need a legally and committed separate source of revenue, which is mostly
property taxes, but also fees, such as the non-resident charges at the Botanical Garden, and the leases
at the Rec and Park Centers.

Even these are not enough so we need organizations, like Friends of Recreation and Parks and the
Strybing Botanical Garden Society to help make up the deficit.

Everyone loves the parks, but who and how will we pay for them?

In 2010 the voters turned down Proposition 21, which would have raised the DMV registration fee for autos
on average $18, all the extra funding going to help run State Parks.

When the voters said no, the State, on a case by case basis, shut down State parks.

So my question to Matt and Ted is, since the parks face an operational budget shortfall, in a time when the
economy is still recovering, what are your ideas for real and practical sources of revenue, and what is your
plan to secure funds, so we can keep the doors open at the city parks we all love?

Michael Olexo
Architect & Landscape Architect

Posted by Michael Olexo on Sep. 10, 2012 @ 6:43 pm

My daughter will be playing on the Chalet Soccor fields next weekend, but I cringe at what is in store for these wonderful, multi-use meadows right by the ocean.
Rather than spending $1M of bond money to put in gopher mesh and french drains, the Park&Rec is fighting tooth and nail spend $7M of bond $ to haul away the top soil and replace it with industrial waste ground tires and plastic! The Fisher brothers (kicking in $3M) are specific that thier City Fields Foundation will not pay a cent to the compleat materials replacment required every 8 years. The bankroll on that is half the instilation cost, or about $5M. Since the Park and Rec can't raise $1M for real grass, GGP will have ruined fields with toxic waste blowing through the whole park. Happend in NYC, and now its our turn. This Fishers Follie is bad for my girl and all her teamate. Shame on the Fishers and the Park & Rec.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 13, 2012 @ 11:27 am

Recently, I began to notice that removal of many massive, old-growth trees along Spreckels Lake were leaving huge holes in the forested area that had protected the lake from Fulton Ave. traffic noise and pollution. I've photographed many of the downed trees--invariably the largest and oldest trees in the area--and could see no decay or splitting or multiple trunks or other issues with these trees or their severed limbs. In fact, the smaller trees around them appeared much more decrepit, with limbs dying back to the crown and further.

I called around and was told that the downed trees were on a "dangerous" list but that a completely trustworthy wonderful city contractor was responsible for both identifying the "dangerous" trees, and removing them. Why is the company entrusted to determine which trees are dangerous, the same one making money cutting them down? Can't the wealthy city of SF, the most expensive place to live in America, afford a neutral, taxpayer funded arborist to determine when trees are dangerous?

If I'm wrong I profoundly apologize to all involved, but it smells "high" to me. And it is profoundly affecting the quality of the park as a refuge from the racket of city traffic. The soccer stadium construction nightmare, and the subsequent queues of SUVs speeding through laden with the wealthier kid classes. is not likely to improve the park, either.

I have to wonder why these apparently undamaged trees are considered dangerous. Is is the price of the old growth wood? The fact that the city wants to turn the western end of this unique and classic nature park into a plastic kids' soccer club (usable only for big fees?)? Is it that old, protected trees might be used to appeal the construction of a (soon to be privatized) stadium in this world class public nature park?

Gotta wonder.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 14, 2012 @ 9:55 pm

Golden Gate Park is a completely unnatural environment populated largely by invasive species such as eucalyptus. San Francisco was not forested before Europeans arrived and most of the trees planted here since then are not native California trees.

Posted by Troll II on Sep. 14, 2012 @ 11:20 pm

Wow - Old Growth discovered at GG Park. Planted, fertilized, irrigated and artificial nature on what were wind swept sand dunes less than 100 years ago are now considered "Old Growth". Gotta Wonder indeed.

Posted by rbihan on Sep. 17, 2012 @ 8:56 pm

"Definition of OLD-GROWTH
: of, relating to, or being a forest characterized by the presence of large old trees, numerous snags and woody debris, and a multilayered canopy and that is usually in a late stage of ecological succession
— old growth noun"

Since the city-paid private arborist/lumberjack claims the tree was nearing its age of ecological succession -- and whose action hastened such -- any argument to the contrary is, frankly, stupid.

Posted by lillipublicans on Sep. 18, 2012 @ 1:47 am

OK. So all the whiners have had their rant about what they hate about RecPark. Can we now look clearly at the issue before us?
1. The key problem here is the underfunding of our parks and recreation system. Recpark's budgets have been cut 9 of the last 10 years - by whopping percentages - 12, 15, 17%. Many of us are managing our households with that level of hit. It's painful. Hard decisions have to be made. Why do we assume that RecPark can magically support the same level of service with drastically less funding? And where are the shriekers at budget time? They hate the reduction in services that budget cuts cause. But could their outrage be aimed at the source of the problem instead of its stewards?
2. Every single rant involves an issue that is not even on the table. This bond doesn't involve the Golden Gate soccer fields, or Stow Lake, or PJ Murphy, or Stybing. Those projects involve endless, intractable debates with no apparent universally-popular resolution.This bond CAN help dozens of straightforward, beloved, heavily-supported projects than can make a real difference in neighborhoods all over the City.
3. The goal of the whiners is to punish RecPark. But, in the end, who are they hurting? Urban kids trying to grow up in a crowded, noisy, overbuilt world; adults who can't afford a health club membership or are just looking for connection and diversion at the end of a hard day; seniors whose only opportunity for fresh air and social interaction may happen at their local park. Who gets hurt in the end? RecPark staff labors on. But our friends and neighbors, most especially the ones who really need a break, get squashed in the grand standing, chest beating, self-righteous hysteria of people who, in many cases, don't even use our parks.
Make your point about how RecPark could do better. But study the chess board 4 moves down. Who wins? Who looses? Shoot yourself in the foot. Throw the baby out with the bath water. Feel tough and powerful and self righteous. Then look in the face of the kids and seniors you are screwing out of a good time and a safe haven.
Shame!

Posted by JC NB on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 10:56 pm

...NOT to provide free open space to SF residents. The sooner people wake the fu*k up the better.

My gawd - Ginsburg is paid more than the Governor and the department has a six figure plus "spokesperson."

If Parks & Rec personnel were paid reasonable wages and benefits, Parks would NOT be "underfunded." The notion that they are underfunded is a lie.

Parks & Rec is managed no better than CCSF- anyone read the paper today...? If the average total comp package of a P&R employee were $200k, would people still be saying the parks were underfunded??

NO on B.

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