The Foundation rescinded the pledge of $325,000 in 1995 after years of unsatisfactory response from the Zoo Executive Director and the Board of Directors."
The letter goes on to lay out how the zoo hired a contracting firm with no experience in building wildlife care facilities, how it wasted funds, and how it ignored the recommendations of its consultant.
"As John Wortman noted, the `major problem was the inability of the S.F. staff to design a modern animal facility,’” the letter stated.
Robinett denies that the zoo staff is to blame. "To say this was a screwup in design — I think that is incorrect," Robinett told the Bay Guardian. "We have had success [with the center], especially with breeding. It's been a very good exhibit."
It is that attitude that makes some people worry about making animals pay the costs of privatization.
Privatization "has not helped animal care," Ron Lippert, a longtime animal health technician and former member of the city's Commission on Animal Control and Welfare, told the Bay Guardian. "What privatization has done is allowed the society to do more things on their agenda — without the public scrutiny they had before. It seems like this is [Anderson and the society's] kingdom and palace, and they want to see how much they can show it off.
"But the bottom line is that with the cold, windy, and wet climate at the zoo, it's the wrong city. It's the wrong location. Animals who aren't used to handling ocean climate have to handle it day in and day out. Maybe we just shouldn't have a zoo here. The zoo society was supposed to do all this great stuff. But as far as zoos go, this one still sucks."
Bob Porterfield contributed to this story.