Parks Inc. - Page 3

Rec-Park is trying to turn privatization into official city policy, but sponsors of a ballot measure are pushing back

|
(6)
A diesel-powered taco truck now sits in Dolores Park, part of an effort to commercialize public space.
PHOTO BY BEN HOPFER

And that policy approach would get a big boost if it gets written into the city's General Plan, which could happen later this year.

Land use attorney Sue Hestor has been fighting projects that have disproportionately favored the wealthy for decades, often using the city's General Plan, a state-mandated document that lays out official city goals and policies. She also is concerned that the ROSE is quietly being developed to "run interference for Rec-Park to do anything they want to."

"By getting policies into the General Plan that are a rationalization of privatization, it backs up what Rec-Park is doing," Hestor said, noting how much influence Ginsburg and his allies have clearly exerted over the Planning Department document. "It's effectively a Rec-Park plan."

Sue Exeline, the lead planner on ROSE, said the process was launched in November 2007 by an Open Space Task Force created by Newsom, and that the Planning Department, Neighborhood Parks Council, and speakers at community meetings have all influenced its development. Yet she conceded that RPD was "a big part of the process."

When we asked about the revenue-generating policies, where they came from, and why they were presented in such laudatory fashion without noting the controversy that underlies them, Exeline said simply: "It will continue to be vetted." And when we continued to push for answers, she tried to say the conversation was off-the-record, referred us to RPD or Planning Director John Rahaim, and hung up the phone.

The rationale for bringing in private sources of revenue: it's the only way to maintain RPD resources during these tight budget times. A July 5 San Francisco Examiner editorial that praised these "revenue-generating business partnerships" and lambasted the ballot measure and its proponents was titled "Purists want Rec and Park to pull cash off trees."

But critics say the department could be putting more energy into a tax measure, impact fees, or other general revenue sources rather than simply turning toward privatization options.

"We need to see revenue, but we also need to stop the knee-jerk acceptance of every corporate hand that offers anything," Mosgofian said. "Our political leadership believes you need to genuflect before wealth."

And they say that their supporters cover the entire ideological spectrum.

"We're getting wide support, everywhere from conservative neighborhoods to progressive neighborhoods. It's not a left-right issue, it's about fairness and equity," Rizzo said.

In sponsoring the Parks for the People initiative and unsuccessfully trying to end the arboretum fees (it failed on a 5-6 vote at the Board of Supervisors, with President David Chiu the swing vote), John Avalos is the one major mayoral candidate that is raising concerns about the RPD schemes.

"Our parks are our public commons. They are public assets that should be paid for with tax dollars," Avalos told us. He called the idea of allowing advertising and corporate sponsorships into the parks, "a real breach from what the public expects from parks and open space."

When asked whether, if he's elected mayor, he would continue the policies and let Ginsburg continue to run RPD, Avalos said, "Probably not. I think we need to make a lot of changes in the department. They should be given better support in the General Fund so we don't have to make these kinds of choices."

ROSE will be the subject of informational hearings before the Planning Commission on Aug. 4 and Sept. 15, with an adoption hearing scheduled for Oct. 13. Each hearing begins at noon in Room 400, City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Dr., San Francisco.

 

Comments

Thanks Steve, for an excellent piece. There are so many problems with the Ginsburg-ization of our parks. He should be run out of town.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 13, 2011 @ 7:48 am

How much money has the Board returned to Rec/Park to make up for the budget cuts? How many of the fees have they made unnecessary by giving the Department the appropriations it needed?

Oh, that's right, almost none, and none.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 13, 2011 @ 9:03 am

What is so incongruous about this whole matter is Recreation and Park’s rejection of the vendor offering the highest rent for the Stow Lake concession. This facility has always been a revenue producer. Always been privatized. The present vendor offered $55,000 higher minimum annual rent than the New Mexico group. Without taking into consideration any cost of living escalation, that is over a million dollars potential lost to the City over the 20 year term of the lease. The selected vendor offered to pay 10% of gross food sales and the current vendor offered 27%. Both parties agreed to fully refurbish the exterior of the boathouse and remodel the snack bar. Also, the present vendor agreed to provide 70% more boats (85 vs. 50) to better serve the public. Why is the Park Department suppressing this information?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 13, 2011 @ 9:48 am

Hey Steve.....how about you and your comrades at the Guardian open your check book and write a Big Fat Check to Rec & Park.

The department is broke along with the city......high wages...fat benefits.....too many rules.

Instead of condemning the department for finding ways to keep our parks open and in operational shape....why don't you offer a suggestion to fix the problem?

Got any ideas?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 14, 2011 @ 7:01 am

Here's a quick fix: Replace the 50 or 100 highest paid at Wreck the Parks (salespeople for privatization "public-private partnerships") with actual workers (Rec Directors, Gardeners, etc.)

Posted by Guest on Jul. 14, 2011 @ 7:53 am

Here's a revenue raising idea: Keep HANC recycling where it is and let HANC collect all recyclables from every park restaurant, ball field, populated eating/drinking area, etc. and they could pay an agreeable percentage of whatever revenues they raise from within park boundaries after they allocate what they need to cover salaries and operating costs from collecting said recyclables.

I'm all for raising taxes to cover park operational costs. Don't make it a parking lot -- quit wasting money on posting unsightly NO PARKING signage up and down our sacred green stretches where we could previously imagine a world WITHOUT cars when we'd visit JFK on a Sunday [but not any more]; DO NOT enter into leases for longer than one day for any personal family/neighborhood/small business or corporation and POST such space rentals on a website so the public can plan around any inaccessibility caused by such leases. Keep the one-day rents for such private uses on a sliding scale; low for families and small businesses and higher for corporations. Three consecutive day max for any users.

There are plenty of ways, if there is ANY will, to keep our parks flush, lush and accessible to the public. Even leasing raised beds for growing vegetables could lend itself to being inequitable. I don't think that's a good idea unless you have a HUGE area designated for organic gardening and the ENTIRE CITY, EVERY DISTRICT gets space allocated proportionate to its population. Personally, I vote for undergrounding parking in EVERY neighborhood and ripping up and/or covering up the asphalt in many square blocks of EVERY neighborhood so people could garden outside their homes.

Have a think-a-thon with contestants submitting THEIR ideas for ensuring park accessibility and sustainability ... NOT profitability as has been popular among the privitization crowd.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 14, 2011 @ 12:14 pm