The park bond battle - Page 3

Why environmentalists and neighborhood groups are opposing more money for parks 

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

The department gave up, and J.P. Murphy wasn’t leased. But without a lessee, the department simply closed the center. It’s empty and dark – although it’s available for $90 an hour rent.

Other similarly frustrating battles were going on around the city. 

Muir called the opposition “short-sighted.” 

“This opposition is punishing the people who use the facilities across the city, children who need safe parks to play in, seniors, and those who are disabled who need ADA compliance,” said Muir.

But Friends of Ethics, another group opposing the bond, argues that Rec-Park shouldn’t get another cent until the agency cleans up its act. In a paid ballot argument against Prop B, the group brought up the controversial process of leasing out the Stowe Lake Boathouse last year. The move to put Bruce McLellan, longtime operator of the family business that sold snacks and rented paddle boats, on a month-to-month lease before auctioning a new lease to the highest bidder created a serious backlash.

 On top of that, commission officials were accused of bias when they recommended a lobbyist, Alex Tourk, to one of the companies vying for the contract. 

 “It’s unseemly and it clouds public trust,” said No on Prop B proponent Larry Bush,  who publishes Citireport. 

The boathouse isn’t the only much-beloved tradition ended under the current Rec-Park administration’s reign. The Power the Peaceful festival, which brought big name musicians and thousands of attendants, all for free, has been priced out due to dramatic increases in fees. So has the Anarchist Book Festival. 

 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.

 “Trails weren’t graded properly. There was no attention to whether there were tree roots that might be rising above the level of the trail that could trip somebody,” said Planthold. “They didn’t do a good, proper, fair job on making trails accessible.”

 The bond got unanimous support from the Board of Supervisors. That’s because it earmarks money for parks that desperately need it throughout the city. 

 But that doesn’t mean all the supervisors are pleased with the way Rec- is being run, either. In July 2010, Sup.  David Campos and then-Sup.  Ross Mirkarimi tried to pass a Charter Amendment to split the appointments to the commission among the mayor and the supervisors. 

 But they couldn’t get the measure through, and the commission remains entirely composed of mayoral appointees.  

So now the voters have a choice: Give more money to what  many say is a badly managed department moving toward the privatization of public property – or shoot down what almost everyone agrees is badly needed maintenance money. Of course, the critics say, Rec-Park can always change its direction then come back and try again in a year or two – but once public facilities become pay-per-use private operations, they tend to never come back. 

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