Fees rise in SF, but some supervisors prefer taxes

Northfolk Island pines bloom in the SF Botanical Gardens -- soon non-residents must pay to see them

By Brittany Baguio

 The Board of Supervisors this week voted to impose non-resident fees for admission into Botanical Gardens in an effort to help alleviate the city's $483 million budget deficit, as requested by the Mayor's Office. But even supervisors who supported it say they hope to end the fees if they can find some general revenue sources, a process that will begin next week after Mayor Gavin Newsom releases his budget on June 1.

Sup. John Avalos, who chairs the Budget Committee, began Tuesday's discussion by stating that he believed that this non-resident fee would stop the layoffs of Botanical Gardens staff and help offset the 30 percent drop in their budget. Despite supporting the fees, Avalos expressed hope that they could be replaced by a 2 percent increase in the hotel tax, something labor and community groups are pushing that would raise $38 million to $45 million per year.

He even amended the item to include a provision that the non-resident fee will be eliminated within 90 days from the effective date of the new tax. Despite Avalos’s amendment, AIDS Grove founder and volunteer community gardener Nancy McNally said she was appalled that Avalos would support a non-resident fee. “He is not committed to preserving significant public park commons that San Franciscan generations before him have paid taxes to preserve,” McNally told the Guardian. “No one wants to brainstorm and come up with creative options to alleviate this crisis that is not really a crisis. Greed is the crisis.”

One thing McNally did appreciate was sober assessments made at the hearing by Sup. Eric Mar, who stated that Botanical Gardens serves as a haven for low-income and immigrant families who can only enjoy the facilities because admission is free. He declared that once fees are attached to Botanical Gardens, it will lose its appeal. He also added that passing this fee will be the first step in initiating fees for all.

San Francisco resident Daniele Erville shared Mar’s concerns. “A fee acts as a deterrent to a place that by its very nature is welcoming,” Erville told us. “The place makes us feel at home, it reminds us that we are a part of nature and reminds us of our common humanity. Spirituality means that you are in touch with what unites us all, and so differentiating on any level just clashes."

The imposition of fees – $7 for non-resident adults, $5 for seniors, and $2 for children – was approved on a 8-3 vote, with Sups. Mar, Bevan Dufty, and Ross Mirkarimi in dissent.


Finally, the Bay Guardian gets around to covering this important topic — with an article written by an intern (who is new to San Francisco).

Compare this to the SF Weekly's article:

And the Guardian is allegedly a "progressive" publication.

The Bay Guardian has ignored this privatization, both this year and last. Their lack of coverage is a major reason why PINOs (Progressives in Name Only) such as Avalos, Campos, Chiu, and Daly were able to vote for this heinous measure.

Ginsburg was able to hold gardeners' jobs hostage to the fee because SEIU and the Gardener's "Union" (126) rolled over and offered their rear to him.

The Weekly told me that the Guardian was silent because they need to tow the Union line. "Are they really that callow", I asked. "I'm afraid so" came the reply.

Posted by Harry on May. 28, 2010 @ 5:41 am

When the SF Weekly pays us the $22 million they owe us and ceases their illegal predatory pricing scheme, we'll have more resources to cover a wide range of stories. Until then, we'll just have to laugh at their lies about how and why we choose to cover stories in the fashion we do. Yes, this story was written by an intern, but one I worked closely with to provide relevant context for what I believe is a solid story, albeit one that you would have liked to see earlier for understandable reasons. But if you think the Weekly is going to support seeking new tax revenue to fully fund city services and facilities -- something that the Guardian has consistently advocated for the last 44 years -- then you might be surprised to learn who the callow weekly in town really is.

Steven T. Jones, SFBG City Editor

Posted by steven on May. 28, 2010 @ 10:38 am
Posted by Mr Matlock on Jun. 01, 2010 @ 6:04 pm

I I was surprised to find that my comment had actually posted; I had received a type of "unopostable as spam" message after I had posted it.

As far as I can see, the SF Weekly does not take a stand on tax revenues.

The Guardian, however

Moreover, except for a Letter to the Editor, there was no coverage of this last year. And none whatsoever this year (with no letter, because those have disappeared).

It was not unexpected for the rightwing to vote for this tax (which is what it is: a second tax), but it amazed us that three "progressive" Supervisors would vote for it.

For that, I have to blame the Bay Guardian, because an article would have made it more difficult for them to kowtow to the Vince Courtney and his "union" of gardeners.

This is just the start of what the Society (and its conservative Democratic backers such as Mt. San Bruno-developer Mark Buell (whose wife made millions through sweatshops) has planned. A $13-million greenhouse is planned along with a new road cutting through the Arboretum.The plan is to exclude locals (which has now effectively been done through pricing elsewhere) and turn the Arboretum into another tourist trap.

And it's not just the Botanical Garden Society, headed by Michael McKechnie and aided by neoliberal RPD director Phil Ginsburg, who are out of control

The Parks Trust (formerly Friends of the Park) and the Neighborhood Parks Council are two ither examples.

There has been no coverage of this, and the above article is online only. Correct?

Shame on John Avalos for selling out the Arboretum to the rich of Marin! This "nonresident fee" will lead to a resident fee and then to a much higher pricetag.

Gouging visitors openly is bad tourism policy, especially in a depression. However, as SF Tourism is a private entity (now funded by a tax on hotel rooms!), don't expect anyone in City government to say so. Avalos is scared of losing union support; the conservatives are out of touch with reality.....

Will the SFBG actually give this fee the coverage in print (not just online!) that it deserves? Or will it allow the rest of Golden Gate Park to be destroyed by "nonprofits" who are a tool of the Marin rich?

Time will tell.....

Posted by Harry on Jun. 01, 2010 @ 9:45 am

Hi Supervisors,
This is Daniele Erville writing one more time to make sure you received or at least read via e-mail the historical notes i took the trouble to compile regarding the original intent of the Arboretum.

I may not have been paid $10,000/month like Sam Lauter to lobby you to charge a fee, but i am an artist who specializes in the inner and outer landscape, and knows of which she speaks. I also had a good education, and so used the skills i learned to go to the source—I consider that act my way of giving back to the community—just as i am fiercely protecting the integrity of this space, as it has given so much to me, personally.

Someone's gotta do this, and it may as well be me. When i see a wrong, i try to right it. I see this as no less than a moral issue, and i will not let this vote come down the way it did without a fight.

I'll be watching tomorrow. I hope some of you will have the courage to change your vote. Better yet, go to the arboretum tonight, if you have the chance (before 5:30pm)...get lost there, and get a feel for the place, if you do not know it as i do...and if you've been too busy for such things...then maybe you are simply too busy—to the detriment of us all.

Daniele Erville

Posted by Guest daniele erville on Jun. 07, 2010 @ 2:26 pm