SF parks raise fees, cut back services

February 19, 2009 6:54:25 PM PST
In an urban setting like San Francisco, residents consider the parks to be their version of a backyard. Because of the city's budget problems, their backyard playgrounds are facing some hard times.

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On the surface, all is well at Balboa Pool, but dramatic change is about to come to San Francisco's Recreation and Park system. The department is forced to slash nearly $11.5 million from its budget.

Right now Balboa Pool is open seven days a week, but under a cost cutting proposal this facility and three others would be closed Sundays and Mondays to the public and rented out to swim clubs and teams.

That's just one example of how the department is scrambling to come up with solutions. Seventy-two jobs are on the line, including 51 people who operate the city's recreation centers, nine managers and assistants, and 12 in other positions.

Some of those on the chopping block rallied at city hall on Thursday asking that city funds dedicated to children's services pay for park programs. They're also angry about one proposal to use workers hired by non-profits.

"They're not going to be able to do what we do because were from the neighborhood. We are the neighborhood," says Guy Hudson, from the Joseph Lee Recreation Center.

Also on the table are controversial money-makers including parking meters for Golden Gate Park and other open spaces, and increased fees for pools and summer camps. A fourth-generation San Franciscan considers that outrageous

"It's why our city is different from other cities because we do have these free programs. People from low-incomes can use them. People who don't have backyards," says Allison Murnin, a San Francisco resident.

The Recreation and Park Commission heard from critics Thursday afternoon, but the department's general manager says revamping will minimize the impact of the cuts.

"We're not closing any rec. centers. Were not closing any pools or playgrounds or senior centers," says Jared Blumenfeld, the general manager of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department.

The department's budget goes to the mayor on Friday.

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