Rec and Park leaders look for ways to save money

December 2, 2010 7:03:37 PM PST
Privatization or smart money making -- what you call it depends on where you stand on the issue of San Francisco allowing more and more commercial activities in its public parks. With San Francisco struggling through year after year of budget deficits, the Recreation and Park Department is on an aggressive money making campaign.

"For every dollar that we raise, that's one less dollar we have to cut," Rec and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg said.

Just yesterday Mayor Gavin Newsom asked department heads to come up with plans to cut 10 percent.

More private ventures in public parks could be used to offset the damage, but some San Franciscans are letting the politicians know not everyone is buying the trend toward commercialism.

Blue Bottle Coffee recently backed out of a vending deal in Dolores Park after vocal opposition and activists protested the Peter Pan production in Ferry Park even though it netted the city $600,000.

"They don't have to privatize anything; they just have to look at all the waste and inefficiencies in the city," Sin Francisco resident Denise D'Anne said.

Now there is criticism over a proposal to drop the longtime operator of the boat house at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park. The city says new management would make needed upgrades, buy a new fleet of boats, add a restaurant and bring in $140,000 a year in rent. But opponents are trying to shoot it down.

"When people learn it's an out-of-state company that is a souvenir chain with no boating experience, they're eyes open wide and they say this is madness," San Francisco resident Suzanne Dumont said.

There was also protest when management at the Japanese Tea Garden changed.

But Ginsburg believes most residents support the revenue generators.

"Park systems throughout the country are struggling with the same issue and bringing amenities into our parks that are appropriate, fun and enhance people's enjoyment of the experience is a strategy to raise money," he said.

Thursday, the commission approved an organic ice cream vendor in the Marina Green.


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