Privatizing the parks


I'm not going all crazy on the idea of pretzel stands in Golden Gate Park, or even a lobster-roll place behind the bandshell. I'm kind of against the lease change at Stowe Lake because I hate to see an out-of-town operator take over a local concession (and I like the funky boats, and the popcorn, and the overall 1950s-era quality of the food stand, which -- by the way -- makes the best soda water anywhere in town, yumm, so extra fizzy and nice ....).

But it's worth sounding the alarm about the direction that Phil Ginsberg and Mark Buell are taking the Recreation and Park Department. And it's not just evicting the HANC recycling center.

I realize that the city's broke, and Rec-park is broke, and if they can't raise money by selling coffee and lobster rolls they might have to lay off even more recreation directors. I fell the pain. But there's a dangerous road ahead, and it looks like this:

Once you decide that parks have to pay for themselves, you've destroyed the whole notion of public space.

Check out what happened at the Presidio, where a plan by Rep. Nancy Pelosi to tun the park into essentially a private outfit, with the mandate to reach financial self-sufficiency, led to all sorts of problems and set the stage for a debate over privatizing more parks.

This is, of course, part of a larger discussion, but parks are by their very nature supposed to be places that the community -- the taxpayers -- support and preserve for the good of all. They aren't supposed to pay for themselves. You're not supposed to charge admission. Any commercial activity ought to be designed to benefit the users (it's nice to have a place to buy a bottle of water on a hot day or a snack for your kids) and not to pay the maintenance bills for the facility.

This is what annoys me more than anything else about Gavin Newsom. He talks about vision and sounds like an environmentalist and progressive, but he misses the whole point. You fund public services with tax dollars, not by auctioning them off to the private sector.

At least, you used to.


then why does The Guardian advocate allowing the homeless to use the park system as permanent homes - which then takes that space away from the common usage?

Once again your philosophy contradicts itself, in the exact same way you claim Gavin Newsom does on a continual basis. You're missing the point.

Take a long look in the mirror sometime Tim, preferably preceding the next time you write one of these pontificating pieces.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 02, 2010 @ 4:39 pm

You missed the point. Recreation and Park is being used by Newsom to pay for his campaigns and to pay back his donors with juicy deals with our parks.
Newsom is a crook and good riddance.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2010 @ 7:29 am

Why should so much space be fenced off, gated and padlocked to keep out the people of San Francisco, with the exception of a handful of plot holders?

All Community Gardens should be unlocked and accessible to the Community.
Not locked up, as if they were the private property of a tiny number of residents.
If people want a private garden, they should band together and purchase property.

Community Gardens are public space paid for by all of us with our taxes, and should be accessible to ALL San Franciscans.

Unlock the Community Gardens.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 07, 2010 @ 8:59 pm

Broadway Mini Park East, at Broadway and Himmelman near Chinatown, was a beautiful little neighborhood park, open and inviting with several benches, flower beds and trees.
Then it went without maintenance from Rec and Park for several years.
Late last year a tall steel spike fence with padlocked gates went up around it. Now no one is allowed in .
Unfortunately, it looks to be used as some sort of garden only once every couple of weeks (if that- there’s a decaying scarecrow from Halloween laying in it today- 12/6/10)) and maintained by a Russian Hill woman named Dian Blomquist who discourages visitors from even entering when she comes in to perform maintenance.
She insists it is not a community garden.
It has become, for all intents and purposes, her gated and locked personal park.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 07, 2010 @ 9:01 pm

Newsom appointed his buddy and major campaign donor, Mark Buell, husband of Susie Tompkins (Esprit clothing founder) to be President of Rec & Parks last January. A self described environmentalist, Mark Buell is actually a mega developer, responsible for descrating sacred Ohlone Indian burial grounds with the Emeryville mall on Shellmound. Now Buell is selling off our SF parks as fast as he can... all in the name of solving the RP budget deficit. The 6 other commissioners, also Newsom appointees, are pressured to say yes to everything Buell and RP General Manger, Phil Ginsburg (Newsom's ex-Chief of Staff) put before them. A study of 130 votes on various park issues revealed that 98% of the time the Rec & Park Commission votes UNANIMOUSLY. They serve one man, Newsom, and his cronies.... and San Franciscans are losing control over valuable park assets as Newsom gives sweet deals to his friends.
Check out the deal made on some of the most valuable land in the city, on Embaracadero, right across from the Ferry Bldg. Without notifying the public, the Rec & Park Commission gave it to Newsom's lobbybists and real estates buddies for a bocce ball court... so they now control this valuable public space!
Time to recycle the entire Rec & Park Commission who only serve special interests.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2010 @ 9:50 am

Bad karma, Mark Buell. Your money can't buy you a heart and a soul.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2010 @ 7:25 am

No wonder Newsom killed the Rec Park charter amendment in July that would've insured that at least 3 of the 7 Rec Park commissioners were appointed by the Board of Supervisors.... he was protecting his campaign treasure chest. Has anyone noticed how frantic Rec Park is to pass through all of these development projects before Newsom leaves? Phil Ginsburg has no park experience and Newsom put him in as General Manager. Phil Ginsburg is a slick politico who is trying to keep his hands clean in these battles, yet he is the mastermind for his long time buddy, Newsom. Buell and Ginsburg make quite a pair, ripping off the citizens, for political power.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2010 @ 7:51 am

We don't have the tax dollars, Tim, and we will not for the forseeable future.

The parks DO have to support themselves to a certain extent. Most visitors to GG park, for example, don't go there to commune with the trees. They go for the attractions and the museums. That includes restaurants, vendors, and easy CAR access for most of us who are not 22 and don't care to get relatives to the park on the back of a bike.

Your objection is just another extension of the "privatization" fetish the Guardian has been droning on about for 20 years. And it still isn't true.

The Presidio was NEVER a "park". It was an Army base. Thousands of people lived there and worked there. It is an urban place and has been forever. There's nothing wrong with it supporting itself through commerce.

Posted by Scott on Dec. 03, 2010 @ 10:08 am

Public employee pensions--an issue the SFBG won't touch--are eating the general fund alive. Thus, our parks and other services suffer.

Posted by The Commish on Dec. 03, 2010 @ 11:04 am

They are also part of "common usage", as they are part of the public.

How are you going to enforce throwing them out after a certain time of day or night, genius? Ever been in that park--where are you gonna get the resources for this?

What a bleedin' idiot.

Posted by Vogle on Dec. 03, 2010 @ 3:00 pm

As well as lighting campfires in them? Dumping your garbage in them? Cutting down the trees in them for firewood?

How about putting them in jail? I guarantee after a stint in jail they won't like the idea of using public parks as their private living rooms and toilets anymore.

NYC tried it and guess what? It works.

Homelessness because you "like" living on the streets (aka: using other people's resources) SHOULD be a crime.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 03, 2010 @ 3:20 pm

"using parks as toilets... lighting campfires... dumping garbage... cutting down trees"
No one advocated these things.
No one mentioned them except you.
If New York is so great, please do us San Franciscans a favor and go there.

Have a nice time with your masturbatory debate.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2010 @ 4:27 pm

These are all problems with the impact of the homeless in San Francisco's parks. Your ignorance on the issue doesn't excuse the impact of all of these things in parks which are supposed to be public treasures - not public toilets and sources of firewood for the willfully indigent.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 04, 2010 @ 4:04 pm

We don't have the tax money because we choose not to get it. This is, as I have said repeatedly, a very rich city. We can afford public parks if we decide they're more important than tax breaks for the wealthy.

The Presidio was indeed an army base. But the late Phil Burton made sure that it was included in the GGNRA legislation, so that -- by law -- whenever the Army gave it up, it was to become a park, part of the national park system. It was Nancy Pelosi who decided it could be developed by the likes of that great pauper George Lucas, who got a $50 million tax break by building a commercial center there.

Posted by tim redmond on Dec. 03, 2010 @ 3:54 pm

And guess what, genius? That Lucas development employes 1200 people along with payroll taxes etc. What on Earth is the problem?

"The homeless" are a subset that SF can no longer afford. Time to grow up and move on. SF spends $200 MILLION a year on "homeless services". We can't afford this anymore. No one can.

Sorry if you can't be bothered working. Sorry if you want to panhandle all day while doing drugs and boozing at night. I don't want to pay for it and I WONT pay for it anymore.

The clinically crazy people on the street are not included here and they should be institutinalized for the good of themselves and everyone else. They can't take care of themselves and are constantly victimized on the street. I suggest you talk to people who actually deal with this population to understand what happens to the truly crazy ones out there.

As for the bums, winos, drifters, transients, con-artists: I dont' care. Move on. Or else be prepared to be harrassed into oblivions by cops and defunded by the rest of us.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2010 @ 1:26 pm

"Mirkarimi has also requested that the City Controller examine what impact a gross receipts tax would have on the federal enclave Presidio, where businesses such as George Lucas Film and Sports Basement are exempt from paying The City’s 1.5 percent tax on payroll."

Like you were told above,
Have a nice time with your masturbatory debate.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2010 @ 4:05 pm

Raping Indian burial grounds, selling off San Francisco's parks, while pretending to be "green"?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2010 @ 8:02 am
Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2010 @ 8:19 am

It appears there is very little we can do. Commissioners get appointed for 3 year stints. Perhaps it is not just that these commissioners are doing their assignments for Newsom. I think it more likely that the present commissioners were appointed because these individuals are of the same mind that public spaces should be privatized, that recpark must pay for itself as an agency, that taxes are to pay for the favors weathy buddies request. We need to charge them with treason to the public and kick them out for malfeasance.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2010 @ 8:40 am

The Stow Lake issue is not about privatization. There have been rental boats there continuously for 67 years. The significant issue is rent revenue. The new vendor offered $140,000 guaranteed annual rent and 10% of food sales and the present operator offered $215,000 guaranteed annual rent and 27% of food sales. As these rent figures get indexed over the 20 year lease term, the Park Department is leaving on the table $100,000/year of rent revenue or two million dollars over the 20 years. I guess the Mayor and/or Phil Ginsburg like to vacation in New Mexico!

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2010 @ 9:47 am

Willie did the same thing, his last year in office.... making backroom deals with public assets to pay his campaign debts. The main reason we have a sunshine taskforce in SF is because of what Willie did as he left office.
Newsom has done the same thing....using his ex-Chief of Staff, Phil Ginsburg as Recnpark GEneral Manager to do his bidding. He lays off gardners and rec directors so they have more money to hire more minions for PHil to spin his lies and steal our parks from the poor, elderly and low income groups. The HANC recycling center eviction is one example of how Ginsburg operates.
Ginsburg tried to lay low at this week's RP commission and pretend he had nothing to do with the decisions to evict HANC and the boathouse tenant of 67 years... because he wants to run for public office!!
Ginsburg should resign and be run out of town... wish Newsom would take him with him to Sac but Lt. Gov's only have a tiny staff so probably he won't.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2010 @ 11:50 am

But you forgot to mention the bogus fees at the Arboretum, another sellout.......

Posted by George on Dec. 05, 2010 @ 1:01 pm

Go to to view the RP commission hearing last THursday where RP completely ignored tremendous community opposition. The Haight Ashbury Recycling Center item starts around 2:29 on the tape & Stow Lake Boathouse starts around 5:17. The boathouse community that includes a lot of seniors and disabled persons, were forced to wait over 5 hours to be heard as Buell decided other items should be heard first. A lot of boathouse supporters had to leave early but a large group stayed to the bitter end, only to be given 1 minute time at the podium.Heck, RP had already fixed their votes so why did they even bother with a hearing?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2010 @ 5:25 pm