monopoly_money.jpgThe San Francisco Board of Supervisors today preliminarily approved a two-year extension of a fee for non-city residents visiting the Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park.

The fee — $7 for adults, $5 for youth and seniors, and $2 for children ages 5 to 11 — had been approved by the board last year for a one-year period and was set to expire at the end of June unless the board decided to extend it.

The board narrowly approved the extension by a 6-5 vote.

The city’s Recreation and Park Department and Mayor Ed Lee had pushed to make the fee permanent, but Board President David Chiu amended the proposal to extend it only through September 2013.

Chiu said, “This has been a difficult issue for all of us,” but said the fee was necessary to help address the city’s budget, which has “structural budget deficits as far as the eye can see.”

The city faces a $306 million deficit that is projected to balloon in coming years, he said.
John Avalos was one of the five supervisors to vote against the proposal.

Avalos said the fee has fallen well short of the $250,000 yearly revenue it was expected to bring in and antagonized residents required to show proof that they lived in the city before entering the park for free.

“Can there just be one fee we don’t raise?” he said.

Supervisor Eric Mar, who also opposed the fee extension, said it could lead to a “slippery slope” that would bring a fee for city residents visiting the garden.

However, Chiu’s amendment to the proposal included language that promised that the board “doesn’t support a resident fee now or ever.”

If the proposal is officially passed next week, the fee will be in effect through September 2013, according to Chiu’s legislative aide Judson True.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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