Previously: How Much Is Too Much Involvement In Political Process For SF’s Recreation and Park Department?

Golden_Gate_Park_1906.jpgA ballot measure designed to prevent the privatization of San Francisco’s public parks drew criticism from city officials today at a Board of Supervisors committee hearing, but also brought a large crowd to City Hall in support of the proposal.

The Parks for the Public measure, which four supervisors submitted for the November ballot, would prevent entry fees from being instituted at parks that are currently free and stop them from being leased to private entities.

The proposal was discussed at a meeting of the Board of Supervisors’ rules committee, where John Avalos, one of the four supervisors who submitted the measure, said it was a response to “finding (that) we’re losing access to our parks in many different ways.”

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd criticized the method of putting it on the November ballot, saying it was “an attempt to ignore the legislative process.”

A measure can be submitted to the ballot with the support of at least four supervisors without going through the normal process of hearings and study by the Board of Supervisors and other city departments.

Elsbernd said bypassing that left a measure with unclear wording that “presents an incomplete story.”

Supervisor Mark Farrell also questioned whether the measure’s wording about leasing could affect the city’s planning for city-owned property like Marina Green during the upcoming America’s Cup sailing races.

San Francisco Recreation and Park Department Director Phil Ginsburg spoke at the hearing, saying the department has had $43 million in general fund cuts in the past seven years, and preventing increased revenue opportunities will only result in a decrease in programs provided by the city in the future.

However, many members of the public spoke in favor of the proposal, including Katherine Howard, who said she worried about “the tendency toward privatization and commercialization.”

Howard wore a hat with a big windmill on it, signifying a miniature golf course, one of the ideas floated by city officials for Golden Gate Park.

She said, “It’s really important that we have parts of the city that people feel are precious … and are protected from short-sighted development.”

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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