Ballot Measure Would Set Aside City Funds for Parks

San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell introduced a ballot measure this week that he said could generate an additional $350 million for city parks over the next 15 years.

The charter amendment, introduced Tuesday for the June 2016 ballot, would require the city to set aside additional funds for parks starting with $3 million in the first year to address an ongoing funding shortfall for maintenance, staffing, security and facility access, according to Farrell. The measure does not create a new funding source.

“Funding for our park system has not kept up with the demand from residents,” Farrell said in a statement.

“San Francisco parks drive the high quality of life that we enjoy in San Francisco, and I want to ensure that future generations of San Franciscans continue to enjoy a world-class park system throughout the City,” he said.

Farrell developed the measure with the San Francisco Parks Alliance, which in July released a report estimating city parks needed an additional $40 to $45 million annually to meet needs including deferred maintenance, expanded access to recreational facilities, additional arborists and gardeners and improved security.

San Francisco voters approved an Open Space Fund in 2000 earmarking 2.5 cents of every 100 dollars of assessed property value for city parks, according to the Parks Alliance report.

The funding generated by the fund, around $47.8 million in the 2015-2016 fiscal year, was supposed to supplement rather than replace city funding, with 5 percent set aside each year for new park acquisition.

In practice, however, that has not happened. City funding for parks, currently around $50 million, has actually dropped sharply from 2.1 percent of the general fund in 2000 to 1.2 percent in recent years, the report found. While the city’s budget has grown 45 percent over the past 15 years, the parks budget has only grown by 30 percent.

The parks initiative is co-sponsored by supervisors Scott Wiener, Julie Christensen, Katy Tang, Eric Mar, Norman Yee and Mayor Ed Lee.

Sara Gaiser, Bay City News

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