Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond:
San Franciscans need to know the facts
By Jeffrey Leibovitz
October 3, 2007
I am offering a few words to your readers about the proposed
$185 million Park bond measure set to go on the February 2008
ballot if certain Supervisors and our Mayor have their way.
Our politicians may want to reconsider this proposal before placing
it on the ballot because it will take a two-thirds voter approval
to pass. It is too late to have any impact on the proposed legislation,
but San Franciscans should know the facts before supporting this
faulty legislation with their vote.
The misleading name chosen for the ballot measure is "2008
Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond." This bond of which
$33.5 million goes to the Port is being rushed to the February
The City's parks need over a $ billion dollars in repairs. There
is no question or argument about the needs and poor condition
of some of our parks, and we can agree that the Rec. & Park
Department did a very poor job of administrating the last $110
million dollars we gave them.
That money was gone in a flash, leaving most of us in the lurch.
This time around the government wants voters to believe that
acceptable changes have been made to guarantee oversight and accountability
are built into this current proposed bond measure. However Rec.&
Park has already started out on the wrong foot by not considering
numerous Neighborhood Parks in allocating the bulk of the resources
in this new bond.
Now they want us to disregard our own park needs and believe
that they can oversee their chosen projects with impunity. This
is highly questionable given that there is no real citizen's oversight
committee to guarantee how the funds will be spent. The bond legislation
names the appointed Port Commission, the hand picked Bond Oversight
Committee, Rec. & Park Department and the Board of Supervisors,
as the overseers.
If the bond is passed we will have to put our faith in our local
government once again. Wouldn't trustworthiness with our money
be more readily restored if our small parks were taken care of
now, rather than who knows when in the future?
The bulk of this current bond money has been allocated to disproportionately
expensive restoration of Rec. Centers, bathrooms, and Port projects
for which there are better solutions. The less expensive, but
more widespread improvements to citywide parks have, for the most
part, been overlooked.
Ninety percent of the Neighborhood Parks have been left out of
the bond measure because Rec. & Park has devised their own
priority list. They are going to split this money among 12 out
of 123 parks in their system. Some of the park restoration projects
have been completed over the years so not all Neighborhood Parks
are in need, but most of our parks and the advocates who have
been working and waiting for years for improvements, have once
again been overlooked. This is putting the cart before the horse
and not a good way to gain the needed support to pass a bond measure
that needs two-thirds voter support.
If we in the neighborhoods had been considered as first priority
for funding, then, yes, we would be willing to support future
bonds measures for this current list prioritized by Rec. &
The next plan for a future bond will be in 2013! It is an affront
to all of us who have been involved to rush this bond on to the
February ballot without more public consideration and vetting
among park advocates, as opposed to the rubber-stamping it has
received from political appointees, city agencies and state and
Port property has never been part of the Rec. & Park responsibility,
and now it has been added to the roster, jumping ahead of and
competing with the Neighborhood Parks that have been waiting decades
for improvements. But what the hell when you can decide who gets
to spend what and where, you might as well get the most out of
We can assume that District 3 voters will approve the bond. Remember
this is really Supervisor Peskin's bond proposal. Isn't this what
a District Supervisor's job is all about, bringing home the bacon
to their own part of the city?
There are no Neighborhood Parks in District 6 identified in this
bond proposal. The Brannan Street Wharf is underfunded with only
$3 million because it actually needs $5 million dollars to complete
it. Conversely, the author of the bond measure, Supervisor Peskin,
has two of the largest projects allocated for funding, as was
the case with the previous bond measure.
District 3 will benefit from $22.2 million dollars spent on those
projects, $14.2 million for the Chinese Rec. center, and $8 million
for Port property - Pier 43 - a Fisherman's Wharf tourist attraction.
In his introduction at the Board, Supervisor Peskin said that
this bond measure would not add any new projects, but that it
was designed to take care of what we already have in the city's
park system. Apparently he did not read his own legislation. "Acquisitions"
is mentioned at least 6 times in his legislation. There was no
citizen selection committee to decide if the Port should jump
ahead of and compete with Neighborhood Parks for scarce funding.
If this isn't political, I don't know what is. The Port muscles
their way in for an allocation of over $30 million dollars and
their administrative decisions on spending were made by Port staff
with no public input, no hearings, nada... zip...nothing.
Also pertaining to the Port properties, the bond states that
none of the "projects" need CEQA approval, or an Environmental
Impact Report (EIR) and thus no money is to be allocated for this
purpose. However the City attorney has confirmed that CEQA guidelines
and approvals would be necessary. With no CEQA funding in the
bond, who will pay for the EIR? Port projects could be rendered
moot. Why is this fact being ignored by the Board?
In his opening remarks supporting the proposed park bond Supervisor
Peskin said that "there are no new projects in this bond
proposal." Mr. Peskin failed to consider adding Port projects
to the budget and at the staggering cost of $33.5 million dollars
with $8 million for the reconstruction of a Fisherman's Wharf
tourist attraction, Pier 43. If this is not "pork barrel"
legislation and backroom wheeling and dealing, then I don't know
Mr. Peskin assumes the underfunded Port projects in District
6 are as good as local Neighborhood Parks, one in South Beach
and the others in Mission Bay. Sorry, I do not consider Port property
to be local Neighborhood Parks. The Port guidelines have no requirements
for public vetting as our Rec. & Park guidelines require,
and all of the Port projects constitute new acquisition, contrary
to Supervisors Peskin's stated objectives.
Since the Port has its own bonding capacity, it is a dirty trick
to glom on to a Rec. & Park bond measure and eat up $33.5
million dollars that should be allocated for Neighborhood Parks.
I cannot see why any resident in District 6 would vote for this
bond. The Tenderloin and SoMa parks are nowhere to be found in
this proposal, yet the Mayor's Office of Housing wants to add
tens of thousands of affordable housing units into SoMa.
District 6 has the least amount of parks and open space of any
other district in the city. Sorry, but I find it very difficult
to support a bond proposal that does not address the pressing
needs of this growing district. District 6 has been overlooked
for far too long, but when it comes to trying to solve the housing
crises in San Francisco, this is where the action is. People in
District 6 should be outraged that there is no money for park
improvements or new park acquisition in this new bond proposal.
One more fact is important to consider in our district which
is 90% tenants. Because previous bonds are expiring, if this bond
fails, rent controlled tenants will see their rents go down and
property owners tax bills will be reduced.
As a park advocate and neighborhood activist I, and thousands
of committed San Franciscans, have spent countless hours and many
years going to meetings and working with citizens and different
City departments to get basic maintenance and improvements for
our small Neighborhood Parks. As is the case with many other city
Neighborhood Parks, we have been encouraged to stay involved and
have been promised repairs and improvements to our small Neighborhood
Parks, to what end?
The Eastern Neighborhoods are growing exponentially faster than
any other part of San Francisco, yet our Neighborhood Park, South
Park, is not on any one's list, and it has been passed over once
again, like most of the cities numerous small Neighborhood Parks.
We are not alone in San Francisco when it comes to promises made
and promises broken by Rec. & Park. But those in control can
steer the money to their comrades, and decide which parks and
improvements are necessary, as is the case with Port property,
Pier 43 at Fisherman's Wharf.
Instead of funding a few Port projects, there are at least 33
Neighborhood Parks that would be completely restored if given
$ 1 million dollars a piece, but the bigger projects always suck
up all the money because that is Rec. & Park's priority. The
longer they take to fix our small parks, the more expensive it
will be, thus putting forever out of reach any hope for improvements.
I would be happy to go along with these current plans in the future
if Rec. & Park fixes our Neighborhood Parks first. After all,
it is our money they are asking us to spend, and it is we who
Go ahead and keep ignoring us, Rec. & Park. Digging holes
is not being reserved for planting trees.
The Board of Supervisors will take public comments on this item
one more time on Wed. October 3, 2007 during the Budget and Finance
Committee hearing. Your comments, of course, are always welcomed.
The Supervisors need to hear what park advocates and park users
have to say, and maybe this time they will listen.
Be prepared to be admonished if you disagree with the Chair of
the committee. Our politicians tend to forget that they were mere
citizens at one time and had to take time off of work to give
public testimony on issues that they cared about.
Now for one former citizen in particular, it appears to be about
bringing home the bacon for his constituents.