Walking or biking through the trails of Golden Gate Park, it can be easy to wonder what all the fuss is about. Budget battles and controversies over park concessions are a foreign concept when meandering past the botanical gardens, running in Kezar Stadium or picking up your children at an afterschool program. Honestly? Parks in San Francisco look pretty good.
While much of life within our parks remains serene, the politics of parks funding is unfortunately anything but. Public funding has been dramatically reduced in recent years; labor costs are skyrocketing while staffing is in decline; and earned revenue is increasing as a percentage of the department’s budget — in spite of coordinated opposition. And these trends are not unique to San Francisco: Parks departments across the region, state and country are also cutting costs and reducing services to maintain access to open space.
In our latest report, Seeking Green, SPUR has taken a hard look at the many factors that make funding San Francisco’s parks so difficult: diminishing public funds, political forces that prevent raising new revenues, intense community pressure to provide services and, more recently, a recession of historic proportions. How can the Recreation and Parks Department navigate these competing pressures to maintain services and care for our parks so they can stand the test of time?
Our task force found 11 ways to solve San Francisco’s parks funding crisis, from stabilizing public financing to strengthening philanthropy to expanding opportunities to earn revenue within the parks.