Seeking Green

Funding public parks in a challenging financial climate
SPUR Report
September 8, 2011
Image courtesy Flickr user ShawnaScottPhoto

San Francisco’s parks are among the city’s most treasured assets — but they’re also in serious financial trouble. The city’s Recreation and Parks Department (RPD) has lost more than 25 percent of its General Fund revenue in just five years. Meanwhile, labor costs have gone up 34 percent. This mix of factors has forced the department to make dramatic cuts. The RPD has lost 150 staff positions in the past seven years, and deferred maintenance costs have reached $1.4 billion.

The RPD’s current annual budget is $127.9 million. SPUR’s task force found that the department needs an additional $30 to $35 million each year in order to retain 24-hour safety patrols, maintain the health of park trees and plants, and keep facilities open and programs operating. In this SPUR Report, we offer 11 recommendations to stabilize current funding and fill the additional need using three key strategies: strengthen public financing, develop philanthropy into a more robust resource, and explore new ways to generate revenue through park activities.
 

About the Authors: 

The SPUR Board of Directors reviewed, debated and adopted this report as official policy on  July 20, 2011.

Seeking Green was made possible by the generous support of the Walter and Elise Haas Foundation. Special thanks to the staff of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department.

SPUR staff: Corey Marshall

SPUR RPD Revenue Task Force: Mark Buell (Chair), Katie Albright, London Breed, Jim Chappell, Michael Cohen, Vince Courtney, Gia Daniller, Kim Drew, Robert Gamble, Dave Hartley, Dave Holland, Karen Kidwell, Jim Lazarus, John Madden, Richard Magary, Larry McNesby, Gabriel Metcalf, Greg Moore, Kelly Quirke, Jonathan Rewers, Loring Sagan, Glenn Snyder, Dan Safier and Meredith Thomas