Proposition C - Open Space Fund, Charter Amendment

Voter Guide
March 1, 2000
This measure appeared on the March 2000 San Francisco ballot.

 

What it does

Proposition C is a charter amendment to extend the city's Open Space Fund and establish a Citizen's Advisory Committee to oversee the Fund. It would also allow the Recreation and Parks Department to issue revenue bonds, capture revenues in a dedicated revenue fund, hold onto savings generated from departmental efficiencies, and serve as project manager for its own capital projects.

Why it is on the ballot

Like Proposition A, the neighborhood parks bond, it came out of the SPUR-Neighborhood Parks Council citizen's planning process, was ultimately authored by Supervisor Gavin Newsom, and placed on the ballot by the Board of Supervisors.

Pros

Those who support this measure state:

  • The Recreation and Park Department has earned a reputation as one of the least effective city departments. This measure is needed to turn the department around.
  • This measure will help ensure that public funds given to the park system will be used efficiently.
  • The management reforms-in particular the planning procedures and the incentives for good fiscal management-could stand up as models of government reform to be more widely copied.

Cons

While there is not any organized opposition to Proposition C, those who oppose it might counter:

  • It is not possible to run government well.
  • There are other, more pressing civic problems than parks and recreation.

SPUR's analysis

The city currently has an Open Space Fund, which is set to expire in 2005. It functions as a set-aside from the property tax equal to $0.025 for each $100 in assessed valuation. The city charter directs that the fund be used for acquiring park property, renovating or maintaining park property or facilities, or operating after-school recreation, urban forestry, and community garden programs. Prop. C would replace (and rename) the Open Space Fund at the current set-aside level through 2031. It mandates that 5% of the monies in the fund be spent on property acquisitions.

More broadly, the proposition is an ambitious attempt to reform the Recreation and Park Department, widely viewed as one of the most troubled bureaucracies in the city. The measure first establishes a Park, Recreation and Open Space Fund, controlled by the Recreation and Park Commission, which will receive the annual set-aside.

The measure then establishes incentives for organizational efficiency and revenue generation by the department. It will allow the department to keep-and transfer into the Park, Recreation and Open Space fund-any increases in revenues over the amount currently generated, new revenues from outside sources such as grants, and overall department expenditure savings. In other words, Proposition C will establish incentives to be efficient and frugal.

The charter amendment requires the Recreation and Park Commission to develop five-year plans (updated annually) for 1) the department's strategic plan, 2) a capital plan, and 3) an operational plan to serve as a tool for improving the efficiency of the department. The initial operational plan must be prepared after a performance audit of the department, and periodic performance audits must be conducted thereafter. The status of all of these plans must be publicly reported each year.

In addition, Proposition C would do the following things:

  • Give the Recreation and Park Commission-with the approval of the mayor and the Board of Supervisors-the authority to issue revenue bonds for capital projects. Revenue bonds are backed by anticipated future revenues to a city agency and, except in San Francisco, do not require voter approval. This amendment will delete the voter requirement for Rec and Park revenue bonds. Actual issuance of the bonds must subsequently be approved by the mayor, the Board of Supervisors, and the Recreation and Park Commission.
  • Establish a new Citizens Advisory Committee.
  • Give Rec and Park the authority to manage its own capital projects, rather than relying exclusively on the Department of Public Works.

SPUR helped write Proposition C and has been intimately involved with the process leading up to it. This measure should be viewed analogously to last November's Muni reform: it is a classic good government proposal designed to bring accountability back to a troubled city department. This is a well-written charter amendment that is an essential companion to the bond proposed by Proposition A. Both are necessary to begin the process of restoring San Francisco's neighborhood parks, which are essential to maintaining the quality of life, desirability, and healthy economy of San Francisco.

SPUR recommends a "Yes" vote on Proposition C.