Clarifies that the City and County of San Francisco may use public funds to acquire and/or operate the Golden Gate Park Underground Parking Facility; dissolves the Golden Gate Park Concourse Authority and transfers its responsibilities to the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department; and repeals the voter-enacted Golden Gate Park Revitalization Act of 1998.
What the Measure Would Do
Proposition N would create greater flexibility for the city to manage the existing privately owned Golden Gate Park Underground Parking Facility (Concourse Garage). Currently, the Concourse Garage is managed by the Museum Concourse Community Partnership, which uses revenue from the garage to pay the city for the garage ground lease and to pay remaining debt service on the loan that funded the garage construction. Changes to garage fees and policies are constrained under the current arrangement because garage revenue is used to pay debt service, and changing parking fees can be perceived as putting debt service payments at risk. Allowing the city to subsidize the garage, if necessary, would eliminate this constraint.
Prop. N would also dissolve the Golden Gate Park Concourse Authority, a public agency created primarily to oversee the construction of the Concourse Garage using philanthropic funds. The garage opened in 2005. The authority has not met since 2015 and no longer plays any meaningful role in garage management.
In June 1998, voters approved Proposition J authorizing construction of a parking garage beneath the Golden Gate Park Music Concourse at no public expense. The measure authorized the creation of a public agency, the Golden Gate Park Concourse Authority, to oversee the construction of an 800- to 1,000-space garage using to-be-acquired philanthropic funds. Prop. J explicitly prevents the city from paying for the capital costs of the garage and is ambiguous about whether the city can take on any ongoing debt.
Following the passage of Prop. J, the authority was established to raise private funds to build the garage. When the authority failed to raise adequate funds, the Museum Concourse Community Partnership (MCCP), a nonprofit organization, was incorporated in August 2001 to raise philanthropic funds to build and manage the garage.
In 2004, the city leased the site to MCCP to build the Concourse Garage. To fund the $57 million garage, MCCP raised $30 million in philanthropic donations, and took on $27 million in debt, backed by future garage revenues. MCCP pays approximately $180,000 per month in loan payments for this debt.
The Concourse Garage is controlled by MCCP, which does not have broad experience in garage management, and because MCCP is bound by its obligations to pay back the debt using the parking revenue, garage rates and policies are not set in a manner that best serves the city’s goals for Golden Gate Park. For example, prices may be prohibitive for low-income households.
Strategic management of the Concourse Garage has many potential accessibility benefits for people visiting Golden Gate Park and its attractions. For example, the garage could potentially provide discounted pricing for low-income drivers from San Francisco’s southeastern neighborhoods, which have limited public transit connections to the park. The garage could also be improved to provide more accessibility for people with disabilities by expanding the number of accessible parking spaces and enhancing loading and drop-off zones.
The discussion of improved management of the garage relates to two other ballot measures: Proposition J, which seeks voter affirmation of the protected open space along JFK Promenade, and Proposition I, which asks voters to eliminate the protected open space and allow private cars at most times. In particular, proponents of Prop. I argue that the city would be better off by replacing the protected open space along JFK Promenade with parking for museum employees and the public. SPUR opposes Prop. I and believes that better use of the existing garage, as proposed by this measure, would address concerns about parking near the de Young Museum without eliminating protected open space.
If Prop. N passes, the city could seek to engage parking experts from San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority (SFMTA) to observe garage use and set rates optimally. The SFMTA currently manages four garages owned by the Recreation and Parks Department along with 15 other city-owned public garages, using a demand-responsive approach.
Prop. N was placed on the ballot by Mayor London Breed and requires a simple majority (50% plus one vote) to pass.
This measure opens the possibility for the city to make more efficient use of the Concourse Garage, which could result in lower prices during periods when the garage is not well-used. The city is exploring the potential to offer discounted pricing to lower-income San Franciscans and to enhance access for people with disabilities.
- Prop. N would give the city more flexibility to use the Concourse Garage as a tool to maintain Golden Gate Park access, while still maximizing the safety and active transportation opportunities along JFK Promenade and other routes recently closed to cars.
- The measure would leave flexibility for the city to negotiate better garage policies or purchase of the garage at whatever time might be most advantageous, while not obliging the city to take any action.
- Would eliminate the Golden Gate Park Concourse Authority, an outdated and unnecessary city agency.
- The city is currently protected from any direct financial obligations associated with the Concourse Garage. This measure would open a path for the city to take on new financial obligations relating to repayment and operation of the garage.
Prop. N would create flexibility for the city to eliminate outdated constraints and use the Concourse Garage as a resource to meet a wide range of city goals.
SPUR does not support policies that encourage people who have access to greener and safer travel options to drive and park in Golden Gate Park. However, for those who must drive, the Concourse Garage offers an opportunity for more people to park without interfering with other park activities or eliminating protected open space.