Responding to an outpouring of condemnation from the general public, five members of the Board of Supervisors have put forth a resolution that would effectively kill the Recreation and Parks Department's program of renting out chunks of grass in San Francisco's parks. If passed, the Chronicle reports that grass in city parks would, for the most part, go back to being available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The progressive bloc of supervisors Jane Kim, Aaron Peskin, John Avalos, Norman Yee, and David Campos are all backing the resolution, which came about after SFist broke the story that Rec and Parks was renting out swaths of Dolores Park grass (the Chron, in error, attributes the public outrage that sparked the proposed resolution to a "social media" post showing the above pictured sign). Rec and Parks quickly backtracked, deciding not to extend the pilot rental program past its July endpoint, but that decision applied only to Dolores — leaving many of the other parks in the city up for rent.
To be clear, picnic tables and BBQ areas in SF parks have long had reservations, but what was new and controversial was carving out squares of the main lawn at Dolores for private events.
“I find it very troubling that we have even considered a proposal to charge the general public to enjoy the grass in Dolores Park, or any other parks for that matter,” Aaron Peskin told the paper. “We all have the right to enjoy the city’s precious open space and picnic without having every square foot and blade of grass privatized and micromanaged.”
Apparently many people agreed with Peskin, as a petition calling for an end to the program gathered over 18,000 signatures.
Rec and Parks Director Phil Ginsburg, meanwhile, told the Chronicle that revenue gained from renting out green space in the parks is vital to the Department's operating budget. "Public-private partnerships have helped reinvigorate our system," he observed. "We need to fund our park system, and what we do is no different than New York City or Chicago."
Ginsburg, in his comments, made no mention of Proposition B — the recently passed measure that is slated to increase Rec and Parks' funding by $3 million every year for the next 10 years. This is perhaps unsurprising, as the department took in $362,000 last year from group picnic permits — an amount dwarfed by the recent increase to his agency's budget.
The Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on the final resolution this summer.