Parks are one of our city’s great equalizers. Residents of any age group, demographic, and from any neighborhood can access and use any city park that they wish. From Golden Gate Park to Crissy Field and Dolores Park — these iconic parks provide a place for recreation and relaxation, and they serve as a point of pride for our city and contribute to the high quality of life that we enjoy and are working to improve.
As our city’s population continues to grow and with record amounts of tourism, the use of our parks is at an all-time high. And for good reason: We have a world-class parks system. During my tenure as supervisor, I have seen firsthand the tireless efforts by our Recreation and Park Department to address the nuts-and-bolts issues that our residents deserve and expect to see fixed. Unfortunately, funding for our Recreation and Park Department since the devastating budget cuts experienced during the Great Recession has not kept pace with the issues that need to be addressed by the department.
One of the city’s key parks advocacy partners — the San Francisco Parks Alliance — released a comprehensive analysis recently that shows how the overall funding for the Rec and Park Department has not kept pace with the need even during a period when our local economy is strong and showing further signs of growth. For example, in 2000, the department received 2.1 percent of the General Fund, and in the past year, the department received only 1.3 percent of the General Fund.
Additionally, recent analysis from our controller’s office shows that the department’s maintenance program is nearly entirely request- or emergency-driven, with 99 percent of the work orders in the past year devoted to completing more than 15,000 individual requests or emergency-driven jobs. That means in the past year that only 1 percent of the work orders were preventative fixes. Those percentages clearly show that we are having a difficult time maintaining the parks currently in our system, let alone new additions that we are looking to and need to make. Without having the adequate resources to fix the nuts-and-bolts issues, it is only going to grow more expensive over time if we do not act.
Given the structural budget issues that exist in our neighborhood parks, I believe we needed to act to ensure clean and safe neighborhood parks for every neighborhood. Over the past three months, I have attended community and
neighborhood association meetings across the entire city to hear directly from residents about what they would like to see addressed in their neighborhood parks, with the intention of introducing a community-driven ballot initiative that would create a sustainable revenue source for the department to ensure clean and safe neighborhood parks for years to come.
In neighborhood meeting after neighborhood meeting, I have heard overwhelmingly from residents that they want to see the nuts-and-bolts issues addressed, which means fixing the broken swing, clearing the overgrown trail, tightening the leaking water fountain, and adding more programming options. I took their feedback and recently introduced a ballot initiative for the June 2016 election that would guarantee just over $350 million in new funding for the department over the next 15 years to address its structural budget shortfall and to ensure clean and safe parks and open spaces across San Francisco. This measure already has the necessary support at the Board of Supervisors to be placed on the ballot, as well as the support of Mayor Ed Lee.
As a native San Franciscan and father of three, I want to ensure that our parks system remains world-class, and that as a city we meet the expectations of our residents for generations to come. I am an advocate and strong supporter of our parks and a firm believer that clean and safe parks enhance the quality of life for our residents. Our entire parks system deserves a sustainable funding source to make the badly needed improvements and upgrades that we should be making as a city, and next June I hope you will join me and many others in supporting San Francisco’s parks.