Supervisor Mark Farrell Announces June 2016 Ballot Initiative to Create Sustainable Revenue Source for San Francisco’s Parks and Open Spaces

SAN FRANCISCO – Today, Supervisor Mark Farrell announced his intent to introduce a ballot initiative for the June 2016 Presidential Primary Election to create a sustainable revenue source for San Francisco’s parks and open spaces that will address critical infrastructure and open space acquisition needs. The ballot initiative is expected to address $40-$45 million in identified needs.

Supervisor Mark Farrell Announces June 2016 Ballot Initiative to Create Sustainable Revenue Source for San Francisco’s Parks and Open Spaces

SAN FRANCISCO – Today, Supervisor Mark Farrell announced his intent to introduce a ballot initiative for the June 2016 Presidential Primary Election to create a sustainable revenue source for San Francisco’s parks and open spaces that will address critical infrastructure and open space acquisition needs. The ballot initiative is expected to address $40-$45 million in identified needs.

“Our world-class parks and open spaces deserve a sustainable funding source to make badly needed improvements and upgrades from everything to fixing the broken swing, the overgrown trail, and adding more park patrol officers,” said Supervisor Mark Farrell. “Parks and open spaces contribute to the high quality of life that we enjoy in San Francisco, and I want to ensure that as our City continues to grow that future generations of San Franciscans do not have to worry about whether we will add more open space, or whether we’ll be able to replace the rusty monkey bars at their neighborhood park.”

In 2000, San Francisco voters created the City’s Open Space Fund through a charter amendment that passed with 89% of the vote. The Open Space Fund sets aside $2.5 cents of tax due on $100 of property value into an account dedicated for parks and open spaces needs and was intended to be in addition to, and not in place of funds that are normally budgeted to the Recreation and Parks Department through the City’s General Fund. Unfortunately, the promise of additional revenue from the Open Space Fund has not kept up with the Recreation and Parks Department needs for critical infrastructure improvements and new open space acquisitions.

In the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association’s (SPUR) 2011 report “Seeking Green,” SPUR’s taskforce found in 2011 that the Department needed an additional $30-$35 million each year in order to retain 24-hour park patrol, maintain the health of park trees and plants, and keep facilities open and programs operating. The needs for the Department have grown since 2011.

New analysis from the San Francisco Parks Alliance that builds on SPUR’s 2011 report shows how overall funding for the Recreation and Parks Department has not kept pace even during a period when San Francisco’s local economy is strong and showing further signs of growth. In 2000, the Recreation and Parks Department received 2.1 percent of the General Fund, and in fiscal year 2014-15, the Department only received 1.3 percent of the General Fund. Over the last 15-years, San Francisco’s budget has grown by 45 percent, but the Department’s budget has only grown by 30 percent.

“In neighborhood meeting after neighborhood meeting, I am hearing overwhelmingly from residents that they want the nuts and bolts issues addressed in their neighborhood parks and open spaces,” said Supervisor Mark Farrell. “Parks and open spaces provide numerous economic and health benefits for our residents and City, and our community-driven ballot measure will ensure that those benefits continue for our residents and visitors for generations to come.”

"I am grateful to Supervisor Farrell and the Parks Alliance for their efforts to ensure our parks remain top-notch," said Phil Ginsburg, General Manager of the Recreation and Parks Department. "Great parks are a necessity in an urban environment." 

Over the past two months, in conjunction with San Francisco Parks Alliance staff, Supervisor Farrell has gained input directly from residents about the needs they would like to see addressed by the ballot initiative in their neighborhood parks by attending neighborhood association meetings in every Supervisorial District across the City in order to craft a community-driven ballot initiative that will earn broad support. Overwhelmingly, City residents want the sustainable revenue source created through the ballot initiative to address everyday infrastructure needs and improvements in their parks and open spaces that will enhance the user experience and quality of our parks and open spaces for residents and visitors.

“Our recently released “Still Seeking Green” report clearly shows that the Recreation and Parks Department budget has not kept pace with the needs we see in our neighborhood parks and open spaces across the City,” said Matt O’Grady, CEO of the San Francisco Parks Alliance. “By working directly with neighbors, Supervisor Farrell, and the Department, we are crafting a sustainable revenue source that will address the everyday needs residents expect to see in their parks and open spaces.”

The Controller’s Office is also currently working on a needs assessment report for the Recreation and Parks Department that will help to clearly identify issues that need to be addressed. The Controller’s report will be released publicly at the end of August, and Supervisor Farrell will use the analysis provided in the report to also guide in the drafting of his ballot initiative.

Supervisor Farrell intends to keep meeting with community groups and neighborhood associations to gain further input from residents about the needs they would like to see addressed in their parks and open spaces before formally introducing the initiative. Residents who are unable to attend their local neighborhood meetings can fill out their San Francisco “Park Priorities” in a survey hosted by the San Francisco Parks Alliance to let Supervisor Farrell and the City know their top priorities. Supervisor Farrell intends to formally introduce his ballot initiative creating a sustainable revenue source for the Department at the September 15, 2015 meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

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