PRESS RELEASE: Board of Supervisors Place Supervisor Mark Farrell’s Ballot Initiative to Ensure Clean and Safe Parks on the June 2016 Ballot
SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted today to place Supervisor Mark Farrell’s Charter Amendment for the June 7, 2016 election that will guarantee just over $1 billion in new funding for the Recreation and Parks Department over 30-years to ensure clean and safe parks and open spaces across San Francisco.
“This June will represent an historic opportunity in San Francisco to both ensure increased funding and financial stability for our park system so the next generation of San Franciscans will inherit vibrant, safe and clean parks in every neighborhood,” said Supervisor Mark Farrell. “As a father of three young children, I can’t wait to fight for this funding, so that families and residents across our City can see needed improvements in their neighborhood parks to include everything from fixing the broken swing, to creating more programming options, to better maintaining all the park assets we currently enjoy.”
In 2000, San Francisco voters created the City’s Open Space Fund 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, maintenance, and new open space acquisitions.
The City’s Open Space Fund was set to expire in 15-years, and Supervisor Farrell’s initiative would extend the fund for 30-years until 2045–46. Under Supervisor Farrell’s proposal, the General Fund contributions to the Recreation and Park Department will gradually increase over time and mandate that funding levels to the Department not drop below the 2015–16 General Fund contribution levels to the Department.
“We are deeply grateful to Supervisor Farrell, and the broad coalition behind this measure, for supporting sustainable funding for parks and recreation programming,” said Recreation and Parks Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg. “A stable budget means we can consistently provide quality programs, parks and facilities to all San Franciscans.”
“San Franciscans are passionate about their parks, playgrounds, and open spaces,” said Matt O’Grady, Chief Executive Officer of the San Francisco Parks Alliance. “This measure provides the stable, protected revenue needed to ensure every resident has access to clean, safe, fun and beautiful parks and recreation system in every neighborhood.”
Recent analysis from the San Francisco Parks Alliance 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. 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.
Recent analysis from the Controller’s office also clearly shows the issues that need to be addressed in San Francisco’s parks and open spaces system. The Recreation and Parks Department maintenance program is nearly entirely request or emergency driven, with 99% of work orders in fiscal year 2013–14 devoted to completing over 15,000 individual requests and emergency driven jobs. Graffiti, plumbing, and equipment requests were the most common request types for this past year. Additionally, less than 1% of structural maintenance staff time was available this past year for preventative maintenance work. The report found that this imbalance between request, emergency, and preventative maintenance will degrade the condition of the department’s assets over time without more funding to address the various needs.
“Parks enhance the quality of life for our residents and provide numerous economic and health benefits — they deserve a sustainable revenue source to ensure that our world-class parks system continues to shine,” said Supervisor Mark Farrell.
In true consensus fashion, Supervisor Farrell worked closely with the San Francisco Parks Alliance, community members, park advocates, and Supervisor John Avalos to further amend the legislation in multiple committee hearings to guarantee significantly more dedicated funding than initially proposed and to create new accountability, equity, and transparency measures tied to the new funding and the Department’s long-term plans and operations. The changes described above represent over 15 separate amendments to the initial proposal since it was introduced that strengthen the legislation and reflect the diversity of parks priorities on the Board of Supervisors and in the public.
Supervisor Farrell’s initiative will now be placed on the June 7, 2016 ballot, and will need above 50% of the vote to pass.