Supporting the repair and improvement of San Francisco’s neighborhood parks is a classic mom and apple pie issue. Anyone with young kids knows the importance of playground maintenance and upgrades, and visitors to parks like McLaren or Glen Canyon readily understand why it takes money to keep these areas in good repair. That’s why Mayor Lee and all eleven members of the Board of Supervisors have endorsed Prop B, the “Clean and Safe Neighborhood Park” bond, on San Francisco’s November ballot. Yet this political unity does not guarantee Prop B’s passage. Park bonds require a 2/3 vote, and opposition has emerged that could challenge Prop B obtaining this necessary supermajority.
I was surprised and disappointed to see Aaron Peskin and Matt Gonzalez joining longtime anti-government and anti-tenant reactionary Quentin Kopp in a ballot argument against Prop B, a critical measure for the city's parks and playgrounds. It is as if three people out of power in San Francisco got together to show that they are still politically relevant, and seek to prove their influence by denying the public and children in particular quality parks and recreational facilities.
Gonzalez’s opposition to the park bond again puts him at odds with San Francisco voters. In 2008 he ran with Ralph Nader against Obama and Biden, and he then backed both of Jeff Adachi’s failed ballot measures that sought to drastically increase health care costs for public employees.
Kopp was known as the “Town Grouch” for a reason, and has long cloaked his right-wing fiscal agenda under the guise of being a “public watchdog” on spending (Paul Ryan is not the first politician to do such). Kopp craves the limelight, and opposing the park bond gets his name back in the papers.
Peskin is angry over Park and Rec’s support for charging non-resident fees at the Arboretum, its refusal to close down the Sharp Park golf course, and for what he sees as its overall effort to “privatize” city parks. Peskin’s critique of city leadership on parks is joined by those opposed to the creation of artificial turf soccer fields in Golden Gate Park and the replacement of the longtime boat operator at Stow Lake.
Nearly all of the Park and Rec decisions Peskin has complained about were either made or backed by the elected officials chosen by voters to make these decisions. Supervisors Avalos and Campos joined Peskin in opposing some of these actions, yet neither seek to hold playgrounds and parks hostage over these differences.
Other Prop B Opponents
The San Francisco Tenants Union submitted a ballot measure claiming that Prop B is “bad for tenants.” It's hard to understand this conclusion, since tenants are the city residents most likely to use the parks and playgrounds impacted by Prop B; unlike the wealthy, they do not belong to private clubs providing recreation. Most of the city’s children are low to middle-class tenants, so the notion that Prop B could somehow be “bad” for tenants makes little sense.
The Tenants Union also claims that Prop B will raise tenants rents.But I doubt many San Francisco tenants got rent increases due to the expiring park bond that the current measure replaces. Since then-Supervisor Tom Ammiano brokered a compromise on bond passthroughs to tenants, tenant organizations have never opposed a tenant-serving bond for this reason. I'm not clear why a park and playground bond of all measures has altered this precedent.
San Francisco Tomorrow and the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods also oppose Prop B out of privatization concerns. But Prop B’s defeat would only increase Rec and Park’s dependence on private donors.
After all, if the bond is defeated, where else would the money come from to repair and improve parks and recreation areas? And whereas the public bond designates money to specific sites selected through a public process, private donors will pick and choose what parks and playgrounds to fund.
I don’t think that those opposing Prop B on privatization grounds have thought this argument through to its logical conclusion. Otherwise, they would support a publicly funded strategy for improving parks and playgrounds.
Assume opponents get the 34% of voters they need to defeat Prop B. How does this improve parks and playgrounds in the city?
It doesn’t. Trails will erode, play structures deteriorate, and park bathrooms will remain unrenovated.
The No on B arguments offer nothing to help parks other than the hope that defeating the measure will force city officials and their appointees to implement the political agenda of the No on B minority.
That’s not going to happen. Neither the mayor, supervisors nor voters will allow the city's parks and playground to be held hostage by a 34% electoral minority.
Prop B opponents remind me of Congressional Republicans who claim AMTRAK mismanagement justifies cutting public transit funding. These cutbacks over the years have proved the opposite, and anyone who tells you that “smart” managers can increase the number of trains, revive aged park irrigation equipment or create new playfields without money has no idea what they are talking about.
The sites to be improved by Prop B can be found on the bond proposal’s website
Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron