The Future of the Arboretum is at Stake

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URGENT: RPD Wants To Make The Fee Permanent - Contact Supervisors

In a 2010 vote the S.F. Board of Supervisors voted 6 to 5 to impose a non-resident entry fee at the Arboretum. It was passed under the framework of a severe budget crisis and promoted by a study commissioned from the Botanical Garden Society that a projected revenue of $250K would pay for three gardener positions placed in jeopardy by the Rec and Park Department's budget cutting.

At the time, it was deemed that the fee is to sunset (be removed) in September 2013 and at the same time it was raised that if there was new revenue to the City, the fee could be eliminated.

As of this past May, we know that since the fee was instituted, non-resident attendance has declined by over 50% and resident attendance has declined over 30%.

We also know that the City has a $96M surplus this year, the Rec and Park budget got a 16% increase and that the Real Estate Transfer Tax, promoted in part as allowing for the removal of the fee, has brought the City more than the projected $36 million/year. The justifications used to install this harmful fee no longer apply. Your help is needed - please contact members of the S.F. Board of Supervisors as soon as possible and ask them to remove this harmful fee.

Follow this link to send e-mail to all 11 Supervisors quickly:

Stop Private Development of Public Spaces - Keep Our Public Resources Free

Against the wishes of thousands who signed our petition and hundreds who sent letters to Supervisors, the Recreation and Park Department (RPD) began to charge fees to non-residents on August 7th, 2010 for admission to the Strybing Arboretum and restrict access to this peaceful and beautiful public garden. The Mayor's office, RPD and the S.F. Botanical Society were able to push through an ordinance imposing the fees which was formally approved at the Board of Supervisors. On April 12th, 2011, the Board of Supervisors voted 6-5 in favor of extending the non-resident fees for two years and to sunset on September 30th, 2013. Supervisors Chiu, Wiener, Farrell, Elsbernd, Chu and Cohen were the majority voting in favor of extending the fee program. Supervisors Avalos, Campos, Mar, Mirkarimi and Kim were in the minority voting against. The Supervisors' ordinance that would have ended the fees and provided a solution by supplying Prop N funds was rejected in a 7-4 vote. Supervisors Avalos, Campos, Mar and Mirkarimi were in the minority voting to keep the Arboretum free and open for everyone.

Charging fees transforms the garden into a tourist destination

The Arboretum is a city-wide treasure, a wonderful refuge, an educational resource, and like many important local spaces such as community centers, recreation facilities and neighborhood parks, needs to be protected. It is clear the overwhelming public response demands that the Arboretum remain free as it has been for 69 years and be open to all, both residents and non-residents. The Arboretum is on public land supported by public taxes and funding. Permanent gates and fees will transform this cherished historic garden and urban sanctuary into a revenue-generating destination spot marketed for tourists and one-time visitors. This would alter its intimate nature and would be an irreversible loss to San Francisco.

The RPD's 'enterprise' strategy is limiting access to public resourses such as the Arboretum

The Arboretum fee has made it clear that the policy framework at the RPD must be changed to respect our parks and community resources and to preserve them for everyone, shifting away from the ‘enterprise' focus of using the parks to generate fees and revenues. Regarding the long-term direction of the RPD, Supervisor Mirkarimi introduced a Charter Amendment for the Recreation and Park Commission. This measure would have allowed the Board of Supervisors to appoint half the members on the Commission which are now fully appointed by the Mayor. Though it failed to move forward at the Board of Supervisors, it was a serious attempt to enable the Commission to become accountable, transparent and engaged in public interests and policy-making for our Parks, perhaps countering future attempts at introducing resident fees at the Arboretum. We thank Supervisor Mirkarimi and ask our politicians to re-focus on this constructive effort as soon as possible.

The public interest should be preserved - handle this temporary crisis responsibly

The RPD must deal with this temporary budget crisis without permanently damaging this citizen landmark or by taking away another previously free public resource and reserving it for those who can pay to access it. Our officials need to hear from you about the future of our public resources, please sign our petition by following the link at the top of the page. To sign our petition, please follow the links on this page.


The Keep Arboretum Free Campaign

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