Update on Fee Performance

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REVENUE SHORTFALLS MEAN THE TIME HAS COME
TO DISCONTINUE THE ARBORETUM FEE

New information from the Recreation and Park Department (RPD) reveals that the non-resident fee at the Arboretum and Botanical Garden is performing poorly. Given the devastating impact of this fee on non-resident attendance, the facts argue it is time to discontinue the fee and provide support for ordinance #110113 currently sponsored by Supervisors Avalos, Mirkarimi, Mar, Kim and Campos.

After 7 months, only $54,000 of the promised $250,000 in income has been generated: For the year RPD estimates a roughly 38% revenue shortfall from what was promised to convince Supervisors about the fee. RPD proposes to still deliver $250,000 of income but this is dependent on an unsustainable subsidy from the Botanical Society and accounting maneuvers such as counting membership dues as ticket sales at the gate.

Gate counts suggest that non-resident visitation is down 70% and resident attendance is down 36% from pre-fee estimates: The severe drop in attendance means that many Bay Area visitors are permanently turned-off from the Arboretum. Hours of operation are down to 10am to 4pm since operating the gates now costs money - prior to the fee, gates were often open before 9 am, and closed very late afternoon. All this is a grave disservice to the legacy of the Arboretum, to the citizens of San Francisco and to all who visit our city.

RPD’s forecasts regarding the fee have proven unreliable and to again depend on them to formulate policy would be careless: For next year's, RPD is counting on a highly improbable 50% increase in non-resident visitors to make the program profitable. Our Mayor and Supervisors must direct the RPD to find a solution that keeps the Arboretum free and open to all as before and reverse the goal of converting it to a revenue-generating tourist attraction.

The Arboretum is a special public garden occupying 5.5% of the Golden Gate Park and has been operated free for 70 years. The financial benefit of the fee is too little and the harm to the Arboretum is too great to follow RPD’s goal of making this under-performing fee program permanent. Eventually, RPD’s goal is to institute fees for all – including residents.

Keep Arboretum Free urges RPD, the Mayor and our Supervisors to work with the community to reverse the fee and find sustainable sources of funding for the RPD. A first step would be to implement ordinance 110113 to remove the fee program and halt the damage being done to the Arboretum.

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