Birthday parties, weddings could be banned in San Francisco parks

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A ballot measure that seeks to prohibit the commercialization of San Francisco parks could prevent smaller celebrations such as birthday parties, weddings and picnics, according to San Francisco Recreation and Park Department officials.

But supporters of the measure say the claims are not true.

The measure, approved by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for the November ballot, seeks to restore access to clubhouses to the public, along with ensure that current facilities or events that don’t have entry fees remain that way.

But the ordinance also states that “all recreation facilities, including but not limited to clubhouses, not leased on the effective date of this measure, shall not be leased to private entities but shall remain open and accessibility to the public,” which is a problem line to opponents.

Sarah Ballard, spokeswoman for Rec and Park, said the main issue with the ordinance is that the wording is not clear.

“Our concern is it will impact birthday parties, picnic permits, weddings and beloved civic events like gay pride and Chinese New Year,” she said.

There are 47 clubhouses in The City’s 220 parks. Of those, five are under construction and another seven are vacant. The remaining 35 are in partnership agreements to offer a variety of programming to different communities.

However, measure supporter Supervisor John Avalos said the initiative has no intention of preventing birthday parties.

“This measure doesn’t even attempt to take that away,” he said. “It’s a fee that already exists. The measure itself draws a line where we have current facilities leased out to nonprofits and any facilities not leased out could be leased out.”

Avalos said the larger picture is that San Francisco is not spending enough on essential departments such as Rec and Park.

“The department impacts so many people in San Francisco,” Avalos said. “The essential flaw is they need much more general fund support so Rec and Park doesn’t have to go through plans of privatization.”

According to Ballard, Rec and Park was forced to lay off 50 employees last fiscal year in order to bridge part of the $45 million they’ve had to cut from the department budget over the last six years.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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