Losing the 49ers to Santa Clara will put a significant dent in the income of The City’s park department, and it is one of the contributing factors to a $10.2 million shortfall that the agency is looking to fill by monetizing elements of San Francisco’s open spaces.
The Recreation and Park Department has yet to release its official budget numbers, but the agency is already projecting that revenue will be $3.3 million lower than expected in the 2013-14 fiscal year and $6.9 million less for the 2014-15 fiscal year. The fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.
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Reduced income from The City’s general fund and low returns on publicly managed golf courses are contributing to the revenue numbers. But the most damaging factor is the 49ers’ decision to leave the city-owned Candlestick Park. The 49ers’ move to Santa Clara will deprive Rec and Park of $3.4 million in rent money and other revenue sources in 2014-15.
To help make up for that lost money, the department plans on maintaining its pursuit of private concession opportunities at public sites. In recent years, Rec and Park has leased out clubhouse facilities to nonprofit groups and eased restrictions on private vendors. Department officials have said that these actions prevent clubhouses and fields from closing. In the past five years, revenue from such ventures has increased from $35 million to $50 million.
Critics of the initiative say the department is overly privatizing The City’s public spaces.
“Whether it’s good times or bad times, the Recreation and Park Department is always looking for excuses to rent out, sell off and monetize San Francisco parks,” said Aaron Peskin, former Board of Supervisors president.
Pursuing these measures provides more opportunities for local businesses and is one component of the department’s revenue plan, said spokeswoman Connie Chan. The department will also streamline its permitting process to allow for more special events at parks and increased playing opportunities at athletic fields.
A preliminary budget presentation will be made at the Rec and Park board of directors meeting Thursday. The department will hold a series of meetings before submitting its proposed budget to the Mayor’s Office on Feb. 21.