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San Francisco Recreation and Park Department looks to grow after past cuts

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“We are not actually reducing our programs and services

As the Recreation and Park Department works to climb out of an era of service cuts, operations remain hampered by severe staffing shortages, officials said Wednesday.

Department head Phil Ginsburg said that despite the budget challenges, the park system is being spared service cuts in the next two fiscal years.

“We are not actually reducing our programs and services,” Ginsburg said. “Quite to the contrary, we have figured out strategies to grow.”

But during a Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee hearing, Supervisor Scott Wiener highlighted the department’s inadequate staffing. There are about 150 gardeners, half the number of gardeners employed a few decades ago, and three park patrol officers on duty at any given time to maintain and patrol 220 parks, or 4,000 acres.

“I think it is not defensible that we allowed that to happen to the department,” Wiener said.

Rec and Park had to close a $3.4 million deficit next fiscal year and a $6.6 million deficit in the subsequent year.

The department’s current fiscal year budget is $138.5 million, 62 percent of which pays salaries.

There is good and bad news in the fiscal future for the department.

The department’s four parking garages are expected to generate an additional $1.65 million, for a total of $7.34 million, next fiscal year. Special events and other fees are expected to net an additional $950,000 as well.

But the 49ers’ lease at Candlestick, which is bringing $700,000 in revenue growth next fiscal year, will end when the 49ers move to Santa Clara, and the department will lose out on $3.4 million.

In addition, Supervisor London Breed asked about the nonresident fee for the Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park that, according to the legislation, sunsets in September.

He said that the $7 nonresident fee brings in $250,000, and if the board does not extend it there must be “trade-offs.”

“That’s five or six Rec staff,” Ginsburg said.


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