Officials won’t prune San Francisco Botanical Garden fees for nonresidents 

Out-of-towners will have to continue to pay to enter the Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park after money won out Tuesday over concerns the charge was ruining one of San Francisco’s jewels.

A fee of $7 for a nonresident to enter the garden was imposed about eight months ago to generate revenue for the Recreation and Park Department as it struggles, along with other city departments, to fund its operations during years of budget deficits.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted 6-5 to approve the fee for at least two more years. Supervisors Jane Kim, Eric Mar, Ross Mirkarimi, John Avalos and David Campos opposed the fee extension.

“The [revenues] are well below what we expected. We know attendance is way down,” Avalos said. “Can there just be one fee that we are not going to impose on people?”

The fee was set to expire June 30, but the department and Mayor Ed Lee requested an extension.

“In a perfect world, we shouldn’t have to charge anyone to enjoy the beauty of our gardens and our parks,” said Board of Supervisors President David Chiu. “We don’t live in a perfect world. We have structural budget deficits as far as the eye can see.”

The department had initially projected collecting $650,000 in entry fees for the fiscal year. But only $355,920 will be collected. Administration of the fee costs 59 cents on every dollar.

Under an agreement with the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society, which oversees the 55-acre garden, the department receives $250,000 annually.

The department says the number of visitors will increase next fiscal year, and projects generating a total of $542,055.

Rec and Park Director Phil Ginsburg has said the fee “is a policy choice which is necessary,” Ginsburg said.

“Every dollar we earn is a dollar in service we do not have to cut,” he said.

Those policy choices, however, are raising concerns about how far the department will go to raise revenues.

Mirkarimi called the fee “creeping privatization” and a “sinkhole for other strategies to come.”

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

 

Cost to visit Botanical Garden

San Francisco residents Free
Nonresident adults $7
Nonresident youth 12-17 and seniors over 65 $5
Nonresident children 5-11 $2
Nonresident families $15
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