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SF to spend $4M to rebuild ‘burned to the ground’ Golden Gate Park clubhouse

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It will cost $4 million to replace the golf clubhouse in Golden Gate Park that was destroyed by fire on July 2. (Courtesy SFFD)

After a popular Golden Gate Park clubhouse was burned down, San Francisco plans to rebuild it for $4 million.

Under the plan, which was approved by the Capital Planning Committee last week, a new clubhouse would open in January 2021.

The clubhouse is for the 9-hole, par 3 course at Golden Gate Park and is leased from the Recreation and Park Department by the Golden Gate Park Golf Development Foundation, a nonprofit organization. The site is also home to the First Tee San Francisco program, which encourages youth to learn the sport.

A fire on July 2 destroyed the clubhouse on the western edge of the park. The City re-opened the site 10 days later, using a temporary facility. Investigators suspect the fire was intentionally set. The cause is “believed to be a fire set on the wall next to the clubhouse,” committee documents said.

This past weekend, there were more fires in the park. Six fires occured, but no structures were damaged. The San Francisco Fire Department is investigating the causes.

Phil Ginsburg, head of the Recreation and Park Commission, said the money is being reallocated “to pay for a really horrendous act of vandalism that happened in Golden Gate Park.”

The clubhouse, Ginsburg said, “was burned to the ground so we need to replace it. This is a strategy to do that.”

Antonio Guerra, Rec and Park’s capital finance manager, said construction would begin in April 2020 and finish in January 2021.

“What we are trying to do with this project is essentially just the basic replacement of the original structure with a more thoughtful layout and the necessary code upgrades,” Guerra.

The old clubhouse, built in 1951, was 1,600 square feet, and the new one is proposed to be about 1,800 square feet.

The department, officials said, didn’t have the funds to pay for the new building and had to turn to other financing.

The $4 million to fund the clubhouse project will come from $4 million already earmarked for the Rossi Pool Project out of the Open Space Fund. Then, The City will backfill that funding for the pool project with $4 million of lease revenue bond debt reserves available after debt refinancing.

The swap was necessary because tax-exempt bonds “must be used for a public purpose” and the “GGP Golf Course Clubhouse, although used as a public recreational facility, is operated by a private lessee.”

In the meantime, the department has replaced the burned down structure with a double wide trailer and portable toilets to the side, which will cost $200,000 to operate for two years. The funding for this interim facility comes from the Open Space Fund Contingency Capital Budget.

Ginsburg said the destruction of the clubhouse created a “small” revenue drop but “it’s leveled out.”

“We are doing ok,” Ginsburg said. “There was a hit. It will be offset by actually some really good news at Harding [Park Golf Club] where we’ve seen a tremendous growth.”

The Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on the proposal in the coming weeks.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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