Dew Tour and other Civic Center Plaza events draw fans and foes

Beth Laberge/Special to the S.F. ExaminerWe’re full: The Recreation and Park Department has been criticized for its stewardship of public spaces

Beth Laberge/Special to the S.F. ExaminerWe’re full: The Recreation and Park Department has been criticized for its stewardship of public spaces

Civic Center Plaza has been shut down to host large-scale events for extended periods during the past two months, prompting a San Francisco supervisor to complain about the Recreation and Park Department’s stewardship of the space.

Since last week, the plaza between City Hall and the Main Library has been closed down for preparations leading up to the Dew Tour, a skateboarding, bicycle and freestyle motocross event that will begin today.

Supervisor John Avalos called the event “troubling” since it closes down the park for what he called an “inordinate” amount of time.

“I don’t think that’s what we expect out of our Rec and Park system,” he said.

The Dew Tour is paying Rec and Park permit fees of $310,336 for sixteen days of plaza use, of which $36,832 is reimbursement for direct expenses such as park rangers or event-related wear and tear. According to the event permit, the remaining $273,504 will be profit for the department.

Street closures also are accompanying the event, including the blocking of vehicles on the block in front of City Hall and on Grove Street between Polk and Larkin streets. The event also is using Harrison Street between Fremont and Spear streets.

A department spokeswoman called use of the plaza for such events appropriate. “From public art display, kids playing soccer on the lawn, to Off-the-Grid food trucks, SF Rec and Park works hard to strategically activate Civic Center Plaza so that it can be a fun, clean and safe public space for our children and families living in the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods,” Rec and Park spokeswoman Connie Chan wrote via email.

Chan added that the event is providing free extreme sports clinics for city youths.

“They have also generously donated BMX bikes to our recreation camps, which further encourage healthy activities and competitions among young people in our City,” she wrote.

However, Avalos also raised questions about the appropriateness of the department doing business with the event’s sponsor, Mountain Dew. The City sponsors a campaign called Soda-Free Summer as one of its efforts to curb childhood obesity.

This longer-term use of Civic Center Plaza is not an isolated incident. Just last month, it was closed for the Salesforce.com Dreamforce event, which included a performance by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. That event led to the plaza’s closure for six days and generated $107,865 in revenue, with $16,697 going toward park rangers and other costs associated with the event. The remaining $91,168 provided revenue for the department.

Last fiscal year, the department generated $1.9 million from special event permits, not including the $1.25 million it received in fees from the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, Chan said.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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