Newsom: Don't raise Harding fees, lease it out

Raising fees at The City’s premier golf course to bail the fairways out of the red is not generating much applause, while leasing out the course appears to be gaining political support.

The Recreation and Park Department has heard time and again that the running deficit from operating The City’s six public golf courses needs to come to an end. This fiscal year, the courses’ operations were bailed out with a $1.4 million subsidy from The City’s operating budget, which pays for such services as fire, police and street cleaning.

The department projects the need for a $1.29 million operating budget subsidy during the next fiscal year, of which $907,000 is the result of the projected operating shortfall at Harding Park, according to a report from the Budget Analyst’s Office.

Supervisor Jake McGoldrick has introduced legislation that would increase greens fees at Harding Park by 15 percent across the board to generate an additional $659,000 in revenue.

The Board of Supervisors Government Audit and Oversight Committee on Monday sent the legislation to the full board for a vote June 12, although with no recommendation for approval.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, the committee’s chairman, said the ordinance was “misguided and is a mistake” because the fee increase would cause a drop-off in play.

Meanwhile, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s budget includes a proposal to allow the Recreation and Park Department to lease out operation of three city golf courses — Harding Park, Sharp Park and Lincoln Park — to end the subsidy need. Elsbernd has said he supports the leasing of the courses. Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin said he was against McGoldrick’s legislation and he was “very interested” in leasing out the courses.

The department would need Board of Supervisors approval to hand over the courses to a nonprofit operator and is shooting for an April 2008 deadline. The labor-union-represented gardeners at the three courses would switch to work on neighborhood parks.

McGoldrick said the lease proposal would solve the deficit on the “backs of labor” since, he said, the lessor would create a profit margin by providing course gardeners with compensation and worker benefits inferior to what The City pays the current golf course gardeners, who are city employees. The department’s proposal is expected to be debated by supervisors during upcoming hearings on the mayor’s budget proposal.

jsabatini@examiner.com


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