Park advocates seek newer general plan

As The City searches for a new “green czar,” park proponents are calling for an update of the 19-year-old plan devoted to recreation and open space.

The 54-page portion of The City’s general plan that focuses on recreation and open space hasn’t been revised since 1987, city planners said. As more and more development projects get under way, open space needs to be included in the plans, said Isabel Wade, executive director of the nonprofit Neighborhood Parks Council.

Altering the general plan — the document that serves as an overarching blueprint for The City — could help create more parks as part of new projects, Wade said.

“We need to be much more aggressive about open space policy and acquisition programs that addresses the areas” that don’t have enough green space, Wade said. “Our open space element is 20 years old.”

Mayor Gavin Newsom backs the creation of a task force to consider changes to the general plan, said Jennifer Petrucione, a spokeswoman for the mayor.

The panel would also serve as a conduit between the Planning Department and city government concerning matters of open space, Petrucione said.

While the Planning Department would like to update the open space element, it’s not included in the annual budget,said Amit Ghosh, the department’s chief of conceptual planning.

“It’s one of the things we need to review and see [if it should be changed],” Ghosh said.

Even without the necessary funding, the task force could come up with recommendations and suggest ways to fund the work, Petrucione said.

In August 2005, Newsom tapped Marshall Foster as The City’s so-called green czar, mimicking a similar position in Chicago. Foster’s job included coming up with the task force. But in late July, Foster left The City for a job in the private sector in Seattle. Foster’s position was part of a wider vision by the Mayor’s Office to improve The City and beautify it.

“I’m sorry to see him go,” said Kelly Quirke, executive director of the Friends of the Urban Forest, a San Francisco nonprofit. “I think Marshall was executing the mayor’s vision. He had a lot of balls in the air.”

The position was part of the mayor’s goal to beautify the streets and make them friendlier to pedestrians. His plan called for reclaiming excess pavement for open spaces and coordinating efforts between city agencies tasked with street upkeep. Newsom has pledged to make The City more green by calling for city buildings that conform to sustainable development standards and making it easier for environmentally friendly buildings to get necessary permits, much like in Chicago.

The City is looking to hire a new green czar to replace Foster, Petrucione said. The new green czar will also take on the job of creating the task force, the mayor’s spokeswoman said.

mcarroll@examiner.com

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