Park campaign to hit ground running

Come February, San Francisco voters will not only decide on nominees for the White House but also whether The City should spend $185 million in bond funding for park improvements.

Voters can begin casting absentee ballots next Monday, less than 30 days before all polls open Feb. 5. Although there is no organized campaign against the bond measure, proponents are focused on spreading their message about Proposition A.

“Our challenge is to just get the word out to the people,” said Patrick Hannan, a Yes on Prop. A campaign spokesman. A bond measure requires two-thirds approval for passage, and turnout is expected to be large for the presidential primary.

Although there is no formal opposition to the measure, some neighborhood park advocates have said that they are disappointed that Port of San Francisco property is slated to receive more than $33 million in bond money and alleged that politics played a role in deciding where bond money went.

“I’m not happy with the port having done a little tag-along,” said Jeffrey Leibovitz, a co-chair of the South Park Improvement Association. He criticized “bones that were thrown” to neighborhoods such as South Park, referring to the $5 million that is being set aside from the $185 million for smaller neighborhood projects, which will be decided through an application process for bond funds.

The $185 million bond makes up just a portion of the improvements The City’s roughly 200 parks need, according to a 2007 assessment completed by The City. The assessment noted that $1.7 billion would be needed to fix all facilities: $825 million for neighborhood parks and $865 million for special properties such as Golden Gate Park and Sharp Park.

The ballot measure falls on the heels of a $110 million bond for park improvements passed in 2000, and park officials and advocates have said the taxpayer’s money was not well managed for that bond program.

The bond, dubbed the Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond, would spend $117.4 million in taxpayer money to renovate 12 different specific parks, including $21.2 million for the Palega Recreation Center in the Portola District and $14.2 million for the Chinese Recreation Center in Chinatown.

In addition to the millions for specific parks, the waterfront projects on port property would receive $33.5 million in taxpayer monies, the majority of which going to Blue Greenway Projects, a series of parks along the Bay’s edge, according to Rec and Park documents.

The bond would also spend $11.4 million on repairs and the new construction of bathrooms; $5 million on trail reconstruction; $4 million on tree repairs and planting; and $8.5 million to match private funds for artificial turf fields, according to Rec and Park documents.

dsmith@examiner.com  

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