Rec and Park evens the score by approving facility fee hikes

Renting a tennis court, taking a capoeira class or learning to sing in San Francisco will cost more money — part of an increased effort, city officials say, to make sure teams and programs using public facilities pay their fair share.

A number of formerly free classes — including piano, voice, Pilates, “ethnijazz” dance and capoeira — will cost $1.75 to $8 per hour if the smorgasbord of new fees approved unanimously by the Recreation and Park Commission on Thursday is ultimately approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Raising fees could actually boost attendance in the long run, according to Recreation and Park Superintendent of Citywide Services Terry Schwartz.

“About 60 percent of our programs are free, and nobody signs up for free stuff,” because the public perceives it as low-quality, Schwartz said. Recreation and Park leaders will aim to reduce the number of free classes to about 20 percent, according to Schwartz.

If The City plans to charge more for its classes, the quality bar must be raised, according to parks advocate Andrea O'Leary.

“I’ve been to a lot of recreation centers, and it’s glorified babysitting,” O’Leary said. “A lot of programs sound good on paper, but when you get there, they’re boring.”

Also approved was a more rigorous application process for nonprofit sports teams, intended to prevent private groups from renting recreation facilities at the $25-per-hour nonprofit rate, rather than the $65 regular rate.

The oversight board also voted to increase women’s volleyball fees from $200 to $310 Thursday.

The new fees may only generate additional revenues of $15,000 to $50,000 each year, according to Katie Petrucione, finance director for the department. The department is currently working to close a budget gap of up to $6 million, spokeswoman Rose Dennis said. In recent weeks, the commission has also approved plans to charge for parking in Golden Gate Park and boost admission fees at Coit Tower and the Japanese Tea Garden.

Additionally, commissioners voted April 3 to charge more in 2009 for summer day camps, a move that would raise $40,000 for the department, according to General Manager Yomi Agunbiade.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

Paying more to learn

Students may soon pay for city-offered classes that currently cost nothing, such as capoeira lessons, right. The Recreation and Park Commission has approved a matrix of fees that would be based on four student-skill levels and five “steps” based on the experience of the instructor.

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