San Francisco Rec and Park Department hoping to lure in patrons with app

Beth Laberge/Special to the S.F. ExaminerBooked: Friends share a pumpkin picnic at Golden Gate Park

It is now possible to rent out picnic tables or find directions to the nearest neighborhood park using a smartphone, and it might not be long before people can purchase tickets for events, buy merchandise or pick up special passes.

Working with local startup Appallicious, the Recreation and Park Department recently launched its first mobile application program. The app has information on 1,200 different Rec and Park facilities, such as the location of bathrooms and the operating hours of museums and arboretums, said Appallicious founder Yo Yoshida.

Users of the app, which is free, also can reserve picnic sites and barbecue pits in Golden Gate Park, volunteer with Rec and Park and locate the nearest basketball or tennis courts.

“We have parks and open spaces and facilities all over this city that people don’t know about,”  Yoshida said. “I’m a native San Franciscan. I made this app to give locals more information about what this city has to offer.”

While the first phase of the app will be primarily information-based, Yoshida is hoping to increase the capabilities of the program to handle ticket purchases for events at the de Young Museum, field reservations and merchandise sales from Rec and Park’s retail stores.

“We really want to take the friction out of making these transactions,” Yoshida said.

To take the next step, Yoshida is working with Board of Supervisors President David Chiu to amend existing law to allow Rec and Park to make online transactions.

“This is simply to facilitate what Rec and Park already does,” Chiu said. “The goal is to make reservations and sales seamless and instantaneous. It’s a practice that should be ubiquitous for all city agencies.”

Yoshida said the increased access for park patrons will bring additional revenue to the department. Appallicious would likely take a 1 to 3 percent transaction fee from each purchase, he said.

Rec and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg said the goal of the program is not to increase revenue for the agency, but to improve access for park users.

“We ought to be using technology when and where we can,” Ginsburg said. “Right now, you can buy a house online. You should be able to reserve a picnic table.”

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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