Supervisors to vote on plan for nonprofits to oversee public plazas

A select number of San Francisco's open spaces could soon start bustling with music, farmers markets and various cultural events under a new public-plaza program being voted on today.

Under the program proposed by Mayor Ed Lee, nonprofit organizations could take over management of certain public-plaza spaces to hold events and maintain the area.

The initiative is intended for public spaces of at least 2,000 square feet and outside of Recreation and Park Department jurisdiction. Existing spaces that fit the criteria include Mendell Plaza in the Bayview, Hallidie Plaza at Fifth and Market streets, Jane Warner Plaza in the Castro, and a space at McCoppin and Valencia streets in the Mission.

As part of the program, permit fees would be decreased and some existing processes streamlined for the cultural events to be held. For example, the $498 permit fee per music event would be reduced to an annual permit of $129 for plaza stewards.

Amanda Coggin, a member of the Valencia McCoppin neighborhood group and an organizer for the literary group Litquake, praised the proposal during a recent Planning Commission hearing. The process, among other benefits, would make it easier for event organizers who would be able to work with one entity rather than having to navigate multiple city departments, she said.

“Right now, I walk by the space and it's basically blighted with people. … I understand there is not enough housing for homelessness here in The City and I am compassionate to that, but as a homeowner in the neighborhood, I really appreciate seeing dead space being activated,” she said.

Some have criticized the proposal as being a move toward privatization and commercialization of public space.

Revenue that nonprofits generate from operating the plaza space would have to be invested into the specific public space. The groups could hold up to eight private events annually throughout the year.

The Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee will vote on the proposal today. Each plaza agreement entered into with nonprofits would also require approval by the board.

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