When the San Francisco Voters Information Pamphlet lists the Sierra Club, the unanimous Board of Supervisors and the Chamber of Commerce among the 16 groups supporting Proposition A, that bond measure undoubtedly has widespread appeal. Certainly a $185 million city parks improvement project would be expected to make The City a more inviting place. But this bond also delivers what SPUR, the San Francisco Urban Planning and Research Association, calls “the strongest accountability and transparency features ever included in a general-obligation bond measure.”
Proposition A even makes fiscal sense in a year when The City faces a $229 million deficit. As the pro-business chamber of commerce explains, “The City’s 10-year capital plan provides for new bonds to be issued as old bonds are paid off, which, along with normal growth in values, means no increase in tax rates.”
The parks bond is the first proposal emerging from San Francisco’s 10-year capital plan, which sets the direction for construction and maintenance of city infrastructure for the coming decade. Next up in the queue are bonds for renovating the aging General Hospital and Hall of Justice.
Proposition A allocates $151.5 million for upgrades ofheavily used neighborhood parks such as Mission Dolores Park, Lafayette Park, the Chinese Recreation Center and Sunset Playground. The Port of San Francisco would get $33.5 million to implement the Blue Greenway plan for new parks along the northern Embarcadero.
City green spaces are among the basic amenities of urban life, on a par with nonpotholed streets, dependable public transit and crime-free neighborhoods. People need both the landmark acreages such as our own Golden Gate Park and Manhattan’s Central Park, and the welcoming mini-oases of nearby neighborhood parks and playgrounds. Without having well-maintained open areas conveniently available as a respite from looming concrete expanses, daily life in the larger cities would be considerably more oppressive.
The high level of accountability assembled for Proposition A include a well-funded citizens’ oversight committee, a detailed Web site to track ongoing progress, improved coordination between the Recreation and Park Department and the Public Works Department, plus a transparent and objective process of selecting those parks with greatest funding needs.
These features are expected to prevent the confusion and occasional cost overruns associated with the previous $110 million bond, passed in 2000. Neither that bond nor the current one is being promised as a total solution for San Francisco’s hundreds of mostly aging parks and recreation facilities. But Proposition A will fund widespread and visible improvements to the restrooms, athletic fields, walking trails and landscaping of popular parks not covered in the first round.
Because Proposition A bonds would be repaid from The City’s general fund, passage requires a two-thirds percent approval vote. Due to overall scheduling of the 10-year capital plan, if the parks measure does not pass on
Feb. 5, it would not be resubmitted until 2013. And by then, the parks awaiting repair would be five years more threadbare and fixing them would be much more expensive.