Letters to the Editor

Letter to the Editor – Opposed to Raising Park Fees


We hope that you can post this letter opposing the new plan for future increase fees for our parks.

Thanks very much.

Katherine Howard

Sunset District


Dear Supervisors,

We oppose raising fees at the park sites listed in this legislation for the following reasons:

  1. We are concerned with the continuing monetization and privatization of our parks. Labeling the SF Botanical Garden,  the SF Japanese Tea Garden, and the Conservatory of Flowers “specialty attractions” is indicative of the trend by the Department of Recreation and Park  to view our parks as a collection of income-generating amusements rather than as cultural sites and oases for preserving biological diversity.  In a time of great wealth in our City, these sites are part of parkland that should be open and free to all.   Including Coit Tower in this legislation disrespects a significant historic monument that is iconic of San Francisco.
  2. We are concerned about the impact on the many low-income residents who are proud of their parks and enjoy taking visiting family members and out-of-town friends to these sites.    The income disparity in San Francisco has resulted in many family members moving out of the City.  With this proposed raise in fees, access to these park areas will soon be out of reach of many of the less-financially-well-off who are already struggling to maintain their community ties in the face of the enormous income inequality in this city.
  3. We are concerned that this effort to establish ‘surge’ pricing will start a trend that will eventually be applied to all of our residents.  Changes such as the one proposed can result in eventual fees for everyone, as the public becomes accustomed to paying more and more for services that they have already paid for in their taxes.
  4. We are concerned about the impact on low-income visitors, who won’t necessarily know until they arrive at a site what the fees will be.    Up-to-date information on surge pricing depends on a smart phone connection, something that is still out of reach of many.
  5. We are concerned about the impressions given to visitors to San Francisco, who spend thousands of dollars to bring their families to San Francisco, staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants, and paying into our coffers.  Golden Gate Park and Coit Tower are some of the reasons they visit.  The Japanese Tea Garden admission fee is already slated to be raised by $1 per non-resident adult visitor.  If visitors go to all that effort and arrive at the Tea Garden only to learn that the rates have gone up 50% more, what will be their impression of San Francisco and of our park system?  We can imagine the reactions on social media.
  6. We are concerned that these fees are being layered onto other funding that has already been granted by the people of San Francisco to their beloved parks – not only budget funding but also bond funding, the Open Space Fund, the massive fees generated by such large events as the Outside Lands Festival, and even a permanent, annual set-aside awarded just a few years ago.
  7. We are concerned with the loss of control over our parks by the Board of Supervisors.  If rates must  be raised, this is a decision that should rest only with the Board of Supervisors and be substantiated with extensive financial information on the fiscal needs of our parks, the current Department of Recreation and Parks budget, all Department of Recreation and Parks funding sources, a line-item accounting of where all of the funding listed above is currently being  spent and what expenses the new fees will be used to defray.  In addition, the impact on low-income communities and visitors should be analyzed and considered in this decision.

Our parks are not “specialty attractions.”  They are part of the heart of San Francisco and were established for the benefit and enjoyment of everyone.  We ask that the Board of Supervisors not approve this ‘surge-pricing’ fee increase.

Thank you for your consideration.

Katherine Howard

Steering Committee, member

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