Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park Attractions to Utilize Flexible Pricing System – Updated Story

By Thomas K. Pendergast

Three popular attractions in Golden Gate Park now have “flexible pricing” rates for entrance fees charged to visitors from outside of San Francisco, which city officials hope will raise revenue and relieve congestion.

The SF Board of Supervisors (BOS) passed an ordinance in July that took effect Sept. 1; although SF Recreation and Park Department officials say it was officially implemented in October.  

In Golden Gate Park, the new flexible pricing plan will apply to the Japanese Tea Garden, Conservatory of Flowers and Botanical Garden, although the final flexible pricing plan for the Tea Garden will not take effect until March of 2020 at the earliest, according to the ordinance.  

There is also an additional “temporary” charge of $1 added onto the entrance fees that non-resident adults pay at the Japanese Tea Garden to subsidize the renovation of the garden’s pagoda.

Flexible pricing means raising the entrance fee for non-residents up to 50 percent of a basic price at certain hours that have a high demand, but then lowering fees back down during slower times. 

A spokesperson for Rec. and Park, Tamara Aparton, explained why they decided to go with this kind of fee structure.

It’s part of the larger thinking the City is having right now around financial justice,” Aparton said. “We wanted low-income San Franciscans to be able to take advantage of all these cultural attractions and that’s one way to fund it, with flexible pricing.

“Another reason is the congestion factor. These attractions get very, very crowded sometimes and they are pretty empty at other times,” she said. “And so we wanted people to have the choice of being able to go when it’s less crowded and paying less. That would also relieve some congestion in the process.”

Japanese Tea Garden

The entrance fee for the Japanese Tea Garden for non-resident adults has gone up a dollar to $10 per adult from October through February and will go up to $12 from March through September ($7 for residents with ID), $7 for non-resident seniors and youth ($4 for residents), $3 for children between five and 11 years old for residents and non-residents. The March bump up in pricing applies only to non-resident adults. Children younger than five get in free. (Admission is free on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays before 10 a.m.)

Conservatory of Flowers

The Conservatory of Flowers now charges $11 for non-resident adults on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and $9 during the week ($6 for residents with ID), $6 for seniors, young adults and college students ($4 for residents), $3 for children between five and 11 years old ($2 for residents), with children under five getting in for free. (The Conservatory of Flowers is free the first Tuesday of every month.)

Botanical Garden

Meanwhile, the Botanical Garden is still free for San Francisco residents. The entrance fee for non-resident adults on Saturdays and Sundays is now $12 and $9 the rest of the week, $6 for youths and seniors, $2 for children between five and 11 years old, while children under four get in free. There is a family pass for $19.

When the legislation was before the BOS in July, District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin inserted a sunset provision to expire operation of the law on June 30, 2021 unless the board takes further action to renew it.

Not everyone, however, is happy about charging tourists more money at these attractions.

Local activist and frequent critic of Rec. and Park, Harry Pariser, claimed that in a city with a budget of more than $12 billion, this “flexible” plan for the Botanical Garden is not necessary and is just another step toward what he calls the “commercializing” of public spaces. Although he acknowledges that San Francisco residents are not subject to this fee, when they have friends visiting from out of town it still affects them.

“They shouldn’t be paying at all, in my view, because it’s public space,” Pariser said. “We already pay taxes. We don’t need to pay taxes a second time. The entrance fee is another t


ax, even though they call it a fee. A fee is still a tax. 

“We should be treating tourists, who are visitors, better than ourselves,” he said. “Tourists and visitors should not be charged discriminatory pricing in a city that calls itself progressive. And nonprofits shouldn’t be regulating public spaces.”


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