letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor: Supporting Plan for GG Park’s Gardens’ Changes


As a longtime Richmond District (22+ years) resident, former citywide elected official and executive director of the California State Parks Foundation, I would like to offer a perspective on two Golden Gate Park improvement proposals from Mayor London Breed, currently pending before the SF Board of Supervisors. 

One proposal would update the SF Botanical Garden Society’s lease and management agreement with the Recreation and Park Department, creating the Gardens of Golden Gate Park. This proposal just simply makes sense. Putting the Botanical Garden, Japanese Tea Garden and Conservatory of Flowers under one umbrella will enable a shared ticket for multi-garden visits, attract greater philanthropic support for capital improvements, expand youth education, volunteer engagement, and global plant conservation efforts protecting biodiversity in the face of climate change and the extinction crisis. 

The second proposal would make all three gardens free to San Francisco residents, and allow for the continuation of flex pricing for non-resident adults – which will ensure the gardens can still generate much-needed revenue to keep them beautiful and safe. The discounted non-resident senior, children and youth tickets are unaffected by flex pricing. Under the proposal, entry fees can only be increased by 50% beyond base pricing – currently maxing out at $15 (coincidentally the same as the adult fee to visit the UC Botanical Garden in Berkeley). 

In addition, the garden’s current fee is below the 25th percentile for large botanical gardens across the country, and does not provide for the gardens as it should. These gardens need more resources, not less, to support critical infrastructure like pathways, irrigation, plantings, repairs and upgrades. 

Finally, the gardens already participate in the Museums For All program which allows low-income families to visit all three gardens free of charge. All three sites also provide regular free time opportunities for everybody as well. The Botanical Garden is free to all every morning before 9 a.m, one day each month, and for special holiday free days; Japanese Tea Garden is free multiple mornings a week; and Conservatory of Flowers is free one day each month. 

These gardens have given us so much, especially in the last two years. This is a great time to give them the tools and organizational structure they need to be successful so they can keep serving all of us and our planet for decades to come. 


Rachel Norton

2 replies »


    Before Ms. Norton made hundreds of thousands of dollars working for the California State Parks Foundation, she was employed by the park-privatization chop-shop Parks Alliance. Parks Alliance is planning to sell the rights to the Conservatory to San Francisco Botanical Garden Society.

    Privatizing the Tea Garden will turn it and the Conservatory into another cash cow for the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society., while San Francisco Botanical Garden Society and transferring the ownership will net $1 million for Parks Alliance. The San Francisco Botanical Garden Society pays a meager $100 annual rent for using the grounds and the

    The San Francisco Botanical Garden Society is all about creating a country club for blue bloods. It has nothing to do with environmentalism, ecology or conservation. They recently killed a cougar and have destroyed acres of trees along with beloved ‘gardens.’

    The Conservatory of Flowers and the Tea Garden are not worth $10, let alone $15. People should not debase themselves by having to prove poverty to enter. For many people, who do not even have ETD cards, $10 is a hardship. Norton lives in the Shangri-La of corporate “environmental :offices.

    The San Francisco Botanical Garden Society is not a good steward. In fact, they seem to hate plants!

    Having a few free days and times is not the same as having free admission when working people can come. These expensive entry taxes are de-facto racist and discriminatory. In fact, the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society It is totally outrageous that we have to prove residency to enter, let alone pay a fortune for our guests.

    What is the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society doing with the $20 million they have. The city budget is $12 billion. Why are you charging us? Restore all three public spaces to public control!


  2. As a San Francisco resident for over 70 years I would not support anything the “park alliance” is pushing. They are part of what is ruining the city. Between the 1,000,000 off the the books fund that Nuru used and the 100,000 crab feed for scholarships that 64,000 went to the Rec & Park general fund they can’t be trusted.


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