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.
Categories: letter to the editor