letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor: ‘Thanks’ for the ‘Free’ Entry into ‘Gardens’


As Gordon Mar states in his April column, we all should praise him for following the Breed administration’s legislation which grants we lowly resident San Franciscans “free” entry to three formerly free “attractions” in Golden Gate Park (the Arboretum, the Tea Garden and the Conservatory).

The really great thing about this change is that it forces us to prove we are from San Francisco to enter. And, as we often enter with guests, we have the awesome privilege to pay for them; so do the veterans which he has (after a struggle on their part) granted free admission.

Haters will always hate, and some naysayers might complain that $10 on weekdays, with a 50% or more surcharge on weekends, is a bit steep for any of these “gardens.” After all, the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago is free to all. And these same people might point out that we should have free hours and even (gasp) entire free days on weekends when people can come. And have them more often. Or even — an exceedingly novel concept — have free entry all the time. After all, they might mistakenly claim that their tax dollars pay for these facilities, so entry should be free for everyone. We should welcome rather than penalize visitors, especially in times like these. Some wags might even say that the Tea Garden should be kept under public control, and the Conservatory should be returned to public management and free entry. 

But they would be completely wrong! The top three middle-class managers at the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society make a meager $500,000 between them. With a meager $20 million endowment, the Society has found it necessary to destroy gardens in the Arboretum for corporate rentals and special events, proving themselves to be superb environmental stewards. They absolutely require the right to tax entry to these three taxpayer-funded “gardens.” And it is shameful that Supervisor Connie Chan stood in the way of Parks Alliance being paid $1 million for the transfer of ownership of the Conservatory to the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society. Thankfully, the entire revenues from the entry charges will go to the impoverished Society, depriving the government of the chance to waste them on vital social services.

After all, the purpose of government is to subsidize, maintain and enhance the class interests of the wealthy, a mission it does exceedingly well. We all need to congratulate Supervisor Mar for his tireless journey to enhance social equity in Golden Gate Park and elsewhere.

Harry S. Pariser

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