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S.F. Parks Could See Some Green
Props. A, C would pay for repairs, upgrades

- Yumi Wilson, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, March 2, 2000

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San Francisco -- Each day after school, 11-year-old Jared Wilson plays football, basketball and kick ball at Oceanview Recreation Center in San Francisco while waiting for his father, Austin, to take him home.

But Jared won't do his homework there.

It's hard for students to do their work at the center, says Marc Randall of the Recreation and Park Department, because there is no separate room where they can study quietly.

Oceanview is on a list of more than 200 parks, recreation centers, clubhouses, playgrounds, public bathrooms and other facilities in San Francisco that need nearly $400 million in work, according to a city assessment.

The solution Mayor Willie Brown came up with was a pair of measures on Tuesday's ballot that, among other things, could pay for a study room for youths who spend their afternoons in the city's care.

``We're finally here after three years of comprehensive study and review,'' said Supervisor Gavin Newsom, who has taken a lead in pushing for more park funding. ``It's an extraordinarily exciting opportunity for San Francisco to bring our park system back.''

Proposition A is a $110 million general obligation bond measure that would help cover some of the repairs. The cost to an owner of a $300,000 home would be about $42 a year, according to Controller Edward Harrington. Proposition A needs a two-thirds voter approval to pass.

Proposition C is a City Charter amendment that would set aside 2.5 cents for each $100 assessed from annual property taxes for 30 years. The money raised -- at least $150 million over 30 years -- would be used to acquire and maintain green space. It would also fund after- school recreation, urban forestry and community garden projects. Voters approved a similar open- space fund in 1974, but that is set to expire in 2004.

Proposition C needs a simple majority to pass.

Supporters say the funding is long overdue. It has been more than 50 years since voters were asked to pass a bond measure for any city park other than Golden Gate Park.

``Propositions A and C are opportunities for the city of San Francisco to return its parks to the pristine condition that every neighborhood so richly deserves,'' said the city's acting parks chief, Joel Robinson.

Opponents say that if the city wants to pay for park repairs, it should do so out of the general fund. Floating bonds will only put San Francisco deeper in debt, they say.

``Routine capital improvements . . . with the usual needs of the Recreation and Park Department are no longer being paid for out of current taxes,'' said Terence Faulkner, former chairman of the San Francisco Republican Party. ``Interest-paying bonds are being wastefully used for normal needs.''

These are not normal needs, the measures' supporters argue.

``With $400 million of required capital improvements costs, that is not normal,'' said Isabel Wade of the Neighborhood Parks Council, a coalition of 70 groups that have pushed for more funds. ``There is no way we could go to the city's general fund and get that kind of money. Rec and Park goes every year and asks for capital improvement funds, and every year they are rejected.''

In addition to not being able to fix roofs and such, ``we lost positions,'' Wade said. ``We lost gardeners and other staff during the recession.''

Even if voters approve both Propositions A and C, the parks department will still need more money for repairs and improvements, Robinson said.

Parks officials say they need at least $380 million to make overall capital improvements. Of that, $152 million is needed to fix 156 parks. And for Golden Gate Park, the city needs $50 million to make repairs and upgrades not covered under a bond measure that voters approved in 1992.

The city also needs $39.6 million to repair 40 clubhouses, $35.5 million for seven pools and $107 million for 14 recreation centers, including Oceanview.

Oceanview, home to as many as 100 latchkey kids like Jared each weekday afternoon, needs $8 million to $12 million for a major overhaul.

Jared says he likes the center, but he doesn't like to do homework there because it is too noisy. He also won't take showers in the downstairs locker room.

``I've seen the showers,'' Jared said. ``The floors are clean, but it's sandy on the floors. And they get on your feet, and you get ringworms.''

Randall, an assistant supervisor for the parks, said there's no way to get ringworms from a sandy floor. But he admits that the showers and other parts of the park need work.

Rec-Park spokeswoman Becky Ballinger agreed. In fact, she said, the center, built in the early '50s as a large gym and auditorium, needs to be torn down and rebuilt with separate areas for computers, art, child care and senior programs.

``In today's rec world, a big gym takes up so much space,'' she said. ``Six people could be playing and use all the space at the center.''

The building also fails to meet requirements under the Americans With Disabilities Act and needs seismic retrofiting, she said.

Sunset Recreation Center is another big facility that needs help. ``We need to have upgrades,'' said Susan Suvall of the Sunset Neighborhood Coalition. ``Ideally, it needs to be enlarged. There are so many kids out here and so may seniors, and so little programming space.''

Parks that would benefit from the passage of Propositions A and C include Argonne Playground in the Richmond District, Moscone Recreation Center in the Marina district, Chinese Playground in Chinatown, Hamilton Playground in the Western Addition, Boeddeker Park Recreation Center in the Tenderloin, Sunnyside Playground in Glen Park, Joseph Lee Recreation Center in Bayview-Hunters Point and the Mission Recreation Center.

Parks officials say they do not know which parks will be the first to get money from the bond measure. They are hoping to patch together money from the state and federal governments and private sources to go with Proposition A money so all the city's parks and recreation centers can be fixed.

Officials also intend to issue $20 million in revenue bonds from money generated from the open-space fund.

``So when an opportunity comes up to buy Esprit Park near Potrero Hill, the city can issue a revenue bond and try to buy the property,'' Wade said.

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