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SF Recreation & Parks Department leasing neighborhood clubhouses to for-profit businesses!

posted Nov 14, 2010, 9:46 AM by GWPNA Account   [ updated Sep 11, 2011, 2:45 PM by Matt Chamberlain ]
SF Recreation & Parks Department has scheduled a 6:00pm public meeting on Monday, November 15th at the JP Murphy clubhouse to discuss the RPD’s leasing of the JP Murphy clubhouse and park facilities. The Clubhouse is located at 1960 9th Avenue at the corner of 9th Avenue and Ortega.

In 2008 the Citizens of San Francisco spent $3,849,933 of the Proposition A, Parks Project Bond to renovate the JP Murphy Playground & Clubhouse. The Clubhouse is located at 1960 9th Avenue/Ortega. Effective August 15th, 2010 the RPD also fired or relocated all of its Recreation and Park Directors. The RPD is now about to lease-out our newly, renovated JP Murphy Park. The RPD euphemistically calls this new leasing for profit scheme "park revitalization."

RPD representative, Lev Kushner, the Assistant Director for Strategic Planning, has been holding meetings throughout San Francisco in an effort to rent out neighborhood clubhouses, parks and facilities. The RPD is trying to lease at least 24 of the 48 park clubhouses in San Francisco. Usually, the RPD's citizens notification is very lax and few people realize that their local Park is going to be leased for a minimum 5 year period.

It's not that the groups that lease the parks are good or bad, the problem is that these private commercial groups take over large portions of the park at specific times and the neighbors who use these parks are not allowed to use the portions that are leased. The groups leasing the City parks often have nothing to do with recreation and are already working from an existing commercial location.

The RPD lease clearly states, "The tenant shall have the right to shared access of all playground and garden space in areas surrounding the premises." Additionally, "The City shall use it's best efforts to avoid interfering with the tenants quiet and exclusive use of enjoyment of the premises."

Whatever happened to the neighborhoods right to "the use and enjoyment of premises" of our own park?

The RPD is claiming that this is its best way to generate revenue for now "underutilized" facilities. With usually only one potential tenant, the Parks are leased for ridiculously low amounts of money. The RPD started leasing parks throughout the City in July and is usually charging between $1.31 - 1.51 per square foot per month and allows full usage of the other park facilities. It is doubtful that the JP Murphy clubhouse will be leased for more than $1,500 per month. Apparently, the RPD now has a tenant for JP Murphy park or Mr. Kushner would not have scheduled a meeting.

The RPD's quest for money has actually made them predatory. On July 15 the Rec & Park Commission voted to let an expensive private preschool displace a free, 38-year-old City College parenting class at the Laurel Hill Clubhouse. The clubhouse was leased to Language in Action (LIA), a preschool offering nine-month terms immersing two to five year olds in Spanish and Mandarin. LIA tuition ranges from $1,000---for two hours per day, two days per week---to $14,000 for full day, five day per week instruction. The RPD leased the Laurel Hills playground to LIA for only $1,427.00 per month.

"On the face of it, the RPD wanted to lease this property and they didn't really care what the public thought," stated City College Board of Trustee President, John Rizzo. "The RPD cared so little about the public that it was too late once they were notified."

JP Murphy Park is our park, located in our neighborhoods and is used recreationally by the people in our neighborhoods. We don't accept the premise that the Recreation and Park Department can have one meeting with the neighborhoods and then lease out our park for five years. We want to use our park the way we want to use them. The RPD has not even talked with the neighborhoods about how we might want to use our own facility. Without citizen protest/input the new RPD tenant will probably be moving into the park within a couple of months.

If the money that neighborhoods/voters are spending on public parks is being converted to support and subsidize commercial businesses and privatize public parks, voters will have to think long and hard as to why we would want to support the RPD’s proposed 2011 parcel tax or any other future bonds supporting the RPD.

This November 15 RPD meeting (next Monday night) is the neighborhoods only chance to stop the RPD from leasing the JP Murphy Park. The RPD will soon be leasing out other parks and clubhouses in our neighborhoods such as the Midtown Terrace park. If you love your park and want to save it from being privatized, please bring your friends and neighbors to this meeting. United we stand, divided we fall.

George Wooding
West of Twin Peaks Central Council