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Gavin Newsom, Mayor

Recreation and Park Commission


January 31, 2007

President Martin called the Special meeting of the Recreation and Park Commission to order on Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 9:07 a.m.



Larry Martin

Gloria Bonilla

Tom Harrison

Jim Lazarus

David Lee

Meagan Levitan

President Martin announced that public comment would be limited to two minutes.

RECREATION AND PARK DEPARTMENT – PARK PATROL Staff Report With six part-time officers in total, and only one Patrol Officer available weekdays to cover more than 3,000 acres of urban parkland, Park Patrol cannot effectively address the numerous critical issues negatively impacting the department’s facilities and the public’s park experience. At the request of the Commission, the Planning Division has initiated the development of a Park Patrol Enhancement Proposal to inform the Department’s 2007-2008 budget. Attached you will find the first results of our exploration, including:

A summary of the operations of the Department’s existing Park Patrol unit;

A typology of park problems and issues that a Park Patrol force would be expected to address;

A draft staffing proposal for a Golden Gate Park-only and citywide coverage, based on ideal staffing levels articulated by Operations and Park Patrol staff;

A comparison of some of the training options available for security officers in California;

A memo summarizing preliminary findings on park security issues from conversations with other urban park systems.

These materials will provide a helpful framework for the Commission’s discussion on January 18th. Key issues requiring further exploration and conversation are:

What are the key issues the Park Patrol force should address?

What is the most appropriate level of enforcement authority needed to address these issues?

Given limited financial resources, what is the most effective deployment strategy for the Park Patrol force?

Over the next few weeks, the Planning Division will incorporate additional Commission, community, and staff feedback to further refine the proposal. Specifically, the Planning Division will:

Refine and expand staffing model to reflect alternate levels of coverage, fixed equipment and training costs, and supervisory ratios;

Develop a three year incremental staffing plan to reach desired enforcement levels;

Specifically explore the role that partnerships between the community and department play in improving park safety;

Work with the Neighborhood Parks Council and other stakeholders to better understand which park security issues are of highest priority to the community.

This item was presented by Dawn Kamalanathan.

Due to audio problems some of the meeting and testimony was not audible.

Mike Horan an officer with park patrol stated that making the officers full time would increase the coverage. He also suggested a list of qualifications for the park patrol. Dawne Bernhardt touched on major

problems and supported the additional hiring of park patrol officers. Sally Stephens suggested that animal issues be removed from park patrol responsibilities, asked what their responsibilities would be and suggested they be given priorities on issues. Art Persyko stated the low level of staffing hurts users and the parks. He urged the Commission to make the part-time park patrol officers to full-time and to hire more park officers. William Wilson spoke in support of additional officers and stated that Golden Gate Park should not be staffed at the expense of neighborhood parks. Ernestine Weiss reiterated the need for more park patrol and discussed a public/private partnership model. Wolfram Alderson detailed the reasons that NPC supports additional park patrol. Ron Miguel also supported additional park patrol. He stated his concern for the need for additional officers in Golden Gate Park. Steven Currier spoke of the issues in Crocker Amazon and the need for additional park patrol. Jessica Wheeler stated that the Department was a critical factor to keeping families in San Francisco and that park safety is the City’s responsibility. Susan Strolis spoke in support of additional park patrol officers. The six current part-time park patrol officers leave the parks, citizens and gardeners vulnerable. Andrea O’Leary supported additional park patrol officers and off leash dog issue enforcement .Alice Polesky stated that she has avoided parks because she

was nearly attached by dogs in the past. She urged additional park patrol

in support of additional Park Patrol as long as they were instructed to focus on the real park problems that everyone can agree on but not policing the off leash dogs as Animal Care and Control does that. Brent Plater suggested that relying on the discretion of the park patrol to enforce sporadically so no one would know when the enforcement would occur could prove cost effective. He said the danger would be if there is abdication and there is no enforcement at all. Robert Haaland shared with the Commission that when he was a park ranger with the East Bay Regional Park District, that 90 percent of the time they did not have to do any type of enforcement and that just their presence often deterred behavior. The level of safety in the park was dramatically increased with the presence of a park patrol officer. Lisa Vittori stated that often people create conflicts where there are not conflicts. She believes that the dog issue is a big issue because there are on-leash parks. However, she had been to parks where people brought their dogs and children to enjoy the park. Bill Carlin stated that he had gone to parks with and without his dogs and he had never been attached. If the park patrol was going to be enforcing only the off- leash dog policy it would create a lot of consternation in the City. Judith Berkowitz reiterated that the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods supports substantially increasing the number of park rangers. Katherine Howard thanked the Commission for scheduling the Special meeting on the park patrol program. She encouraged the Commission to support the park patrol program. The park patrol could serve a larger purpose - they could create a positive presence that communicates respect for the parks and interact with and be sensitive to the needs of the community. Stan Kaufman urged the Commission to maximally fund staff and empower the park patrol program. There were two areas that he urged the Commission to target:

1) off-leash dog issue and 2) the homeless encampment issue. Peter Brastow spoke in solidarity with everyone who supported this program and fully funding it.

officers Lindsay Kefauver spoke

The Commission had detailed discussion on this item.

This item was a discussion only item and not action was taken.

RECREATION AND PARK DEPARTMENT – GOLF PROGRAM Staff Report In July 2007, the Board of Supervisors (BOS) appropriated $1.4 million in General Fund subsidy for the Golf Fund in FY 2007. With that appropriation, the BOS also placed a half year reserve on all expenditures

within the Golf Fund. This reserve was placed with the condition that the Recreation and Park Department (RPD) develop a plan and approach for managing the golf courses that would eliminate the need for a General Fund subsidy in future years

In response to this request, the Department – in partnership with the San Francisco Golf Foundation, a nonprofit established to help the city explore best practice alternatives to managing the courses – engaged the National Golf Foundation (NGF) to complete a thorough assessment and evaluation of the city’s golf course operations and capital needs.

RPD provided NGF with the same directive that the BOS gave RPD – consider all options for managing the courses, and return with a clear proposal that will eliminate the Golf Fund’s long-term dependence on the General Fund.

NGF has met that mandate with the attached report. NGF’s analysis applies their unique perspective as golf industry experts to San Francisco’s municipal course operations. NGF’s evaluation, initiated in November 2006, recommends that the City pursue a long-term lease with a nonprofit, similar to the management strategy adopted by the city of Baltimore. This recommendation was made after a lengthy review of the city’s courses, which included:

Site visits of all courses, including conversations with city staff and private operators

Golf Customer Survey administered online and at the courses

Best Practice review of municipal golf courses in the region and nation

Demand analysis for golf in the region

Review of financial structure and performance of the courses

Proposal for a fiscally viable long-term golf course management strategy

The January 31 st Special Meeting will provide an opportunity for the Commission, staff, and general public to:

Review and discuss the draft report and main findings

Identify issues/questions requiring further clarification in the final report

Determine next steps/analytical projects for staff to complete

Overview As noted by NGF, San Francisco’s golf courses are caught in a frustrating “Catch-22”. In order to increase revenues to cover expenditures, green fees/rounds played must increase. However, in order to increase green fees/rounds played, conditions at non-Harding courses must be improved. Either scenario – continuing as is, or investing additional capital funds – would require significant long-term general fund investment. The only option left, then, is to directly address the Golf Fund’s expenditures.

NGF’s report covers a broad spectrum of issues; this staff report attempts to summarize key points, structuring the discussion around the following five questions:

Where are we now? Where will we be without a solution?

Does enough demand exist to sustain San Francisco’s golf courses?

How are San Francisco’s golf courses performing in comparison to other similar courses?

How do we move forward to a solution?

What else do we need to know?

Where are we now? Where will we be without a solution? It is critical, before embarking on a discussion of the Golf Fund’s future, to be in agreement about the current status of the Fund, and the future consequences of neglecting to take action at this time.

Established in July 2002, the Golf Fund was created to hold and segregate the revenues and expenditures associated with the operations and maintenance of the city’s golf courses. It is important to note that at that

time, the only in-depth analysis conducted was on the profitability of Harding Park – not the Golf Fund as a whole.

Factors both within and outside of the city’s control have prevented the Golf Fund from realizing its originally envisioned potential. At this juncture,

The Golf Fund has now received three years (FY 2005 – FY 2007) of General Fund subsidy

Increases in revenues from Harding’s renovation have not been sufficient to cover the costs of the department’s overhead rate, Open Space debt payment, and capital improvements to the other courses.

All the courses are understaffed compared to average staffing at other similarly sized well- performing municipal courses.

With the exception of Harding/Fleming, all the courses are in worse physical condition than other well-performing municipal courses.

NGF clearly asserts that continuing to operate the courses as-is will be a losing proposition for the city, noting that:

Without any plan for additional capital investment, course conditions will continue to worsen, resulting in less play and less revenue.

With the rate of growth for expenditures outstripping the rate of revenue growth, the General Fund subsidy required will only increase– by 2012, somewhere between $3 to $3.6 million.

Long-term Viability of Golf Courses: the regional demand for golf NGF’s report provides, for the first time in the city’s conversations about the golf courses, a golf industry perspective on national and regional golf trends. This important – and previously missing information – should drive departmental decision-making around fees, marketing strategies, and the amount of golf provided by the Department to the public.

The discussion of how much demand for golf exists in the region is fairly complex. Many municipal golf markets have seen dramatic decreases in rounds since the late 1990’s; however, despite these decreases, many golf operations continue to remain profitable. And while overall national and regional golf trends have seen either conservative or declining growth in recent years, San Francisco’s rounds of play have declined at a significantly worse rate than these other trends. This picture is further complicated by NGF’s observation (page 20) that,

“While the San Francisco DMA is among the largest golf markets in the United States in terms of total demand, actual golf participation rates, and particularly rounds demanded per household, are low relative to national benchmarks. However due to the sheer size of the population, estimated rounds demanded in the market is a very large number. Additionally, as we will see, the corresponding supply to service this demand, relative to national benchmarks, is extremely low – a positive for existing golf facility operators.”

NGF is clear in stating that given the region’s golf trends and demographic patterns, enough demand exists to sustain San Francisco’s municipal golf courses. However, this assertion is qualified with several nuances that are important to note. As NGF states on page 24 of the report,

“…the local market area surrounding the City of San Francisco’s golf courses has far more households available to support each 18 hole golf course in the community, relative to national benchmarks, but… these households tend to demand much lower than average rounds of golf. The implication for the City of San Francisco and its continued operation of its municipal golf courses is that growth in rounds at the individual facility level will have to come from increased participation among existing golfers, both resident and regional, or from tourist golfers. These statistics also emphasize the need for beginner facilities such as Golden Gate Park, as well as player development programs such as the First Tee.”

NGF refers to San Francisco as a “net exporter of rounds” to surrounding counties’ golf facilities; many of San Francisco’s own golfers are traveling to play other courses rather than play in the city.

How do the city’s golf courses’ fiscal performance and structure compare to others in the region? Overall, while gross revenues at the city’s courses are high relative to other systems, course expenditures are also high. San Francisco’s cost of production per round in FY 2006 was second highest among the municipalities surveyed, at $45.24 hole – and that cost will increase significantly with the Open Space payment in FY 2007. Labor expense per revenue dollar averaged $0.38 among the seven municipalities reporting, while $0.62 for San Francisco. Food and Beverage (F & B) services – which almost across the board received poor customer satisfaction ratings – are also costing money in some cases, rather than generating revenue.

Unfortunately, in the city’s case, higher than average expenditures are not resulting in better than average courses (p. 60):

“These statistics would not be so telling if the San Francisco municipal golf courses were in better condition. However, with perhaps a couple of exceptions regionally and among the national golf systems we profiled, the City courses (other than Harding Park), particularly Lincoln and Sharp, are in for worse maintenance condition than any of those we’ve observed.”

Given the relatively poor condition of the non-Harding courses, increasing revenues by raising fees or attracting additional customers is an unlikely solution to the Golf Fund’s short term fiscal challenges. At Harding Park, where course conditions consistently receive high ratings, fees are already comparable with the highest rates in the regional market. Increasing fees further without additional capital improvements would only facilitate a further decline in rounds. As it is, San Francisco’s (excluding Gleneagles) rounds fell by 125,598 between FY 2000 and FY 2006 – a decline of 37%. This is in stark contrast to other courses in the regional municipal golf market, which on average experienced a decrease in activity of between 25- 30% during the same time period.

Moving Towards a Solution: learning from other urban golf systems San Francisco is not alone in struggling to operate a profitable municipal golf system. Many municipalities have experienced significant declines in play, dramatic growth in expenditures, all combined with a lack of capital investment.

Many of the systems which have recovered – including New York and Baltimore – have several strategies in common:

Eliminate or reduce costs of operations to the city

Shift burden of capital investment to non-city entity

Negotiate basic and consistent revenue stream for the city

In its report, NGF recommends the adoption of a Baltimore-like nonprofit model. This model includes:

Long Term (30+ years) lease arrangement for Harding, Lincoln, Sharp, and Golden Gate Park. The RFP should include requirements for capital improvements, maintenance standards, and green fee guidelines for residents.

“Face-lift” rehabilitation of Lincoln and Sharp Courses. Rather than a full Harding-type renovation, NGF outlines a series of more modest capital investments needed to improve playing conditions and operational efficiency. Private financing is assumed for capital investments.

Moderate fee increases after capital improvements. With much needed renovations at Lincoln and Sharp, NGF proposes the enactment of moderately higher rates for residents, and much higher rates for non-residents at Lincoln and Sharp Park.

Resident ID Card revenue stays with the City. Given the substantial capital investments required, NGF recommends that the city keep Resident ID Card revenue (worth about $300,000 currently), but shift all other revenue and expenditures to the nonprofit operator.

Next Steps: follow-up and additional analysis Although a draft report, NGF’s analysis does present a short- and long-term solution for the Golf Fund that is at least revenue-neutral for the department. RPD’s task, in the next few weeks, is to further refine NGF’s recommendations to address San Francisco’s unique circumstances. In particular, staff will evaluate:

The level of bridge financing required to implement a nonprofit model

Alternative uses for the courses outside the scope of NGF’s study (e.g., closure)

Opportunities and tools available to finance the recommended capital improvements

Other cost factors (e.g. conformance with local wage requirements, other legislative mandates) that may potentially impact the fiscal viability of the proposed model

With the Commission’s direction, staff will incorporate additional issues and questions into this list for clarification and research over the next few weeks.

This item was presented to the Commission by Yomi Agunbiade.

Zachery Salem, a gardener with the Department representing Local 261 Golf Committee, stated that they were adamantly opposed to the privatization of civil service jobs at the golf course. He stated that they were willing to work with the Department to preserve their jobs and enhance the beauty of the courses. He listed some of the creative proposals that they would like the Commission to consider. Andrea O’Leary stated that golf courses were not parks and that they can not be funded the same way as a park. She stated that maybe privatization is the way to go. She also stated that issues such as the environmental effects were not in the report. Jon Campo, an employee of Recreation and Park discussed the irrigation for reclaimed water at Sharp Park and stated his concerns about the project. Bob Killian gave a brief history on the golf program, the golf fund and spoke of golf subsidizing the Department. He stated that the Lincoln, Golden Gate and Sharp Park courses were profitable. Harding was not profitable and that was because of the professional services – over $3 million. Jo Coffee spoke about her environmental concerns at Sharp Park. Stan Kaufman also noted his concerns about the placement of the water tank in Sharp Park. Brent Plater spoke of Sharp Park and his concerns about the management there. Reola Freeman stated that the juniors could not afford to pay the prices they currently are being charged at Harding. Peter Brastow stated that the natural environment at Sharp Park was part of a much larger contiguous wild land that stretches all the way down the peninsula. There were some critical natural issues that relate to questions of how Sharp Park is run. He urged the Commission to take that into consideration during their decision making. Wolf Alderson stated that the NFG report seemed to raise more questions than answers regarding the its analysis, assumptions and recommendations. The report stated that a nonprofit had already been created and asked why a government organization would start its own nonprofit without the community at large. He stated that it was not a given that the outsourcing would solve the leadership and management problem. Alice Polesky stated that Sharp Park was not the best place to have a golf course and that she agreed with other speakers in regard to the environmental issues there. Andrew Sun stated that the report was one of the more exceptional reports on golf and served as an excellent foundation to begin the discussion on what should be done. However, one of the problems was that the Department tried to take on the vision of improving Harding Park to try and attract a pro golf circuit tournament several years ago which led to the decision today – whether to go with a different organizational structure or not. Mary White with the Department stated that the idea for municipal golf was for San Franciscans. She believed that no private company could have the interest San Franciscans have. She asked that the Commission take their time and not rush this. Dan Briesach stated that renovations were needed. However, the report discussed the profits once these renovations were completed. He stated that he had an issue with government interference and that he did not believe anyone was more qualified to handle issues such as environmental issues than the City and County - the Recreation and Park Department. David Diller asked if this was an objective report and if the nonprofit was objective. Mark Duane with Sharp Park stated that he is an environmentalist and was in support of the preservation of the red legged frog and the garter snake. At no time did he ever create the atmosphere that he was accused of. Joan V. asked that the Commission look at the Kemper side of things. She felt there were several things that could be done to make money for the City and County of San

Francisco. She also noted that the San Francisco golf courses were the leading courses for their sustainability practices.

There was detailed discussion on this item. Commissioner Harrison asked the general manager to look into whether the Department could do the following recommendations in-house: 1) change in the terms of paying the Open Space Fund, 2) private donations and public/private partnerships to help defray the cost of facelifts for the courses.

Commissioner Bonilla asked that he general manager look at the existing contracts it would help if these contractors were on a long term agreement and not on a month-to-month agreement.

This item was for discussion only and not action was taken.


The Special meeting of the Recreation and Park Commission was adjourned at 12:15 p.m. Respectfully submitted,

Margaret A. McArthur Commission Liaison