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Stop the Privatization and Permanent Fees at San Francisco Botanical Garden!
by Harry S. Pariser
Thu, Jun 13, 2013 On June 20, 2013, the Budget and Finance Committee of the SF Board of Supervisors will begin to review the RPD budget. Hidden within the mountains of paper are legislation which will strikeout a single line, makingethe fees at San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum permanent, and a contract privatizing these 55 acres by handing over control for the next 30 years to San Francisco Botanical Garden Society. It is vitally important to fight this privatization. Control by the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society has already caused gates to be shut, taxpayers put on the hook for unnecessary yet expensive new signage, ticket booths, and a $725,000 grant agreement in 2012, plus a $400,000 grant agreement in 2011. The San Francisco Botanical Garden Society treats the Arboretum as both its feudal domain and cash cow, closing previously-accessible gates, bringing in food trucks (with plans to have a coffee truck stationed there permanently), holding member-only evening entrances (!) and cutting admission hours. They are planning on building a large, destructive fenced-and-walled building which will fell trees and cover an area nearly the size of two football fields. It will have a new access road, and the RPD will be able to sign off on future changes (expansion, more parking spaces) without any public input (or even notifying anyone). The Society will pay no utilities (taxpayers will foot the bill) and it will be free to bring in food trucks, etc. for events. The Society already occupies acres within the Arboretum which it uses to grow plants for its plant sale, presumably so they can pay lobbyist Sam Lauter his tens of thousands each quarter. If we leave things to the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society, the Arboretum will be a dystopic place in the future. We need strong protest by the public because Parks Alliance, Mark Buell and other plutocrats and plutocrat-aligned forces (think Supervisor Scott Wiener) will be pushing this through. There has been zero media coverage because this is being kept on the hush hush. Contact your Supervisor below: People from outside SF should also contact them. More information follows below. Feel free to call (415) 665-4829 with any questions. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Essay in SF Bayview: ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The contract with San Francisco Botanical Garden Society (note the outrageous terms and conditions). ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sam Lauter paid by San Francisco Botanical Garden Society: ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Facebook Page ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Riddle me this: When is a public space a private space? Answer: When it is controlled by a "nonprofit" in a "public-private partnership." For more than two decades, the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society attempted to obtain entry fees to Strybing Arboretum. It first changed its name from the Strybing Arboretum Society, then hired a lobbyist to push through changes to the name of the Arboretum itself, reasoning that the new name was more commercial. When, in 2009, it found that it could not find support for fees for everyone, it chose to hire lobbyist Sam Lauter, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, to push through a $7 "nonresident" fee for a one-year "trial". Gates were closed; entrance hours were extended; and people (many of them residents, yet undocumented) turned away in droves. Despite this fact, and counter to the recommendations of Harvey Rose and Associates, the fees (which include steep rate rises for rentals at the Hall of Flowers) were extended for a year. Despite the ruse of "revenues," the fees are really a tax on working people, one designed to keep people out. As any visitor on a sunny day can attest, it has acheived dramatic events: The gardens are empty! Members of the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society, however, enter for free and benefit from the tax dollars of Californians, many of whom must pay for entry. Mysteriously, the Society received a $725,000 grant in 2012 and one for $400,000 in 2011. This July 20th, the Recreation and Park Department will present its budget with a Trojan Horse hidden in it — a contract which will effectively privatize these precious 55 acres for perpetuity, making all of us all second-class citizens in our own City. Philip A. Ginsburg, manager of the Recreation and Park Department, negotiated this contract behind closed doors. We taxpayers wil be on the hook for paying electricity at their new building, a sprawling walled complex covering two football fields which will require a new road, fell some 50 trees and will endanger the habitat of Mark Twain's frog. The fact that this building — to be used for parties, a store and offices — will be called a "Center For Sustainable Gardening" makes me feel that we have entered an era in which irony can no longer outdo reality. Is a vision of a future filled with food trucks, ritzy private events and complete control over public space (by a small number of wealthy people with no accountability to the public), what Helene Strybing had in mind? Will a Supervisor not have the courage to step forward and demand that this set of legislation be considered on its own? This San Francisco Botanical Garden Society is Planning to Privatize and Make the Fees Permanent at San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum

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