San Francisco’s park system is a critical city asset benefiting our quality of life and contributing to our economy. Encompassing more than 400 parks, playgrounds and recreation facilities, our urban park system was ranked No. 1 in the nation by the Trust for Public Land and has become the envy of municipalities across the nation and the world.
Like all infrastructure, San Francisco’s parks and associated facilities require continued investment to ensure that they remain clean, safe and accessible to the tens of thousands of residents and visitors who utilize them each year. Unfortunately, scarce city resources are not providing the capital necessary to maintain and operate these important assets. In fact, the Recreation and Park Department now estimates it has more than $1 billion in deferred maintenance and capital needs.
Proposition B — the Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks bond — offers a sensible way forward. Placed on the ballot by Mayor Ed Lee and a unanimous Board of Supervisors, Prop. B authorizes a $195 million general obligation bond to enhance The City’s most visited parks and facilities, make seismic improvements to recreation centers and playgrounds, construct new waterfront parks and help restore The City’s shoreline — all while creating 1,500 jobs.
Because Prop. B is part of The City’s 10-year capital plan — which only sells new bonds as old ones are repaid — the measure will not raise property taxes.
Make no mistake; $195 million is a lot of money, especially when considering other pressing priorities currently facing The City. But an investment in our parks is an investment in San Francisco’s future. In addition to the health and community benefits that parks deliver to residents and families, they are also important contributors to our economy. National studies have shown that parks positively impact adjacent property values by as much as 25 percent and can provide tangible savings on stormwater and pollution expenses.
More importantly, San Francisco’s parks and open spaces help to fuel The City’s visitor industry, which attracts more than 16 million people spending $8.5 billion a year and supporting more than 70,000 jobs. Whether it’s visiting the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, strolling along the waterfront or attending one of the many special events staged in our parks, most tourists experience our park infrastructure during a visit to our city.
A study on tourism in San Diego found that 5 percent of its tourists came solely because of its parks, resulting in 835,000 overnight stays and 522,000 day visitors. In San Francisco, where 15 million people visit Golden Gate Park alone each year, there is no doubt our parks also play a major role in stimulating tourism and encouraging repeat visitors.
San Francisco is fortunate to have its public park system. Investing in these parks today will save money down the road when the repair needs becomes greater and costs increase. Prop. B builds on the momentum of previous bond measures passed in 2000 and 2008, and will continue to make the necessary improvements that will keep our parks clean and safe, while delivering promised improvements to neighborhoods throughout The City. Join San Francisco’s business community in voting yes on Prop. B this November.
Steve Falk is president and CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.