S.F. parks fees may increase 

Ticket prices for Coit Tower, the Japanese Tea Garden and the Golden Gate Carousel may increase under plans by San Francisco's Recreation and Park Department.

The proposed increases, introduced at Thursday’s Recreation and Park Commission meeting, will generate revenue needed to stave off potential program cuts, said department spokeswoman Rose Dennis.

"We've got tourists who don't bat an eye for spending $10 for a map," Dennis said. "It's unfair to the citizens of San Francisco if we don't reflect the true costs of these attractions in their admissions fees."

The last time ticket prices were boosted for Coit Tower and the Japanese Tea Garden was in 1998; some fees for the Golden Gate Carousel were boosted in 2003, according to department data. With the fee increases, the department hopes to raise an estimated $172,286 in additional revenue.

The largest chunk of new revenue would come from eliminating "daily free hours" at the Japanese Tea Garden — currently the first and last hour of every day. According to a Recreation and Park Department memo, the free offering, intended for local residents, is being taken advantage of by tour operators who bring their busloads during those times.

Since tourists account for more than half of the garden’s visitors, the department wants to reduce the number of free hours to three mornings a week. According to department estimates, if even half of the current hourly visitor traffic fills the formerly free hours, $113,983 would be generated.

The department is also proposing to reverse a 2003 Board of Supervisors decision to allow kids up to 5 years of age to ride the Golden Gate Carousel for free. Such a move is estimated to increase department revenues, which come from a 20 percent cut from the carousel’s operator — about $3,000 a year.

The fee increase proposals for the Tea Garden and the carousel were passed by the Recreation and Park Commission and will now go to the Board of Supervisors. The increases for Coit Tower were held, and will be reintroduced at a future commission meeting.

beslinger@examiner.com

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Bonnie Eslinger

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