Shady deal alleged at San Francisco's Stow Lake boathouse 

A judge who will decide whether to void the agreement seeking to replace the longtime operators of the Stow Lake boathouse said on Wednesday that evidence suggests city officials might have helped the new operators secure their contract.

During a preliminary hearing Wednesday in a lawsuit filed by the Stow Lake Corp. against The City and its new operator, Superior Court Judge Loretta Giorgi referred to an email in which the New Mexico-based management company Ortega Family Enterprises said the agency had urged it to hire a public relations firm.

“It didn’t pass the smell test,” Giorgi said.

A lawyer representing the Recreation and Park Department pointed out that the email in question was written in September, several months after a panel chose Ortega as the new manager and one month after the Recreation and Park Commission upheld that decision.

However, Giorgi said she still wanted to establish whether agency staff had influenced the panel’s judgment.

Since the emails were only submitted Tuesday, Giorgi said she wanted more time for everyone involved in the case.

“You may have an argument there, you may not,” she told the current operator’s lawyers.
Giorgi scheduled a new hearing for May 13.

Despite opposition from loyal fans of the current operators, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted in favor of the Ortega contract in February.

The Stow Lake Corp. has managed the boathouse for more than 60 years. Its lawsuit has prevented a planned March 22 transition, allowing the corporation to temporarily stay.

Opponents are especially upset about Ortega’s plans to build a cafe where the lake’s boats are traditionally fixed. If the corporation’s lawsuit fails, Ortega is scheduled to begin construction after the summer season.

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com

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Kamala Kelkar

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