City Hall Watch: Visitors now must pay to see Botanical Garden 

San Francisco’s treasured 55-acre Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park was free to visit for years, but the budget deficit has prompted The City to start charging out-of-towners.

In an 8-3 vote Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors approved a fee for nonresidents to enjoy the Botanical Garden, an area where people can observe more than 8,000 types of plants and enjoy open space and landscaped ­gardens.

The divisive fee proposed by the Recreation and Park Department was supported as The City is struggling with a deficit. The department had to come up with $12.5 million in cuts or revenue increases heading into the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

“We are just left with awful, awful choices,” Supervisor Chris Daly said. "This is not one of the hard ones. That is how bad it is this year.”

Supervisors Bevan Dufty, Eric Mar and Ross Mirkarimi opposed the fee.

Mar said the nonresident fee is “a step towards eventually charging­ everyone.” And he said that “once we start making it more of an exclusive place for only some people, then it’s lost as a treasure of San ­Francisco.”

The department has said the fee would generate $250,000 during the next fiscal year.

The cost to enter the Botanical Garden remains free for residents, but adult nonresidents will now pay $7 while nonresident youths and seniors will pay $5 and youths between 5 and 11 years old will pay $2. No family would be charged more than $15.

Supervisor John Avalos, who chairs the board’s Budget and Finance Committee, said he supported the fee to protect as many services as possible when The City closes the $483 million deficit.

Also, the board unanimously ap­proved a $2 fee increase for nonresidents to use the elevator at Coit Tower. Those fees are currently $5 for adults and $3 for seniors and youths. The increase is projected to generate $200,000 annually.

 

IN OTHER ACTION

In an 11-0 vote, Angela Chan, staff attorney for the Asian Law Caucus, was appointed to a four-year term on the Police Commission.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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