San Francisco parks bond projects are lagging 

Mission Playground renovations? Delayed 18 months. Chinese Recreation Center upgrades? Delayed 24 months. McCoppin Square improvements? Delayed four months.

In fact, every one of the 12 park improvement projects funded by a 2008 voter-approved bond have been delayed, according to a July quarterly report. On average, the projects are now projected to finish about 14 months after originally promised.

Click on the photo at right to see all park projects and their projected end dates.

Recreation and Park Department officials say the projects are on budget, and that the delays came from their extensive planning and community outreach. But advocates say the department must convince voters it can complete projects if it intends to ask for more money in 2012.

In February 2008, voters approved the sale of $185 million in bonds. The majority went to the Rec and Park department, with about $33.5 million devoted to Port of San Francisco projects.

A dozen specific park projects were described in the bond, as well as several citywide projects, such as restroom renovations and trail restorations. Not only are the specific projects behind schedule, but none of the citywide projects have met deadlines. In fact, of all the projects outlined, only a handful are on schedule — all managed by the Port.

During the campaign, bond advocates promised it would be managed differently from a similar 2000 bond, which exceeded both its budget and its schedule, requiring some projects to be postponed or canceled.

Rec and Park spokeswoman Connie Chan said the department is proud of staying on budget. She attributed some of the slowdowns to “unanticipated regulatory issues,” like acquiring permits and completing environmental impact reports.  But she said the main delays have come from the “more rigorous community planning process” the department has gone through.

“We’re doing our due diligence to make sure we hear from the community and these designs are community driven,” she said. “It’s a process, it takes time, but we are committed to it.”

Meredith Thomas, executive director of Neighborhood Parks Council, noted that The City’s capital plan calls for going back to voters in 2012 for another round of bond funding for the parks. Before 2000, it had been 50 years since the parks bond, and such delays cannot occur again if parks are to remain well-maintained.

“We need to keep delivering these projects to show these bonds do work, that they’re effective and are good for our park system,” Thomas said. “People have been waiting to see that result, and are going to see it soon.”

Thea Selby, chairwoman of the Citizen’s General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee, said that while the delays are not ideal, the 2008 bond has been managed better than its predecessor. She said spending more time seeking community input for a project is especially important when it comes to parks.

“I was sort of hopeful that the time could be made up on the backend, because you spent so much time with the community at the front end, but I don’t think on-time is going to happen,” she said.

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Katie Worth

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