Privateers Set to Further Invade SF Parks

Public employees laid off as private contractors assume control of park facilities.

Ever since Nancy Pelosi successfully moved to privatize the Presidio by turning over management of the military outpost turned national park to the private Presidio Trust, privatization efforts have gathered steam around San Francisco's greenest pastures.

And now it's full steam ahead, with the cash-strapped Recreation and Parks department set to turn more public facilities over to private contractors while laying off longtime workers.

The latest cuts involve 72 municipal employees of Rec and Parks that will be receiving layoff notices. Meanwhile, the department recently added two new upper-level managers at six-figure salaries.

"What they aren't telling the public is that it is actually cheaper to allow Rec and Park workers to do our job than to pay the nonprofits, even though the workers the nonprofits contract out are making a lower hourly wage," an anonymous member of the department told the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

And to increase revenue, the department has been leasing more facilities to for-profit businesses as well -- a new concessionaire at the Japanese Tea Garden was allowed to replace a longtime vendor after promising more income and improvements.

It's easy to imagine the department reduced to managing the paperwork for a growing number of leasees looking to run private programs and even turn a profit on city-owned land.

Once a common haven from the hustle and bustle of city business, parks are becoming just another place to turn a buck gouging tourists while highly paid managers push paperwork and low-wage, seasonal workers replace longtime caretakers the neighbors have come to know. Photo by Wendy Harman.

Jackson West can't wait for the water slide from Coit Tower to Washington Square.

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