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Monday, January 26, 2009

You Don't Know When the Rec Center's Open -- and Neither Does the City

Posted By on Mon, Jan 26, 2009 at 3:59 PM

click to enlarge sorry_we_are_closed_b.jpg
According to a fairly recent -- and completely unreported -- city controller's report, a reduction in hours for S.F.'s 63 city recreation centers is almost inevitable. It's not because the city doesn't have the money -- for once, it does -- but because it doesn't have the staff. But no one can say how drastically the centers' hours will be cut, in part because nobody can say when they're open now.

According to the study, "The (Recreation and Parks) department does not maintain official public hours of operation for their recreation centers."

To repeat: This is not a joke.

"The department operates a mix of facilities consisting of recreation centers, clubhouses, and playgrounds," the report clarifies. "The department currently has no published or officially established hours of operation for these facilities."

Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who requested the report, called that fact "amazing."

"It's hard to explain to people sometimes how much this city doesn't work," he said dryly.

The Recreation and Parks Department does keep an internal schedule of when its employees are working at the facilities, but that information is not available to the public -- a fact which, the report dryly notes, "makes the use of the facilities difficult for the public."

The report goes on to suggest that they do something revolutionary like post a schedule.

That, however, is the easy problem. A bigger problem is that when recreation facilities do close down because staff don't show up, nobody finds out about it.

Once again, this is not a joke: The city really operates like this.

To quote from the report:

"There is no centralized reporting of how often facilities are closed due to staff shortages, and there is no consistent method for department management to be informed if their staff are absent from work. Absent this management tracking and reporting, the department cannot properly monitor staff attendance, address staffing shortfalls, or report on unscheduled facility closures."

Once again, the report recommends that somebody, you know, do something about that.

But the biggest problem of all is that the Recreation and Parks Department's hiring for Rec Centers has been significantly below its budget since 2004. Nobody noticed, because, since that time, anywhere from three to nine facilities have been closed for renovations -- and so staff who would otherwise be at their designated facilities could be put elsewhere.

Now, however, the bonded recreation projects are nearly finished, meaning that there will be no one to pick up the slack -- and there will almost inevitably be more instances of rec centers closing for lack of staff.

This problem might not have an easy solution, and Dufty said he expects to hold hearings on the issue soon.

According to the report, the Recreation and Parks department is preparing a plan to present to the mayor on how to solve these issues. A call to the department for comment was not officially answered because -- despite calling during business hours -- no one was available, at any extension, to answer the phone.

"I don't know who to put you through to -- this is the after hours answering service," SF Weekly was finally told, after dialing repeated numbers, a half-hour before the department's stated closing time.

We should have seen that coming.

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Benjamin Wachs


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