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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Garden-Variety Debate Continues: Public To Vent Tonight On Plan To Ding Out-of-Town Arboretum Visitors

Posted By on Thu, May 28, 2009 at 3:01 PM

It's pretty -- but is it seven bucks worth of pretty?
  • It's pretty -- but is it seven bucks worth of pretty?

Last month we wrote about a debate among the tulips: In order to make up for a shortage of funds, Recreation and Park Department officials were proposing a $5 to $7 entry fee for  Strybing Arboretum. And yet, since the city feels the arboretum in its current state doesn't warrant such payment to enter, its plans called for vamping up Strybing to the level of the nation's finest arboretums.

As we put it then: This is an odd and, dare we say, tautological rationale: We can't afford to give it to people for free, so we need to charge them. But if we charge them, we need to give them more, so we need to apply their money to things they weren't getting before when they got in for free -- and may not even want.

Tonight at 6:30, the city is trotting out Fee Plan No. 2: Ding out-of-towners for seven bucks and make locals flash an ID card to enter the arboretum. And yet locals -- of the sort you'd expect to go to an arboretum-centered meeting or, say, found the "keep the arboretum free" Web site -- are not happy. The Live Free or Die crowd are employing Pastor Martin Niemöller-like logic: If they come for the out-of-towners and you say nothing because you are not an out-of-towner, then there will be no one left to speak up when they come for you. Rec and Park Director Jared Blumenfeld hasn't allayed these folks' fears by noting that "We will start by charging non-residents." (our emphasis).

Expect tonight's meeting -- which will be held at 6:30 to 8:30 at the County Fair Building (9th and Lincoln -- but if you don't know that you probably wouldn't be going, right?) -- to be loud and rancorous. If there's one thing San Franciscans like to do, it's speak in public -- and if there's something we love to do, it's yell in public.

At the heart of this debate is a painful conundrum: We've noted how it's an odd bit of logic to make people start paying for improvements to a site solely to justify those payments. But, if the arboretum were to be left alone and merely serve as a neighborhood park -- and not a San Francisco destination -- then it hardly makes sense to have nearly four times the gardeners stationed there than handle all of McLaren Park, no?

Considering the blowback from the city and state's ever-worsening budgetary situation, we feel entitled to, once again, quote Simon and Garfunkel: "Laugh about it, shout about it, when you've got to choose: Every way you look at it, you lose."

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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