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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Botanical Garden Fee Back on The Table; Supervisor John Avalos Says It's 'Disastrous'

Posted By on Wed, Mar 9, 2011 at 11:54 AM

A high price to pay ... for politics.
  • A high price to pay ... for politics.

Supervisor John Avalos is miffed over legislation coming out of the mayor's office that would trump his bill that repealed the onerous admission fee for
tourists at the Botanical Garden.

Mayor Ed Lee has introduced legislation to reinstate the $7 fee -- permanently, a move that Avalos suspects is less about money and more about politics.

"I'm concerned something bigger is going on," Avalos said.

And he isn't talking about the arboretum's latest flower exhibit.

Here is the back story: Avalos has all along fought against a fee for non reisdents at the Garden. Then last year, as Rec and Park was stripping away gardeners to handle a budget deficit, Avalos caved, with one caveat.

He supported the $7 fee -- which went into effect in August -- but only if the fee would be eliminated once the city found additional revenue to replace it.

When voters passed an increase in the city's transfer tax last November, Avalos saw this extra $40 million an opportunity to restore funding and eliminate fees at the Botanical Garden.

So he successfully got the votes he needed to shift the money -- which amounts to $190,000 out of the total $40 million pile -- toward rec and park's budget.

But curiously, parks officials don't want it.

Avalos tells SF Weekly -- and Botanical Garden's representatives

admit -- they'd rather charge tourists a fee than take the handout.

"Avalos' plan is a one-time thing for ongoing maintenance," said Michael McKechnie, executive director at the Botanical Garden. "It seems to me if you can get out-of-towners to support a city institution that's a better solution."

Avalos disagrees. He thinks charging people to get into the park is "disastrous." He mentioned that attendance has gone down since the fee was implemented, yet Rec and Park officials say otherwise. However, neither parties could immediately provide numbers to prove their arguments.

"We have money to give them so they don't have to charge people," Avalos said. "It doesn't make sense."

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.


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