A Better Mix of Greens

Today in San Francisco people are more interested in growing salad greens than golf greens. In a survey commissioned by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, city residents ranked the kinds of recreation they want to see more of in the City. Community gardens came in 3rd place, while golf facilities ranked a distant 16th.

Demand for community gardens is much greater than San Francisco’s supply. According to the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), San Francisco’s approximately 100 garden plots don’t have enough space for the 500+ residents eagerly waiting for space. Most garden waitlists are at least two years long, and some are close to 20.

In contrast, San Francisco’s six municipal golf courses are under used, because there aren’t enough golfers in the Bay Area to support them. Data collected by the National Golf Foundation show that golf’s popularity peaked in 2004. Today the Bay Area supplies 6 million more rounds of golf annually than golfers actually demand, and so San Francisco’s Sharp Park and Lincoln Golf Courses can only sell about 45% of their golf rounds. According to golf industry expert Jay Miller, golf’s popularity is not going to recover.

It’s time for San Francisco to rethink its recreation supply. We need a better balance between golf greens and community gardens. But if we provide more community gardens, the Recreation and Park Department will need to invest more money in their maintenance: and San Francisco’s budget is already stretched thin.

But there’s a simple answer to this dilemma: if San Francisco closes the money-losing Sharp Park Golf Course and allows the National Park Service to transform the land into a new National Park, the City could reinvest the savings into community gardens and other recreation opportunities that San Franciscan’s actually demand.

For example, RPD only spent $370,560 to maintain community gardens between 2006-2011, a woefully inadequate amount given resident’s high demand for these facilities. During the same time period RPD lost $450,913 operating Sharp Park Golf Course.

Fiscal Year RPD Community Garden Spending RPD Sharp Park Golf Course Losses
06/07 $98,821 – $64,685
07/08 $58,947 – $119,758
08/09 $51,809 $29,446
09/10 $96,432 – $134,699
10/11 $64,551 – $161,217
TOTALS $370,560 – $450,913

RPD could have increased funding for community gardens by 222%—without charging San Francisco taxpayers an additional cent—by closing Sharp Park Golf Course and reinvesting the money RPD saved in community gardens. And while San Francisco makes more community gardens in its neighborhoods, the National Park Service will create more hiking and biking trails—San Francisco’s #1 recreational demand—at the new Sharp Park National Park.

So, next time you hear the tired tune about lack of funding for urban gardening, dig deeper. Ask the Recreation and Park Department to stop subsidizing Sharp Park Golf Course, and reinvest the money in recreation opportunities modern San Franciscans demand. Please contact Mayor Lee at (415) 554-6141 and the RPD at (415) 831-2700 today. Ask them to reassess Sharp Park Golf Course’s wilted greens to make way for fresh garden greens.

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