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Union members line up at Rec and Park meeting
The Commission had the support of the unions but gave neighbors — who were not properly notified — little respect.

Prospecting in the Polo Fields of Golden Gate Park Pt. II

Neighbors get short shrift, Another Planet gets its way.

• • • • • • • • • • June 28, 2023 • • • • • • • • • •

Continuing my observations of what took place at the May 18 meeting of the SF Rec and Park Commission regarding Agenda Item 8: Golden Gate Park - Polo Fields Concerts.

General Manager Phil Ginsburg
General Manager Phil Ginsburg

As noted earlier, Stephanie Linder, Executive Director of the "The Non-Profit Partner at the Gardens of Golden Gate Park," made her remarks to recommend the permit approval. Next to speak were members of the Friends of the Polo Fields, a grassroots community group working to improve safety and conditions at the historic Polo Fields cycling track in Golden Gate Park.

All quotes are from the video or caption notes.

"My name is Jillian and I'm a member of the volunteer organization Friends of the Polo Fields. The cycle track at the Polo Fields is the only 100% car-free and pedestrian-free space dedicated to safe cycling in San Francisco. It is safe for the whole spectrum of cyclists from seniors and families riding slowly to athletes training fast. I noticed in the proposal for this permit that youth soccer was addressed but the impact to the cycle track was not brought up. Spaces like this are important at a time when people are getting hit and killed by cars on San Francisco streets is at a tragic high. The track is open for less than 60% of the year because it is closed whenever the infield is in use. A 21 day closure for Outside Land and this sounds like it would extend this for an additional 7 days. I'm a visually impaired cyclist ... the cycle track is one of the few places I feel safe training. Restricting access to the polo fields, a safe facility, is unacceptable. I support concerts ... but implement a plan outside of the cycle track. Please don't further restrict access to the cycle track."

Larry Mazolla
Commissioner Larry Mazolla

"I'm Sarah, a member of the volunteer organization, Friends of Polo Fields. I also volunteer with NOPA in Alamo Sq. neighborhood, and I also volunteer with the civic corps program with Park and Rec to restore the parks in the city. I'm in strong opposition of item 8 ... The mental and physical health and, most importantly, the safety of people in SF matters. The Polo Fields are a resource for this that help us find peace and community in a bustling city and prevent cyclist accidents in San Francisco. ... We can't sacrifice the well being of SF residents in order to bring more revenue and more culture, and music to us."

The efforts of Jillian and Sarah proved to be of no avail. The Commissioners did not acknowledge or address their concerns. Next to speak was Richard Rothman.

"I represent District 1 on the Park and Open Space Advisory Committee, and I'm a retired union member ... at a community meeting a year ago, Dana (Ketcham) promised the community that there would only be two concerts a year in the park. So why is it changed? ... The one word is traffic, it's not the people blocking garages. It is people parking on the street and can't move their car. You know, what if somebody has an emergency or childcare. If they give up their parking space then they have no space to park. We asked MTA to limit cars in the Richmond and they will not do anything. The concert promoters say there is limited parking when there is no parking there. And I don't think this is fair to the residents who live near the park. The three supervisors whose district touches the park wrote a letter to the commission, which I agree with, why not have the concerts downtown? The mayor says downtown is dying and we need revenue there. So have them in union square or -- other parts of downtown. Close off market and have the concert on market street. You know they take away parking, too on Fulton street and up by George Washington High School. Why can't ... their employees take shuttles and stop making Golden Gate Park a big parking lot? It's just not fair to the residents."

Mark Buell
Commissioner Mark Buell

Again, in the end, the Commissioners did not acknowledge or address Rothman's concerns.

"My name is Devorah Joseph; I'm the founder of the Friends of Cabrillo Playground ... on 38th and 39th avenues. You see, we are at the epicenter of Outside Lands ... And as Richard was saying, it is the traffic, the trash, noise, a lot to deal with. This proposal, which would extend it, means that more or less the park will be closed for the entire month of AUGUST. Now I'm somebody who walks the Polo Fields every single day. So that's a month my neighbors and I don't have. We suggest you look for another venue. What about Mclaren Park? This is another nice big park in the city. I understand it is not originally the setup but I think you are asking too much of our neighborhoods. The outer Richmond and outer Sunset. And I'm questioning, what do we get for it?"

Unfortunately for Devorah and all who reside in the Richmond and Sunset, the Commissioners did not respond to her questions or concerns.

Joe Hallisey
Commissioner Joe Hallisey

The parade of union members continued. Selected excerpts of their remarks follow:

"My name is Vince with the Northern California Council of Laborers. I'm joined by some of the very best that we have to offer in your department. I'm glad we had an opportunity to talk about this item. Some of our folks are going to weigh in so you can hear directly from them... We support, we absolutely support these permits ... always know that Local 261 absolutely has your back."

"My name is Toby. I am a Chief Steward for Laborers Local 261 as well as a park section Supervisor for Rec and Park. Entering into a contract with Another Planet Entertainment to host concerts in the Polo Fields after Outside Lands would generate substantial revenue that is crucial for the Rec and Park Department to retain programming and avoid cuts to services. This partnership brings economic benefits, supports community engagement, and enhances recreation opportunities all while helping to address the city's significant budget deficit."

Kat Anderson
Commissioner Kat Anderson

"I'm Shade (?) ... a resident since 1998 and currently a gardener for Rec and Park and Chief Steward for Local 261, and I want to express my support of this for a number of reasons. One being, you know, money. Obviously, this is a very important thing ... I live in the Richmond District. I complain when Outside Lands happens, but I understand the importance of it. I do share the burden with people and understand why it is difficult. You know these parks are, you know, where people and our botanical worlds collide to express this city perfectly. Festivals are something historic to the city. When you see San Francisco mentioned positively, historically, it is often times festivals, music, culture. I do think this is continuing in that tradition in a creative way to make money for the city. ..."

"I'm Mark, and I'm a Shop Steward ... I tell you, there are a number of operational procedures we do during outside lands, and another week would allow us much-needed time to do on Chain of Lakes ... having witnessed Another Planet load in it is a very complex procedure this is not going to happen anywhere else. Adding another week on the end is very much worth the finance it will bring in. And I use the circle track every day, and I will tell you that the seven extra days is very much worth the 2.1 million dollars."


The concert promoters say there is limited parking when there is no parking there. And I don't think this is fair to the residents who live near the park. The three supervisors whose district touches the park wrote a letter to the commission, which I agree with, why not have the concerts downtown?”

"I'm Jacob; Local 261 gardener. I live in the Richmond ... We are extending it another week and doubling money. Is it worth it? Yes, it is. I think that we need this money. ... Let's support this concert and get this money."

Nine members of Laborers Local 261 spoke, all Rec and Park employees, many of them gardeners in Golden Gate Park. Suffice it to say, they were all in favor of the proposal, which is not surprising considering they are employed by Rec and Park. They came as an organized group, not as individuals. My question is, are they getting paid while they are giving their testimony and not doing their gardening? Are they being given time off to go and speak to the Commission? If the Rec and Park Dept. isn't paying them, is the Union paying them? Come to think of it, unless they were being given unpaid time off from work, every speaker present who was in favor of the concert was getting paid the whole time they were there. Somehow, that doesn't seem quite right. Shouldn't they have to disclose that they are paid to be there?

Laurence Griffin
Laurence Griffin

The hearing next moved to comments from callers.

"I'm Jenny Sue; I'm born and raised in San Francisco, and I live in the Richmond District, ... unfortunately the first time these concert expansion plans were announced on MAY 12 in a press release, you're voting to pass today, which doesn't provide enough notice to respond ... just to talk about the contract business terms I believe we are under-charging for the venue rentals. Currently Golden Gate Park plans to charge Another Planet a fixed permit fee ... However when you take a look at local arenas Oracle Area, Chase Center, and SAP Center, ShoreLine Amphitheater and Concord Pavilion, they typically employ a percentage based revenue sharing model ranging from 15 to 20 percent of ticket sales."

The next caller, Cliff, spoke for many when he said, "It is really a shame it has not been recognized that there is an impact on limiting access to the space for another week."

There wasn't a single commissioner who thought there was a follow-up question worth asking, with the one exception of Larry Mazzola. Mazzola wanted to know what steps were being taken by the Rec and Park Dept. to find a different location for Outside Lands.

Commissioner Mazzola: "I want to say that we received letters in our packets from members of the Board of Supervisors, some that had a question about this. I don't want this to go ignored. I think it has been addressed ... this is, why can't we do this somewhere else? The infrastructure is already there; it will not be cost-effective and stuff like this. It seems like those are the answers. I wanted to know if the General Manager would like to expand on this issue of having it somewhere else, if there are reasons besides this."

Vanita Louie
Commissioner Vanita Louie

General Manager Ginsburg. "We agree with the Supervisors and think it is a wonderful idea to activate public spaces, and we're working hard to do that. And as you heard, the key is infrastructure. And what makes this agreement possible is the existence, the preexistence, of the infrastructure. ... So, we have no issue with a policy goal coming from members of the Board to activate Civic Center and you know UN Plaza and Embarcadero and our team is truly hard at work on a myriad of ideas to do this."

And that takes care of that, thank you very much. The vote was taken, and the recommendation to approve the permit was unanimous.

David Romano is an environmental activist living near Ocean Beach

June 28, 2023

David Romano.
David Romano

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