At a town hall meeting at the Mission Recreation Center on Wednesday, District 9 Supervisor David Campos let a small, mostly graying crowd of 24 know that he has always voted to raise funds for parks and green spaces.
The event was part of a series of ongoing town hall meetings on parks and open space across the city. At the District 9 event, Campos was asked questions about three separate but often overlapping areas of public concern: pedestrian safety and walkable streets, parks and open space, and the urban forest.
Audience members wrote questions on slips of paper and Elizabeth Stampe, the executive director of Walk San Francisco, posed them to Campos. Representatives from the Park, Recreation, and Open Space Advisory Committee (PROSAC) and the neighborhood group Eastern Neighborhoods United Front (ENUF) were in attendance.
One topic of interest was Proposition B, a ballot initiative that would allot $195 million to the Recreation and Park Department to improve parks, trails and open spaces across San Francisco. Campos supports the proposition but said on Wednesday that he’s concerned about ensuring long-term maintenance after proposed renovations have been made. If Prop. B passes, he said, the Board of Supervisors and the mayor have to make sure money is in place to keep up improvements. He used as an example a new fleet of Muni buses that were never properly serviced or maintained and so quickly became unusable.
Some in the audience were curious about when the pool at Garfield Park would reopen. Campos said that he was invested in making the discussion of Garfield’s pool and its renovations an “open process.” He later stated, “Where we get into trouble as a city is when we do something without public input.”
The supervisor was particularly passionate about greening, an urban renewal process that aims to increase the number of trees in a city and nurture the so-called “urban forest.” “Greening is something that has to be embedded into everything we do,” Campos said.
Despite San Francisco’s green national image, one questioner said, the city actually lags behind neighboring cities like Berkeley, Oakland and San Jose when it comes to a vibrant urban forest. Campos said that he’s dedicated to investing resources in greening, but appealed to the audience to get involved in the city’s budget process because “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”
When one questioner asked Campos how he felt about pay-to-play games at Mission Playground, he responded that he had been unaware of the practice. “My philosophy when it comes to our open space and recreational facilities is that they should be, as much as possible, free. All of us pay our taxes; all of us, you know, contribute through our work and everything that people do as residents of San Francisco, and I think that government has an obligation and a duty to make those opportunities available to all people.”
He later added, “I have as a matter of principle, a philosophy, a problem with efforts to charge and privatize access to what should be in free public space,” a statement that seems to put him at odds with District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, who supports the parks department’s efforts to rent out fields on some days .
In his closing remarks, Campos said he was grateful to be a public servant in a city like San Francisco. “We’re very lucky that we live in San Francisco … and I think that people here value parks and open space.”