As anticipated, the public meeting concerning the plan to start charging daily admission at the “world class” San Francisco Botanical Garden was held tonight – so it’s going to be seven dollars for those Godforsaken Souls not fortunate to reside within the City limits, and five bones for residents. The crowd, 90%+ opposed to this idea, vented its fury, as anticipated.
(If you’re not familiar with the place take a look here – this flora and fauna, with subjects like orange hummingbirds, violet blue jays, purple flowers, red foxes, blue herons, pink berries and yellow poppies, were spotted at the S.F. Botanical Garden.)
One worry is the possibility of the revenue predictions being a tad too rosy. The plan now is for the million dollar a year projected take (that’s a nice round number, in’nt?) to get partially eaten up by the $300K in annual expenses associated with collecting admission. If the number of people who decide to avoid Strybing like the plague (as many people have done with the Japanese Tea Garden) is greater than anticipated, then the fixed overhead of the admissions scheme could take a much bigger share of the gross.
(It’s not clear if the proposed “aggressive marketing campaign” is included in the $300,000/year estimated cost of overhead.)
Now of course, the idea to charge admission would still “make money,” it would still make sense under the marginal revenue productivity theory of wages, but would it make sense overall? Tonight’s Powerpoint presentation made a good case for just shutting down Strybing entirely, since it’s so expensive to operate, right? But if the proposed scheme chases out more than half the patrons, then isn’t this admissions plan more than halfway there to just shutting down entirely?
An accountant, or a business owner or a CEO can easily understand Marginal Revenue Product, but the concept of the deadweight loss to society from the admission policy is harder to understand.
Did the survey taken of visitors’ willingness to pay admission correctly determine the elasticity of demand? Only Time Will Tell.
Notably absent from tonight’s meeting was the early morning exercise crew, which will be unaffected since they’ll get in for free if they get to the park early enough in the day, apparently. Another notable point is the crowd’s hatred of the Japanese Tea Garden’s lack of a monthly free admission day. The reduction in the number of hours per week the public could get into the JTG for free was about 90% all of a sudden not too long ago. So there’s only three hours a week (9:00 AM – 10AM, M, W, F) that are still free.
(Don’t mention that fact in front of this kind of audience, else you’ll get hissed. And really, isn’t that kind of an East Coast thing, crowd, your intermittent hissing? Moving on…)
There were some gardeners and their friends in the audience – they view the admissions policy as maybe not the best thing in the world, but preferable to the idea of laying off employees.
Is this proposal a push to “change what the gardens are”? Some people think so.
[UPDATE: Hey look what commenter Audrey came up with - a link to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. It seems they combine a Japanese Tea Garden and a Conservatory into the Arboretum and people can get in for one price. Could we have this kind of one-ticket-gets-you-into-all-three-things-all-day-long thing? Yes, but some of our powers that be might not cotton to that idea.]
The mise-en-scene. (Yes, the cinder block walls have been painted green.) Click to expand:
Strybing Director Brent Dennis, seen here in front of his 35-minute-long Powerpoint of unhappy words and numbers, was the primary flack-catcher for the evening. Right before question time he remarked that the audience had “hissed” its way to the end of his presentation.
A mom unhappy with the proposed changes:
A San Francisco native unhappy with the proposed changes:
“PARKS FOR ALL FOREVER”
Consider this person’s sign, seen here pinned to the back of his shirt, an endorsement of fees as a necessary evil to maintain the arboretum:
It was not a good day to be a Recs and Parks commissioner:
This mimeographed screed of “talking points” handed out by “retired native local son” Denis Mosgofian was deemed too valuable to disperse to those who didn’t swear fealty to the anti-fee cause. You can read it if you click on it:
Excerpts from the Powerpoint presentation from the meeting’s hosts, excerpts. Click to expand:
Extra money, yay!
That’s the bulk of the Powerpoint.
Will foxes come back to a quieter, less hectic Strybing?
Near the Primitive Garden, a half-decade ago:
And there you have it.
Tags: admission, arboretum, board of supervisors, botanical, brent dennis, cashier, commission, commissioner, County Fair Building, Denis Mosgofian, director, fee, Garden, golden gate park, jim lazarus, recreation parks, San Francisco, San Francisco Botanical Garden, strbing arboretum, strybing, Strybing Arboretum