Friday, March 09, 2007

He Mowed My Ball

On the ocean cliffs above Land's End, where the San Francisco Cemetery once hosted the dead, stands one of the most beautiful municipal golf courses in the world, Lincoln Park.

Like many other municipal departments in San Francisco, the Recreation & Park Department is woefully screwed up, with terrible leadership and too many workers who just plain don't give a damn about what they are doing.

This Monday there were actual maintenance workers on the course mowing some of the fairways, a sight I had never seen before, but in every case they were completely oblivious to what was going on around them. Golfers were forced to play around the maintenance workers as they glided around on their noisy machines wearing heavy-duty headphones. Zak Salem, the worker above, was so out-of-it that he proceeded to drive his mower over my tee shot on the Par 3 17th hole, disintegrating my golf ball in the process.

This wasn't out of malice so much as sheer stupidity, which also extends to the huge muddy ruts he was leaving just yards from the 17th green with his equipment.

Because the maintenance is so bad on San Francisco municipal courses, very few people play them anymore, which means that the city takes in less money, the deficit rises, and the death spiral continues. There is a plan afoot to give away these public resources to a "non-profit organization" who would presumably do a better job, but recreational access for local teenagers and citizens without much money would be sharply curtailed.

I complained about the situation to Lance Wong, the amiable head golf pro at Lincoln who is not a municipal employee and who has no say over the maintenance crews. He suggested I attend a meeting where the "Golf Fund" was being discussed at City Hall on Tuesday evening by a group called the Park, Recreation and Open Space Advisory Committee.

Their acronym, believe it or not, is PROSAC and the group didn't look like they particularly enjoyed each other.

We heard a sketchy presentation about the proposed handover of public golf courses to something called the "National Golf Foundation" from the Rec & Park representative above, Dawn Kamalanathan. She made it sound as if this was already a done deal and her contempt for everyone was palpable.

A quintet of leading citizens from the beachside town of Pacifica, ten miles south of San Francisco, had arrived at the meeeting because they wanted to "have a seat at the table" when this transfer was discussed. For some reason, having to do with a bequest in the 1920s, the Sharp Park golf course and recreational area is under the thumb of San Francisco's Rec & Park Department. This would be analogous to Oakland being in charge of Golden Gate Park and then doing zero maintenance on the place because they had other priorities.

The mayor of Pacifica, Julie Lancelle (above), gave a sweet, politically sensitive, and charming speech about Sharp Park and its importance to the town, and Dawn's ears perked up when she heard that Pacifica was prepared to take over the financial burdens of the area.

After the Pacifica contingent had given their polite speeches and requests, I stood up and said what they hadn't dared to bring up, which is that the maintenance by San Francisco's Rec & Park Department of Sharp Park is shameful. "And so is the maintenance at your San Francisco courses." I told them about my experience at Lincoln Park on Monday, and ended with "He mowed my ball!"


cookiecrumb said...

Aw, Mike.
You golf and you're mad.

Joe L. said...

Dawn was one of the characters peopling my tenure as Budget Officer of the San Francisco Ethics Commission. She was the Mayor's budget liaison to the Commission when I resigned in 2003. At the time, I named the budget crisis at Ethics as its number one unrecognized problem. Dawn and senior management ridiculed me. A year later, the Commission formally recognized that it was in triage.