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$5 Reservation for Pickleball Courts Amid Community Backlash

$5 Reservation for Pickleball Courts: In San Francisco, a proposed $5 reservation fee for public tennis and pickleball courts has sparked controversy among players and lawmakers alike. Advocates for free court access argue that such fees would unfairly burden those with limited financial means. The debate has prompted city officials to postpone the decision, reflecting ongoing concerns about equity and community access to recreational facilities.

Despite the fiscal rationale behind the proposal—aimed at covering maintenance and administrative costs—opponents emphasize the need for inclusive policies that consider the diverse socioeconomic backgrounds of residents. The outcome remains uncertain as discussions continue on how best to balance budgetary needs with public access concerns..

Currently, reserving public courts will remain free, as the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Appropriations committee unanimously voted to postpone consideration of the fee last month.

In May, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission proposed a $5 reservation fee for 28 courts across the city. However, the plan faced backlash from pickleball and tennis enthusiasts who argued that the fee would disproportionately burden those unable to afford it. Dana Ketcham, Director of Property Management and Permits at RPD, justified the fee as necessary for covering administration costs and court maintenance, citing similar practices in other cities.

Dana Ketcham, Director of Property Management and Permits at RPD, explained that the proposed fee aims to finance both the administration of the court reservation system and the maintenance of the courts themselves.

“No city provides reservations without fees” -(Dana Ketcham)

Supervisor Connie Chan, chairing the committee, stressed the need for further discussion on the fee structure. While supportive of free play opportunities, she acknowledged fiscal challenges and suggested revisiting the fee model to ensure fairness. Chan Mentioned she “supports more free play over The City,” However, she clarified that she does not oppose the idea of implementing a fee for court reservations.

“I understand there is a challenge with the budget deficit, so I’m not saying we should not be charging a fee, but instead of charging a fee across the board, I urge [the department] to reconsider the reservation fee charging model.” – (Connie Chan)

In May, Chan penned a letter to Rec and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg expressing her apprehensions regarding the proposed fee. Chan argued that the $5 per hour charge is unfair, highlighting that “establishing and charging reservation fees would pose a disproportionate hardship for older adults, and those on fixed incomes who do not have the luxury to be able to set aside expenses.” for using San Francisco’s tennis and pickleball courts.

Even those with the means to pay the fee expressed concerns about its fairness to residents. Joe Haley, who plays five days a week on public courts in The City, mentioned he might consider joining a private club if a fee were implemented- “The City already invested in the materials that are in a space that’s being offered publicly. So why now are they wanting to capitalize on something when it’s a trend.” said Haley.

“Why would I pay to go and play at a rundown court that’s not maintained, and then with the extreme weather conditions that San Francisco has, when I can go and play pickleball indoors on Treasure Island?”  -( joe haley )

However, Haley pointed out that not all residents can afford such options; private clubs, such as those on Treasure Island, often charge $60 or more per month, and not everyone has reliable transportation to access them.

 “not everyone can afford that, or even have reliable transportation to get there.” -(Haley )

The timeline for city officials to reconsider the $5 reservation fee remains uncertain. Legislation that has been tabled can be reintroduced by any supervisor within a 12-month period. As of press time, Chan’s team did not provide a response to requests for comment.

“To ensure equity in our parks system, including the tennis and pickleball courts, means we need to make sure everyone can play and recreate no matter their socio-economic status.”

“This fee would have created a ‘pay-to-play’ system in our public parks and move us away from the direction of an equitable parks system.”(chan spokeperson)

$5 Reservation for Pickleball Courts

The pickleball community has a history of effective advocacy for court preservation. Recently, city officials responded to concerns from dedicated pickleball enthusiasts at The Crossing at East Cut by delaying a park project that would have temporarily closed their courts. This downtown location is renowned as one of San Francisco’s premier pickleball spots.

Suzy Safdie, along with petition organizers Lisa Shaw and Peter Mueller, expressed their gratitude to The Examiner in a joint statement. They thanked the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor’s office for their time, attentive listening, and, most importantly, for acknowledging that the proposed reservation fee was incorrect and unfair to the wider community.

“We wish that [the Recreation and Parks Department] would have engaged with the tennis and pickleball communities to explore an alternative path. We invite the department to work with us now to find more equitable solutions for this and other pickleball related issues.” -(suzy safdie)

News in Brief: $5 Reservation for Pickleball Courts

San Francisco’s proposal to introduce a $5 reservation fee for public tennis and pickleball courts has been met with significant resistance, leading to its postponement by the Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Appropriations committee. Advocates for free access argue that the fee would unfairly impact low-income residents and older adults on fixed incomes.

The Recreation and Park Commission’s rationale for the fee includes covering administrative costs and court maintenance, aligning with practices in other cities. Supervisor Connie Chan supports exploring alternative fee structures that balance fiscal responsibility with equitable access, highlighting ongoing discussions on the issue’s complexity and community impact.

Also read: Indoor Pickleball Club at Newtown Shopping Center is Set to Open



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