Save the Stow Lake Boathouse Coalition

Rec & Park Has Been Doing Nothing
to Contain Toxic Lead Paint Exposure
at the Stow Lake Boathouse (PDF)


The civil lawsuit begins March 2012 and will expose the truth about all the many laws that Rec & Park broke in order to bring in an out-of-state chain, with no boating experience to take over this historic boating recreation site.

Sandi Wong, Photographer


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Helpful Links:

   Take Back Our Parks:
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Thanks to Susan Dyer Reynolds, Editor of Northside SF, who first broke the story of the shady dealings! Her investigative reporting is already cleaning up City Hall/Rec & Park! Thanks to Susan, the story has been picked up by the Wall St. Journal & many other press outlets.
*** Read Susan's work that has Phil Ginsburg quaking in his Pumas:

"Stow Lake lawsuit continues to shine light on San Francisco’s embarrassing, sleazy politics" in Northside SF Magazine June 2011 issue

"Cozy ties between Tourk, Ginsburg and Ortega in bid for Stow Lake boathouse don't pass judge's smell test" in Northside SF May 2011 issue

"How a good ole boys network is taking Golden Gate Park to hell in a handbasket"
Stow Lake Boathouse Editorial in Northside SF March 2011 issue

Read the Ortega emails that started this firestorm:
Request for Preliminary Injunction (PDF)
Note these represent a tiny portion of all the emails/text messages involved in this case, as Judge Giorgi never made Rec & Park, or Alex Tourk of Ground Floor Public Affairs, turn over their records. Ortega turned over this censored batch of emails voluntarily. During the trial, we will see much more that was hidden.
Armand Ortega is in the middle of another eviction battle in Santa Fe:

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WE thank Sup. Avalos for referring this matter to the SF Ethics Commission & the SF City Attorney's office for investigation. Unfortunately, another mayoral candidate, Dennis Herrera, our City Attorney,  punted the investigation to Oakland's City Attorney, who has not responded given that he resigned the same day it was punted to Oakland (!#$%^&&). Herrera why are covering for Ginsburg?
Because of the extremely close relationships between the lobbyist: Alex Tourk at Ground Floor Public Affairs, and Phil Ginsburg, the General Manager of Rec & Park, and City Atty. Dennis Herrera AND Rec & Park Commissioner Meagan Levitan, who has made contributions to Herrera's mayoral campaign .....

We have asked Mayor Ed Lee to investigate the mismanagement at Rec & Park. He refuses to do so, instead protecting Phil Ginsburg and the corruption at Rec & Park.
Do not vote for Ed Lee unless he fires Phil Ginsburg!

Rec & Park General Manager, Phil Ginsburg negotiated a sweetheart lease to the New Mexico souvenir chain with NO boating experience: Ortega Family Enterprises. Even Ortega offered thousands more in annual rent on two separate public meetings and Ginsburg refused to take more money! Ginsburg claims Rec & Park is broke, "every dollar counts" and that he HAD to lay off 99% of all recreation directors and many gardeners last year. So why did Ginsburg give Ortega such a deep discount on the one and only Stow Lake Boathouse concessions?  AND why has Ginsburg committed to spending our money for capital improvements for Ortega's benefit? The new  lease even has the taxpayers paying Ortega's gas, water and electric bills for the next 15-20 years! And Phil Ginsburg continues to hire 125k+ year salary management/public relations people to help him scam the public and privatize our parks! 
Let Mayor Lee know he needs to fire Ginsburg and all others involved in these deceptions asap!
----  or (415) 554-6141

Sup. Eric Mar, working closely with Ginsburg, sold out thousands of his constituents and fast tracked the deeply flawed discounted lease to a New Mexico based souvenir chain, with NO boating experience NINE days BEFORE the Rec & Park Commission had voted to approve it! In spite of overwhelming opposition from the community and a lease that gives the New Mexico chain many discounts and is embedded with hidden costs to the taxpayers, Mar SPONSORED this lease, losing millions of dollars for the people of San Francisco and deceiving taxpayers. Mar also arranged to sit in at the Budget & Finance Committee for a mysteriously missing Sup. Jane Kim, so Mar could vote for his own legislation re: the boathouse lease!
In the March 2011 issue of the Richmond Review Mar brags about sponsoring the legislation for the Ortega lease. Will he still be bragging after the lawsuit filed by the existing tenant, proves blatant corruption?
  SHAME on Sup. MAR for ignoring your constituents and the clear evidence of wrongdoing at Rec & Park and breaking your campaign promises to safeguard our seniors, our children, wildlife and parks. Our coalition wrote, called you, and met with you to inform you of Rec & Park's misdeeds and you did NOTHING, but help Ginsburg deceive the public. Internal emails reveal that you had very few, if any, calls/letters of support for the Ortega chain... yet YOU insured their lease was approved at the Board. You ignored thousands of calls/emails/visits/faxes from citizens opposed to the Ortega.

"McLellan's proposal by far outstripped the Ortega offer, but City Hall cronies had already committed to the out-of-state interloper. Ginsburg, Kinsey, Buell have dollar signs where San Francisco's heart is concerned. Don't be fooled by this ill-considered design." - R. Schmidt 

The city will lose approx. $2 million JUST in RENT over 20 years, by going with Ortega.
In addition: the seriously flawed lease opens the door to Rec & Park spending approximately $1 -$2 million in capital improvements, even when they wrote in the RFQ that they have NO capital funds available for the boathouse.
From Rec&Park's own COMET studies done in Feb 2007 these costs were projected for the year 2010:
1. Upgrades needed for the boathouse  = $838,222
2. Replacement cost for the boat shed in the lake =  $459,159
These 2 items alone come to approx. $1.3 million, which does not include these other high priced costs:
  the cost for installing an ADA bathroom now needed for change of use/occupancy by public: (RP said not needed because there is an ADA bathroom already at Stow Lake. Another one only needed if restaurant use. Now, suddenly it's necessary?) Rec & Park is paying for this in the new lease.
2.  other ADA upgrades such as ramps
3.  Fire code upgrades (existing sprinkler system is vintage)
4.  Seismic code work that will be triggered by change of occupancy and the large remodeling project (the lease is very unclear on who will pay for seismic.
5.  Foundation repairs
6.  New signage
7.  Permit fees
8.  Exterior lighting upgrades needed for night time use of the boathouse.
9.  Replacement of hardscaping around the boathouse.
The Ortega chain offer of $233,000 for capital improvements is a ONE time offer. We do not know if that money will go directly into the building, the furniture, or for paying "soft" costs such as their public relations firm who will be needed to get this project through.
Read a tribute to our boathouse in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Upgrades YES!    Gut & change NO!

Comparison of Stow Lake Boathouse Concession Bids
Prepared by Save the Stow Lake Boathouse Coalition
  Ortega Enterprises, LLC
aka “Cloudless Skies”
Stow Lake Corp.
McLellan Family
Are they local? NO! They are based in New Mexico, so profits flow out of state. No community pride of ownership. YES! Has a 67 yr. history & commitment to buying & hiring locally. Strong pride of family ownership.
Annual rent revenue to the City $140,000/yr guaranteed $215,000/yr guaranteed, $1,500,000 more over 20 yrs.
Percent rent: boats 33% of gross 36% of gross
Percent rent: food 10% of gross 27% of gross
Preservation of Boathouse interior NO! Will GUT the entire top floor and move boat repair & storage to parking lot level, to add large cafe and souvenir sales area YES! Plan to add indoor seating, upgrade kitchen & food service, while preserving character of the building. Boat repairs & storage stay at lake level for safety of public & staff.
Preservation of the historic boat hoist NO! Will abandon the historic & still functioning boat hoist. YES! Will continue to preserve character, integrity and use of the boat hoist.
Preservation of the exterior YES. Extensive refurbishing to maintain historic look. YES! Extensive refurbishing to maintain historic look. 
Permanent space for Nature Education No! YES! Plan includes donating lower level for nature education
Boat rental experience*  None. Plan to “partner” with absentee New Mexico operator. YES! Have been renting all types of boats to the public since
Proposed number of boats 50 new boats.  More if “needed” but no indication how “need” is determined.  85 new boats. Same as current lease requirement based on historic need.
Responsiveness to community  Unknown. No local history. YES! Strong allegiance to Stow Lake seniors, visitors & tourists. YELP rating = 4.5 stars
Community support  Very little.  YES! Over 2,700 signatures in support of current leaseholder.
SAFETY NO!  Plan to trailer boats up & down pedestrian ramps to parking lot level = SERIOUS SAFETY RISK. YES! Has a 67 yr. perfect safety record. No costly lawsuits for taxpayers.*                                                                            
Handicapped accessible boats NO! YES! Plans include ADA accessible boats.
Follows the Golden Gate Park Master Plan adopted 1998 NO! Diminishes boating and prioritizes café/souvenirs. YES! Boating recreation is prioritized over food and souvenirs.
Preservation of existing boathouse culture From New Mexico. Unknown attitude.  YES! Seniors & others can continue to enjoy present quiet & caring atmosphere.
Collaboration with Mayor’s Youth to Work Program Not Indicated YES! 
Employ SF high school students Unknown, no guarantee YES! For 67 years has provided entry level jobs for hundreds of high school students.
Maintenance reserve & equipment fund YES. 2% and 1.5% of gross. YES! Will exceed Ortega’s  percentages.
Liability Insurance including watercraft Unknown if available to Ortega or their “boating partner”. YES! Has current policy with watercraft endorsement.
Alcohol sales Probable.  NO! Alcohol & boating don’t mix!
Boat rental prices Set by Rec & Park Commission.  Set by Rec & Park Commission.

*FOOTNOTE (Boat Rental Experience)

Based on the RPD staff report prepared for the August 19th Commission meeting, Ortega’s response to the RFQ stated that they had 22 years managing a boat rental operation. A Google search proved that information to be false. Boat rental experience is a key qualifying requirement to operate the Stow Lake Concession. After bringing this to light, it was later reported that Ortega had a New Mexico “partner” with boat rental management experience. The original Commission report prepared by staff was silent as to the existence of this boating partner although their food partner was disclosed from the beginning.

What other misrepresentations were made in the original Ortega response to the RFQ that the evaluators accepted at face value without any due diligence, resulting in Ortega being selected as the next concession operator?

 Stow Lake Boathouse Article in Sunset Beacon July 2010 issue (PDF)

 Stow Lake Boathouse Article in Northside SF July 2010 issue (PDF)



Rec & Park received a Sunshine Ordinance violation 67.27 on 6/23/10 by  unanimous vote (10-0) from the Sunshine Task Force in regards to their secrecy surrounding the boathouse selection panel. Rec & Parks also received a scolding from the Task Force for excluding the community in the process.

Seniors will no longer be able to gather freely at the boathouse. Prices will be more than doubled on all food items. Middle class and low-income families will be driven out of this spot that is designed to be for all...not just the wealthy.

A hot dog (veggie or regular) at the Stow Lake snack bar now costs $3.50

A hot dog at the deYoung Museum Cafe costs $8.50

click here for The Sierra Club Yodeler article re: the boathouse: "San Francisco Parks - for paying customers or for all?"

Historic Boathouse renovation may leave 65-year leaseholder up Stow Lake without a paddle -- Marina Times news story -- PDF file (800 KB)

~ Post card view of the Stow Lake Boat House from 1950's

"Since the lake was named for my great grandfather, I think that it is reprehensible that a restaurant would be considered a desirable substitute for the boathouse. The lake and Strawberry Island are so peaceful, why should it be subjected to a commercial establishment? This possibility came to my attention a few minutes ago and I am totally against it."

~ Vanderlynn Stow, 2/11/10


Rec & Park tells the press that the leaders of the Save Stow Lake Boathouse Coalition work for the current tenant... to that we say:

Bring on the lie detectors! We have nothing to hide.

Our coalition is comprised of volunteers donating hundreds of hours of their time to preserve the unique character and environment of Stow Lake, because we LOVE it and want to see it restored for boating and for low-income users, such as the seniors who have been completely ignored in this process by Rec & Park and Supervisor Eric Mar.


District 1, Eric Mar                                                   
(415) 554-7410 - voice
(415) 554-7415 - fax

District 2, Mark Farrell
(415) 554-7752 - voice
(415) 554-7843 - fax

District 3, President of the Board, David Chiu
(415) 554-7450 - voice
(415) 554-7454 - fax

District 4, Carmen Chu
(415) 554-7460 - voice
(415) 554-7432 - fax

District 5, Ross Mirkarimi
(415) 554-7630 - voice
(415) 554-7634 - fax

District 6, Jane Kim
(415) 554-7970 - voice
(415) 554-7974 - fax

District 7, Sean Elsbernd
(415) 554-6516 - voice
(415) 554-6546 - fax

District 8, Scott Wiener
(415) 554-6968 - voice
(415) 554-6909 - fax

District 9, David Campos
(415) 554-5144 - Voice
(415) 554-6255 - Fax

District 10,  Malia Cohen
(415) 554-7670 - voice
(415) 554-7674 - fax

District 11, John Avalos
(415) 554-6975 - voice
(415) 554-6979 - fax

Mayor Lee    City Hall, Room 200,  1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, SF, CA 94102
(415) 554-6141 - voice      (415) 554-6160 - fax 

2010 Valentine's Party Photos & a Few Valentines Drawn by Kids

Look who swiped the heart shaped lollypops!

Artist: Blossom Gee, Valentine to the Boathouse!

Artist: Alyssa, age 9


Left to right: Jeff Fones, Boathouse manager (in white cap), Bruce McLellan, current Stow Lake Boathouse lease holder and Julian Jordan, documenting the event with his Flip camera (in yellow t-shirt)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~


If the process is unjust, the public has an obligation to protest.

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