Battle over future of boathouse heats up

by Ed Moy

In May, Suzanne Dumont, on behalf of members of the Save Stow Lake Boathouse Coalition, filed a complaint against the SF Recreation and Park Department with the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force regarding the secrecy of the names of the persons on a selection panel for the Stow Lake Boathouse concession Request for Qualification (RFQ).

On June 22, Dumont and the Save Stow Lake Boathouse Coalition won a unanimous vote, 10 - 0, from the Sunshine Task Force.

The decision was a victory for Dumont and the coalition in its on-going battle against Rec. and Park, which has yet to announce the selection of a vendor to upgrade the boathouse in Golden Gate Park or released the names of the people evaluating boathouse bids.

As of presstime, current Stow Lake Boathouse leaseholder Bruce McClellan has been operating on a month-to-month lease since November 2006, but hasn't put forth money toward major improvements with the rationale that he could get a 30-day eviction notice soon.

Although McClellan stated that he would willingly pay for repairs and make upgrades if he were given a new long-term lease, Rec. and Park has accepted competing bids for vendors hoping to become the new leaseholder.

Rec. and Park representative Nicholas Kinsey said the lease must go to the most "competitive, qualified bidder, while preserving the historic character of the boathouse."

An announcement concerning the awarding of the contract is expected to be made by the Planning Commission in mid-August.

Earlier this year, Dumont, who describes herself as "a frequent walker at Stow Lake, long time San Franciscan and an unlicensed historic preservationist," claimed that the Save Stow Lake Boathouse Coalition, a group including more than 1,900 individuals, multiple neighborhood groups and the San Francisco Chapter of the Sierra Club, had requested SF Supervisor Eric Mar's help with transparency, fairness and fiscal responsibility in regard to Rec. and Park's Stow Lake Boathouse RFQ.

"We want fairness and transparency in this process. We have been ignored, dismissed and deceived by Rec. and Park and we know they do not have the public's best interests at heart," Dumont said. "We want an EIR. We want community oversight and involvement in the selection ... we cannot know if that is occurring because of the selective secrecy taking place."

Although Mar has acknowledged problems with Rec. and Park and promised to advocate for transparency and fairness with the boathouse selection process, Dumont claims that he failed to do so and has not supported boathouse activists who want to keep the current vendor and the location of boats for rental at Stow Lake.

In his defense, Mar, replied to Dumont and other coalition members with the following written statement concerning the importance of his neutrality:

"Members of the community have asked me to draft a resolution supporting the Stow Lake Boathouse, and have cited our resolution supporting the wonderful institution of Louis' Restaurant, near the Cliff House, as an example. Louis' Restaurant sits on federal land, and decisions regarding that site will not come before the Board of Supervisors for a vote, which is why it was not a conflict for me to author a supportive resolution. In the case of the Stow Lake Boathouse, writing a resolution interferes with the RFQ process, which is prohibited by the city charter, and furthermore would be grounds for me to be recused from participating in discussions or voting on this contract."

Dumont was not satisfied with the stance.

"The coalition was led to believe they had found an advocate in Supervisor Mar to stand up against the secrecy and deception at Rec. and Park surrounding this process," Dumont stated. "We are very disappointed in the mixed messages he gave us and his inability to even ask Rec. and Park to describe their proposal for the boathouse for the public to read."

Dumont claims Rec. and Park intends to remove the historic boating operations from the top level of the boathouse and place them down the hill at the parking lot level in the basement of the building.

These changes to operations at Stow Lake would make way for an approximately 2,200-square-foot cafe/restaurant that would take up the entire top floor of the boathouse, and would include outdoor seating.

Another major complaint from Dumont and the Boathouse Coalition against Rec. and Park's RFQ is that the plan would have boats put on trailers and hauled up and down pedestrian walkways with gas-powered trucks throughout the day, which would create noise and pollution.

"This drastic change of use renders the historic Stow Lake Boathouse into a restaurant with boat storage in the basement," Dumont wrote in her letter to the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force. "There are several safety, environmental and historic preservation issues and concerns that Rec. and Park repeatedly refuses to address."

For more information about Boathouse proceedings, go to the websites at and