House Republicans outraged that Congress might fund national park in San Francisco

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GOP House members failed to block funding for Presidio Park, located in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's district.

House Republicans are furious that an appropriations bill includes funds for improvements to a national park in San Francisco. Their objections are that the park is in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's district and that the nearly 1,500-acre space includes a public golf course.

"Nancy Pelosi doesn't 'deserve' pork projects — American taxpayers deserve to keep their hard-earned money," tweeted North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd on Friday.

"So now golf is infrastructure?" mocked Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee on Monday morning. This year alone Burchett has sought tens of millions of dollars in earmarks for his own House district.

The legislation in question is the House Natural Resources Committee's portion of a proposed $3.5 trillion federal spending plan. On Sept. 9, the panel marked up a draft that included billions in funding for climate, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and public lands. One of the line items included was $200 million for the National Park Service, to go the Presidio Trust over five years.

The trust is partnership that operates about 1,200 acres of the Presidio of San Francisco, a national park overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay.

It was established by the GOP-controlled Congress in 1996 as a new, self-sufficient way to manage public lands. The trust leases space to businesses and vendors to pay for continued operation of the park.

Though the trust usually operates without taxpayer funding, it has faced some financial shortfalls in recent years due to the coronavirus pandemic and the site's aging infrastructure. In an emailed statement, a Pelosi spokesperson said, "To help meet the needs of this incredibly popular national park in this difficult financial moment, the House Natural Resources Committee chose to include a recommendation of $200 million to bolster the Presidio Trust, which can be used to immediately tackle deferred maintenance needs as well as continue the rehabilitation of the remaining historic buildings."

Last year, a bipartisan majority in Congress approved billions of dollars for maintenance for other federally owned facilities, but left out the Presidio Trust due to its unique organizational structure.

At the markup, committee Republicans offered several amendments to strip the funds out of the bill and repurpose them in various ways. The Democratic majority rejected each attempt.

Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) complained, "I've never heard of Presidio Park even though I'd been by it before." He added, "I don't know if it costs anything to get in, but I know it costs $120 to play a round of golf there on the very nice golf course."

Admission to the park is free. The space includes 24 miles of hiking trails, a bowling alley, tennis courts, and athletic fields. The 18-hole golf course is open to the public and offers rates below $120 for golfers who don't need a cart, play Monday through Thursday or in the evening, or live in the city of San Francisco.

An October 2019 press release celebrating the site's 25th anniversary as a national park noted that it was among the most visited in the country, welcoming 7.5 million visitors annually.

This is not the first time Republicans have sought to block appropriations that might benefit the San Francisco area, much of which falls within Pelosi's congressional district.

In February, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other GOP representatives railed against a proposed $140 million grant in an early draft of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that would have gone to a Bay Area transit project. Though that project was not actually in Pelosi's district, that did not stop them from denouncing it as "Speaker Pelosi’s $112 million Silicon Valley Subway."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.