April 2013 Coit Tower News


  COIT TOWER NEWS – April 2013


In cooperation with the San Francisco Arts Commission, the children of some of the original Coit Tower artists recently participated in interview sessions in San Francisco for the NPR StoryCorps Oral History project.  Jayne Blatchly Oldfield, daughter of Coit Tower oil painter Otis Oldfield, Bruce Chesse, son of Coit Tower muralist Ralph Chesse, and Ruth Gottstein, daughter of Coit Tower muralist Bernard Zakheim, all recorded 30 minute interviews earlier this year at the StoryCorps recording booth located inside the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.  Hopefully, some or all of the interviews will be made available through the StoryCorps project in the months ahead. 

In their conversation, Ruth and her son (and Bernard Zakheim’s grandson) Adam talked about Zakheim’s colorful career, memories of the painting of Coit Tower, and life in San Francisco during the 1930s.  In her remarks about what Coit Tower and its murals mean today, Ruth said, “I am always astonished at the relevance today of the murals, of those artists.  They were not only artists, they were brilliant, brilliant people to have painted in such a fashion that, decades later, what they had to say to all of us still matters.  And that’s why we really have to work on the protection of our murals at Coit Tower.  They really should be in a museum – if we can’t do that we should do what we can do protect them.  Because if they are protected they will last forever.” 

You can click on the following link to listen to the full conversation between Ruth and Adam:  https://www.dropbox.com/s/r3agxbnap2qh9tj/Ruths_StoryCorp_Feb_28_2013.mp3?m


For the first time in the 80 year history of Coit Tower, the second floor roof of the Tower has been fully repaired to fix systemic water leaks that have allowed rainwater and moisture to seep in and damage the historic building and its murals for decades.  This project was needed for years but only finally happened because of the clear mandate by San Francisco voters who approved the Coit Tower Preservation Policy on the June 5, 2012 ballot to make the protection of Coit Tower and its historic murals a priority. 

Thanks to Toks Ajike and Matt Jasmin with the Capital Division of the Department of Recreation and Parks for carefully shepherding this important project to completion. 

Next up is the larger series of Coit Tower renovations, building repairs, and mural restoration and preservation work mandated by the voters and funded in part by a $1.7 million Coit Tower repair fund created by Mayor Lee and Board of Supervisors President Chiu.  Protect Coit Tower has requested that the Historic Preservation Commission hold a public hearing on the proposed Coit Tower renovation project this spring to ensure the public is fully informed and that all of the recommendations for Coit Tower fixes contained in the 2012 city-commissioned report by the Architectural Resources Group are incorporated into the renovation and preservation plans. 

Read the 2012 Coit Tower Conditions Assessment report by clicking here:  http://www.protectcoittower.org/coit_tower_conditions_assessment_report


A proposed contract for a new concession company to take over the management of the Coit Tower gift shop, elevator, and related services remains in the process of negotiation between the Recreation and Parks Department and the proposed new vendor it selected over 10 months ago, with the outcome of the negotiations uncertain. 

A story in the San Francisco Examiner earlier this year reported that the Department of Public Health rejected the initial plans for expanded food operations at Coit Tower for public health reasons, and voters last year rejected the Recreation and Parks Department’s plans for monthly private events that close off Coit Tower to the public.

The Recreation & Parks Department states that it is “diligently working towards a lease agreement” with the selected vendor, Terry Grimm, and that if they are able to mutually agree on lease terms will present the proposed plans to the public for input and review and then to the Recreation & Parks Commission and Board of Supervisors for approval.

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