City Delays Renovations of Coit Tower

Renovations at San Francisco’s Coit Tower Delayed

April 3, 2013

by Chris Roberts

Wet weather postponed “emergency” repairs to Coit Tower’s leaky roof throughout the winter, while a long-awaited $1.5 million rehabilitation of the entire deteriorating San Francisco landmark has been delayed until after the annual crowds of tourists go home in October.

Built in 1933 and declared a national historic site in 2008, the art deco icon has suffered in recent years from neglect and deferred maintenance. There are cracks in the 180-foot concrete exterior, bathrooms and electrical fixtures are outdated, and water damage to the 25 New Deal-era murals necessitates a separate $250,000 repair job.

Emergency work to replace the “extremely deteriorated” rooftop — through which the rainwater that damaged the murals leaked — was supposed to be finished by Nov. 8, before the winter rains began.

But wet weather put off work for much of the winter, and worse-than-expected conditions on the roof meant that work took longer than expected, said Sarah Ballard, a spokeswoman for the Recreation and Park Department, which manages the property. The roof fix is now expected to be finished later this month.

More extensive, long-term fixes — sealing cracks in the exterior, replacing tiles and surfaces, fixing the bathrooms and electrical systems, and improving access for disabled people, all of which must be completed before the murals can be restored — were originally scheduled to begin in January and finish by May 1, according to documents presented to city officials in October.

That work will now begin in October, after the high tourist season ends, Ballard said.

The tower will be temporarily closed for a still-undetermined length of time during the renovation process.

Staffers from the America’s Cup Organizing Committee briefly considered using Coit Tower as a hospitality venue during the upcoming yacht races, according to records.

In an e-mail, a Rec and Park property manager said repair work — which will require the tower to be closed temporarily — could be delayed until after the races are conducted from July through September.

“We probably shouldn’t start the work until after [the] America’s Cup,” property manager Cassandra Costello wrote in an email dated Jan. 22.

Coit Tower was among a “number of venues” considered for Cup-connected events, but regatta organizers have no plans to use the site, spokeswoman Jane E. Sullivan said.

Other delays also are ongoing at Coit Tower, which is visited by an estimated 200,000 people annually. Plans to replace the gift shop with a new concessionaire that would serve crab sandwiches and other high-class fare — which would in turn fund hiring more staff, including a museum-style docent to oversee the murals — are still in limbo nearly 10 months after their approval.

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