One-Year After Passage of Coit Tower Measure, Improvements Made But Murals Still at Risk

For Immediate Release:   Wednesday, June 5, 2013                                                                                         
News Release


Daughter of original Coit Tower artist praises progress but says “so much more needs to be done”

One year after San Francisco voters approved an historic ballot measure aimed at protecting Coit Tower and its damaged New Deal-era murals from years of neglect and decay, Coit Tower supporters are praising the attention being given to repairing the damaged building and preserving the art inside.  At the same time, families of the Coit Tower mural artists and other backers of the measure approved by San Francisco voters urged the City to move forward “full-speed ahead” with dozens of repairs and other measures identified in an independent report as urgent and necessary to preserve the 80-year old building and historic art, but which have so far been delayed or ignored.

“I thank San Francisco voters for the fact that, for the first time in its 80-year history, Coit Tower has finally begun to get the attention and resources it so badly needs and deserves,” said Ruth Gottstein, the daughter of Coit Tower artist Bernard Zakheim, who painted a 12 year-old Ruth in his Coit Tower fresco in 1934.  “Now, so much more needs to be done.  I urge the City to move forward full speed ahead with the Coit Tower mural preservation work and building renovations without any more delays.  Coit Tower and its historic murals are far too valuable to let them remain unprotected for one more day than necessary.”

On June 5, 2012, San Francisco voters approved Proposition B, which established a new official “Coit Tower Preservation Policy” that directs city officials to strictly limit commercial activities and private events at Coit Tower and to prioritize the over $800,000 in city revenue generated by Coit Tower every year for preserving the murals, fixing the Tower, and beautifying Pioneer Park around Coit Tower.  Prop. B was sponsored by a citizens coalition in response to concerns about increased commercialization of Coit Tower and the neglect, decay, and lax oversight by the city that led to a long list of problems at the Tower, including lead paint peeling from the ceiling, poor lighting, water leaks seeping in and corroding the murals, and gashes damaging the fragile New Deal-era frescoes. 
In the year since the passage of the Coit Tower measure, Coit Tower has undergone an extensive emergency roof repair project that entirely replaced the leaky second-floor roof which was responsible for water damage to many of the murals for decades.  Last fall, the San Francisco Arts Commission released a detailed series of “Guidelines for Coit Tower Usage” designed to protect the murals inside from unnecessary damage by enacting rules aimed at treating the interior of Coit Tower more like a museum, with a ban on private candlelight parties or food and drinks in the mural areas, a requirement that visitors carry backpacks in front of their bodies, and a prohibition on using the mural rooms as storage for repair and maintenance equipment, as has been done in the past.  And the Recreation & Park Department has not proceeded with a proposed plan to begin closing down Coit Tower once a month for private parties, which would violate the voter-approved ballot measure.    
“San Francisco voters spoke loudly and clearly last year when they embraced Coit Tower as a symbol of our city’s creative spirit, artistic talent, and sheer beauty,” said Jon Golinger, Chairman of Protect Coit Tower.  “Over the next year we will keep working to see that all of the protections are put in place to ensure that Coit Tower and its murals can continue to inspire people for decades to come.”
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