SF Chronicle: Ballot measure to protect Coit Tower

San Francisco Chronicle

Ballot measure to protect Coit Tower

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A neighborhood group wants to place a measure on the June ballot that would preserve and protect Coit Tower.

On Wednesday, the Protect Coit Tower Committee, a small, newly formed group of neighbors, environmentalists and artists, filed paperwork with the city’s Department of Elections that marks the first step in putting together a ballot measure on behalf of the 1934 landmark on Telegraph Hill. Leading the effort is Jon Golinger, president of the powerful neighborhood group the Telegraph Hill Dwellers.

The ballot measure, according to a draft version, would call for “strictly limiting commercial activities and private events at Coit Tower.” It would also call for the city, which receives rent from the concession operating inside the landmark, to “prioritize” that money for maintaining the building and beautifying Pioneer Park.

The group is concerned about the condition of the Depression-era murals that line the tower’s walls, which city officials have noted are peeling and suffering water damage.

The Recreation and Park Department, which oversees Coit Tower, is searching for a vendor to manage the tower’s elevators, food and beverage sales, and gift shop for its annual 150,000 visitors. The business must have a plan to avoid harming the art, and the department will contribute up to $250,000 to a restoration being planned by the Arts Commission. The city will also put 1 percent of the annual rent it receives from the new vendor toward mural maintenance.

But the Protect Coit Tower Committee says those efforts are not enough, noting that the Recreation and Park Department is asking that the new vendor be open to hosting private events. “Clearly, Coit Tower is being looked at as a marketing opportunity, not as an opportunity for stewardship,” Golinger said. “The city’s role for Coit Tower is stewarding an incredibly valuable historic and iconic resource – not an opportunity to generate revenue for unknown programs.”

What’s next? After completing a few more rounds of paperwork, organizers will start to gather an estimated 9,000 signatures.

- Stephanie Lee


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