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Future of Alcatraz on the ballot

January 24, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
California voters go to the polls in just more than two weeks on "Super Tuesday," February 5th. Besides the presidential contest, a number of state and local measures are on the ballot. In San Francisco, voters will be asked whether they want to change the future of one of the city's best known tourist attractions.

Even on a rainy day, Alcatraz is alluring to visitors from all over the world.

According to the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau, nearly 1.4 million people visited Alcatraz last year making "The Rock" and Fisherman's Wharf the top tourist attraction.

They are drawn by the history of the island, especially its years from 1934 to 1963 as a federal prison. Its cells held infamous inmates like Al Capone and George "Machine Gun" Kelly.

Da Vid is one of the backers of Proposition C. He's from Marin County, but is behind the measure calling for the city of San Francisco to support tearing down the old prison and building a global peace center.

"Alcatraz is ripe for transformation because it's a very powerful spot and aesthetically I' would love to see the whole Bay Area be uplifted by something that is very beautiful and meaningful," says Da Vid.

Part of the center would include a harmonium, which Da Vid describes as an advanced multimedia facility with 3D holographic sound and light. They're elements he says would help turn Alcatraz into a spiritual mecca.

Carolyn Tyler: "Do you think right now as a former prison it has bad vibes?"

Da Vid: "Absolutely."

"It's crazy. If you look at it and if you don't think it's crazy, there's something wrong with you," says Leo Lacayo, a spokes a spokesperson for San Francisco's Republican Party. They are the only ones who argued against Proposition C in the voter handbook. Lacayo says San Francisco has other priorities.

"This is not rational, it's not intelligent, it's not good for the city. It's not good for business and it's not good for our citizens," says Lacayo.

Proposition C's supporters collected more than 18,000 signatures. That's nearly twice as many needed to put the measure on the ballot. It's only a policy statement. Converting Alcatraz is not in the city's control because it's owned by the federal government.

Rudy Evensen, Golden Gate National Rec. Area: "The National Park Service will continue to administer it until an act of Congress changes that."

Carolyn Tyler: "So it would take an act of Congress?"

Rudy Evensen: "Yeah, that's correct."

Proposition C supporters feel this will eventually happen and the unknown millions of dollars probably needed to transform the island will somehow surface. They believe, in the end, a global peace center could attract more tourists than the former prison does now. We found a tourist who agrees.

"I guess that would be good. It is a rather morbid thing to go visit," says Chris Phillips, a tourist.

But that's exactly what he was trying to do -- buy tickets to Alcatraz. Even on this rainy day, they were sold out.


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