Ballot petition aims to save Coit Tower

February 6, 2012 7:51:59 PM PST
In June San Francisco voters may have a chance to decide the fate of one of the city's most iconic landmarks. Some believe Coit Tower is falling into disrepair. So Monday they turned in signatures on a ballot petition they hope will force the city to do something about it.

Coit Tower is one of San Francisco's jewels built back in 1933, but some critics believe its losing its sparkle, especially the depression-era murals that cover the walls inside.

"Generally, Coit Tower is not getting the love it needs," said Jon Golinger.

Golinger is the head of a committee called Protect Coit Tower, which has gathered signatures to put an initiative on the June ballot. The measure would make it city policy to use much of the money made here from concessions and elevator rides for preservation. The last time there was a major restoration at Coit Tower was in 1990.

"Right now very little money, less than 10 percent of the dollars the city raises from Coit Tower actually comes back. We're not saying all the money needs to be spent here, but if it's needed, why doesn't it make sense that Coit Tower is the priority?" said Golinger.

But the city strategy, especially in these tight budget times, is to spread resources throughout the recreation and park system.

"The money we make at Coit Tower which is one of our most important tourist attractions along with Golden Gate Park and frankly Candlestick Park, is what keeps our neighborhood rec centers and parks operating," said Phil Ginsburg, the director of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department.

Ginsburg's approach to generating revenue for his department is being met with some resistance. For example, the proposed ballot initiative calls for limiting commercial activities and private events at Coit Tower.

"If these events were actually helping to keep Coit Tower and the murals in good shape, that would be a better approach," said Golinger.

But Ginsburg believes it's a matter of equity.

"If all the money we made at Coit Tower stayed at Coit Tower, Willie Wu Wu Wong playground in Chinatown right next door wouldn't have funding for rec staff or custodial staff," said Ginsburg.

Rec and Park is pledging a quarter million dollars for a one-time facelift for the murals which are actually under the jurisdiction of the Arts Commission.


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