A June ballot measure aimed at restoring Coit Tower’s historic public murals is now being opposed by a seemingly unexpected source — the city commission in charge of restoring the historic public murals.
The ballot item arose from concerned residents who say The City doesn’t dedicate enough to the beloved art pieces, which are suffering due to fog and wear-and-tear from visitors.
But the ballot proposal, although well-intentioned, will do little to help the situation at the landmark atop Telegraph Hill, says Tom DeCaigny, the director of cultural affairs for The City’s Arts Commission. The Recreation and Park Department — which oversees the larger landmark and surrounding Pioneer Park — doesn’t like the plan for the same reason, with General Manager Phil Ginsburg opposing the measure’s main contention that revenue raised at Coit Tower should be “prioritized” for its upkeep.
A letter to The City’s Elections Department from DeCaigny says Rec and Park should not be hindered from having “a flexible business model to ensure maximum profitability.” Ginsburg has said recently that revenue-generating aspects of the park system, like Coit Tower’s elevator and concessions, are what make free parks possible.
Rec and Park recently pledged $250,000 toward restoration of the murals and plans to dedicate 1 percent of the annual $600,000 in Coit Tower revenue to maintenance of the Depression-era pieces. DeCaigny said the ballot measure, which also seeks to limit private events at the site, could threaten Rec and Park’s ability to fund it.
“We just felt that it was perhaps overly restrictive,” DeCaigny said.
Jon Golinger, head of the Protect Coit Tower Committee, which helped gather more than 16,000 signatures to get the proposal on the ballot, said the Arts Commission opposition is based on “bizarre priorities” to “squeeze every dollar” out of a public resource.
“Directors of these two powerful departments are circling the wagons to oppose a citizen effort to constructively and reasonably improve things,” Golinger said.
According to Ethics Commission filings, supporters raised and spent more than $20,000 on the effort.