Voters have effectively told The City to pay more attention to deteriorating conditions at Coit Tower, as parks officials will now have to implement Proposition B — a policy to “prioritize” funds earned at the landmark for its upkeep and the maintenance of the historic murals housed there.
Recreation and Park Department officials and Mayor Ed Lee opposed the measure because they said it would impose undue restrictions on San Francisco’s overall parks budget. Neighborhood groups, including the influential Telegraph Hill Dwellers, gathered signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot after anger grew over chips and gashes in the tower’s Depression-era murals, along with troubling structural problems.
The neighborhood groups banded together to form the Protect Coit Tower Committee and crafted the somewhat open-ended policy that also includes a requirement to “strictly” limit private events at the 210-foot concrete structure. Proponents of Prop. B expressed concern that fancy fundraising affairs — which are sporadically held at the tower — could hamper public access to the popular tourist site and contribute to damage problems.
In the midst of mail-in and early voting, the mayor announced that $1.45 million in bond funds would be dedicated to fixing the building, in addition to $250,000 the Recreation and Park Department had already given to the Arts Commission for mural repairs. Rec and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg said the department had plans all along to address the issues, although the Prop. B campaign may have sped the process along.
The proposition prevailed despite a television spot — released by the nonprofit San Francisco Parks Alliance — which presented The City’s contention that the policy would be overly restrictive during the budgeting process.
The fight to get Prop. B passed was led by Telegraph Hill Dwellers head Jon Golinger, who also garnered support from the descendents of Lillie Hitchcock Coit, the woman whose estate funded the tower’s 1933 construction.
Ginsburg argued that the parks system leans heavily on revenue-generating facilities such as Coit Tower and Candlestick Park, and the new requirements could force the closure of some of The City’s other open spaces, particularly those in poorer neighborhoods.