South City replaces stolen cranes with giraffes 

Almost a year after two bronze cranes were stolen from the intersection of Junipero Serra and Hickey boulevards, South San Francisco has decided to replace them with two giraffe sculptures. And this time, the city staff is taking precautions.

The City Council recently approved the $5,000 installation to occupy the pond at the busy intersection. The pond has been empty since March, when someone ripped out the cranes by twisting off their thin legs. The giraffes have sturdier legs and are heavier at approximately 200 pounds apiece, which, according to the Cultural Arts Commission, should make them harder to steal. The cranes weighed between 60 and 70 pounds. The sculptures also will be insured, and the Public Works Department plans to anchor them to the ground with rebar.

"We looked at the size and weight and felt that it wasn’t something that could be easily broken," Cultural Arts Commissioner Ron Burgess said.

At the time of the theft, police speculated that the cranes were stolen for their scrap metal value, but the thieves were never found. A year after the theft, city officials felt it was important to replace the stolen cranes, which cost $3,000 and originally were installed in 2004. The giraffes will be installed in the next two months.

"The city has a program in beautifying our green areas, and after they stole [the cranes], it seemed like something was missing there," Mayor Pedro Gonzalez said. "It’s something that has to be replaced."

According to Burgess, the cranes were sorely missed by the community, but the commissioners decided not to tempt fate with another crane sculpture.

"Wehad so many calls from people who missed the cranes," he said. "They were very popular, but there was nothing from a crane aspect that was going to work."

Burgess said the commission considered other options, such as replacing the cranes with a more traditional fountain or leaving the pond empty, but finally decided that animal sculptures were important to preserve the atmosphere of the place.

"A lot of people thought it was pretty and peaceful, and you don’t see a lot of that," he said. "I think the giraffes will do the same thing, but I think they’ll be more fun."

svasilyuk@examiner.com

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