Wednesday, May 04, 2005

"Credit to Mr. Anderson"

(This is a response to a letter posted on PROSF's bulletin board by Stephen Willis of Save Golden Gate Park! Willis's letter is below my response, which PROSF didn't post.)

Stephen:

You have already lost the war. Why would Hellman want to debate at this point? You lost at the ballot box in 1998, and you lost in court last year. The court did not have a problem with the design of the garage. The only thing still being litigated is the "dedicated" roadway to the second entrance, along with attorneys' fees (the lawyer hired by Katherine Roberts is apparently asking for $250,000 in public money for achieving exactly what for the public?). And, by the way, the notion that all those who want to park in the garage should go through the Fulton and Tenth entrance is preposterous and defies common sense. Of course the garage needs two entrances, and the judge sensibly had no problem with that. He only ordered the Concourse Authority to design a "dedicated" roadway leading to that entrance and bring it back to him for review. The EIR has been accepted by Planning, the Board of Supervisors, and the court. It's nothing but wishful thinking to proceed as if all this is still on the table.

You folks have stampeded a lot of neighborhood groups into supporting your effort using overheated rhetoric and misinformation. I've been to meetings of some neighborhood groups, and, as you know, they are sparsely attended. A small group of active members routinely makes decisions for the membership as a whole. A group that has hundreds of members will be cited as doing this or that, but the reality is that a small number of people are actually making the decisions, and, in this instance, they have been manipulated by all the "save the park" rhetoric.

You can't blame this on the Chronicle or the media. The Chronicle hasn't prevented you from talking to Ellzey yourself. Nor thas the Chronicle prevented you folks from carefully reading Judge Warren's decision and Proposition J.

You can't rely on the media to do the work for you, though it's true that neither the Chronicle nor the Examiner has been particularly helpful on the issue. What they should have done long ago is what I'm trying to do now: inject a little reality into the issue as an antidote to the misinformation and overheated rhetoric coming from you folks. The weeklies---SF Weekly and the Bay Guardian---have also been essentially AWOL, though the Guardian has had a few, single-source, "progressive" items on it in the past year. BeyondChron has also done a poor job by relying entirely on you folks for information and perspective.

In the media's defense, one of the reasons they haven't been covering the issue is they may correctly perceive that it's a non-issue, that the game is basically over, that the Concourse Authority is exercising the will of the voters, who voted for both an underground garage and a remodeled Concourse in 1998, with the court essentially validating the present plan last summer.

According to Ellzey, there's not even going to be any physical widening of MLK, assuming everyone---Muni, DPT, etc.---signs off on the idea of slightly narrower lanes. The four lanes will now be created entirely by removing the parking on both sides of MLK. Hence, MLK will only need to be restriped to include lanes going to and from the southern entrance to the garage. It seems likely that Judge Warren will consider this a reasonable attempt to comply with Proposition J and his order in the Statement of Decision issued last August.

In his decision, Judge Warren also found that the garage was in fact being built entirely with private funds. This is an enormous gift to the city---a large underground garage that gives the public convenient access to the new de Young, the new Academy of Sciences, and the park in general.

Regards,
Rob Anderson

To PROSF:
We want to give credit to Mr. Anderson for his exclusive interview with Mike Ellzey, executive director of the GG Park Concourse Authority.

Rob's "District 5 Diary" has succeeded where the San Francisco Chronicle is missing in action. The Chron's too busy running fluff pieces on the marvelous new Battleship deYoung, docked north of the Music Concourse, to ever write anything about their controversial publicly-funded private garage. In fact, there has been no mainstream news coverage of the deYoung Museum's new 800-car underground garage.

On behalf of the all-volunteer legal defense committee, Save Golden Gate Park!, I recently contacted Mary Hughes, a public relations consultant and agent for Mr. Warren Hellman. I asked Ms. Hughes to convey a personal invitation to Mr. Hellman and all of the Board members of the Music Concourse Community Partnership to join with us and other Park stakeholders in a discussion (i.e. at the Masonic Auditorium), to present to the public their "gift" garage, and explain exactly how the public benefits from this gift. Mr. Hellman declined our invitation, only saying that he wasn't interested in meeting.

While the Court has yet to validate either the deYoung garage design, or it's funding by way of a $54 million revenue bond, or the MCCP's ground lease with the Rec and Parks Department, all of these are grim possibilities. When we filed our suit against the MCCP, and the Concourse Authority over sixteen months ago, we were seeking primarily the City's compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act. We sought a REAL Environmental Impact Report, and an honest look at the impact of a $900 million development in the heart of Golden Gate Park: Many serious questions remain.

The following people responded to the Draft EIR with very pointed concerns: Andrew Sullivan, chair, Rescue Muni; Joan Downey, President, Cole Valley Improvement Association; Eileen Ellis; Margaret Mori, American Society of Landscape Architects; Tim Kelley, President, Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board; Howard Herships; Jason Gibbs and Nghia Hoang; Peggy da Silva, Walk SF; Joseph C. Barbaccia, Chair, Strybing Arboretum Society; Patrick Myall; Denise D'Anne; Katherine Howard; Nancy Loewen; Tina Sandidge; Geoff Jones; Jennifer Fox; Susan Witka; Nicole Levine; Kurt W. Shuck; Paco B.B. Jones; Janice Rothstein; Michael Smith, President, Walk SF; Darcy Cohn; Inner Sunset Merchants and Residents; Jim Iwersen; Rolf D. Mueller; San Francisco Tomorrow; Jennifer Clary; Eleanor Spoors; Rachid Malouf; Frank Noto, Golden Gate Heights Neighborhood Association; Marc Duffett, Sunset Parkside Education and Action Committee (SPEAK); Pinky Kushner, Sherry Boschert; Howard Strassner, chair, Transportation Committee; Leah Shahum, San Francisco Bicycle Coaltion; Mary Ann Miller and Chris Duderstadt, Alliance for Golden Gate Park; Pat Christensen, writer; Terry Rolleri; and many more.

Contrary to Mr. Ellzey's assertions, we represent more that just a "hand full" of malcontents. Over 200 businesses and merchants in the Inner Sunset and the Upper Haight have signed the petition OPPOSING four lanes of traffic for MLK Drive. On February 15th, the Coalition of San Francisco Neighborhoods voted 13 to 8 to oppose the second garage entrance inside the Music Concourse, garage entrance "as planned" and to oppose four traffic lanes for MLK Drive. See the attached flyer produced by the Concourse Authority and you will notice the names of participating stakeholders. Over half of the groups listed OPPOSE what these reckless developers are doing to Golden Gate Park!

Stephen Willis
Save Golden Gate Park!

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