Monday, September 25, 2006

Mike Ellzey: Local hero

Mike Ellzey is gone. The former Executive Director of the Concourse Authority oversaw the construction of the garage under the Concourse in Golden Gate Park as per Proposition J in 1998. Whether you supported Proposition J or not, you need to go to the Concourse to see how it came out. Ellzey and the Concourse Authority did a spectacular job. One test of how well the job was done: Stand in front of the new de Young Museum and try to detect any evidence that there's an 800-space garage underneath the remodeled Concourse. 

In fact the garage is completely invisible from the Concourse itself. Even the entrances to the garage are barely visible. Walking along Fulton one can clearly see the northern entrance across from 10th Avenue. But walk up Martin Luther King Blvd. from Ninth and Irving toward the Concourse, and you have to be looking for the controversial southern, inside-the-park entrance to even notice it. 

The remodeled Concourse itself is in fact a "pedestrian oasis" as per Prop. J, since the 200 parking spaces that used to be on the Concourse are now gone. The traffic next to the Concourse in front of the de Young is now nothing more than a trickle---an infrequent #44 Muni bus, cyclists, and an occasional auto dropping someone off in front of the museum.

Mike Ellzey was vilified by the so-called defenders of Golden Gate Park during his tenure as Executive Director of the Concourse Authority. He received threatening phone calls, was spat on, and even threatened with a baseball bat on one occasion. His offense? Carrying out the will of the city's voters and Prop. J that promised the city a garage under the Concourse to be built entirely with private donations. 

The more than $50 million for building the garage was raised by Warren Hellman, who was also vilified by garage opponents on the city's fringe left. The rest of the Prop. J mandate: turning the Concourse into a "pedestrian oasis" and guaranteeing easy access to that part of Golden Gate Park to everyone. Ellzey and the Concourse Authority delivered spectacularly on all of those mandates.

Mike Ellzey and Warren Hellman have delivered a huge gift to San Francisco. Oddly, I haven't seen any gratitude expressed by anyone yet. Let me be the first, then: Thanks boys, for a job superbly done!

See a D5 Diary interview with Ellzey from last year.

Labels: ,