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Smart Voter
San Francisco County, CA June 5, 2012 Election
Proposition B
Coit Tower Policy
City and County of San Francisco

Declaration of Policy - Majority Approval Required

Pass: 72672 / 53.43% Yes votes ...... 63336 / 46.57% No votes

See Also: Index of all Propositions

Information shown below: Summary | Fiscal Impact | Arguments |

Shall it be City policy to strictly limit commercial activities and private events at Coit Tower, and to use funds from Coit Tower concession operations on the Coit Tower murals, building, and Pioneer Park?

Summary Prepared by Ballot Simplification Committee:
The Way It Is Now: Coit Tower is a San Francisco landmark built in 1933. The tower is located in Pioneer Park at the top of Telegraph Hill. It contains historic WPA-era murals.

The City's Recreation and Park Department manages Coit Tower and Pioneer Park. The City's Arts Commission is responsible for maintaining the murals inside Coit Tower but has no dedicated funds for doing so.

Under a long-standing agreement with the City, a private company runs concession operations at Coit Tower that include a food and beverage stand, gift store, the elevator and the right to operate special events. The City may spend the money it receives from this agreement for any City purpose. The City allocates this money each year to the Recreation and Park Department. Recently, the Department has committed to making a $250,000 contribution to the Arts Commission as well as setting aside one percent of all gross revenues from the tower for mural preservation and restoration.

There is no City policy against renting out Coit Tower for private events.

The Proposal: Proposition B would make it City policy to:

  • strictly limit commercial activities and private events at Coit Tower; and
  • use funds the City receives from Coit Tower concession operations for preserving the Coit Tower murals, protecting and maintaining the Coit Tower building, and beautifying Pioneer Park around Coit Tower.

Fiscal Impact from The SF Controller's Office:
City Controller Ben Rosenfield has issued the following statement on the fiscal impact of Proposition B: Should the proposed declaration of policy be approved by the voters, in my opinion, it would not affect the cost of government.

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Arguments For Proposition B Arguments Against Proposition B
Vote YES on Proposition B! Coit Tower is a special place. It's an iconic symbol of our unique city, known to every San Franciscan and instantly recognized around the world. Inside Coit Tower are 27 powerful WPA murals from the 1930s that vividly depict the reality of life in California during the tumultuous era in which they were painted. But sadly, Lillie Hitchcock Coit's generous gift to San Francisco is now in serious trouble due to neglect, decay, and lax oversight by the city. Inside Coit Tower, lead paint peels from the ceiling, broken lights go unrepaired, leaking water seeps through and corrodes the murals, chunks have been carelessly carved out of the art, and gashes and chips mar many of the exposed and fragile frescoes. This has all been allowed to happen despite the fact that Coit Tower already generates more than enough revenue for the city every year to keep it in good shape. According to city records, the city has been receiving $633,000 annually from Coit Tower concessions and elevator fees but spending just 7% of that + less than $44,000 a year + on Coit Tower!

Proposition B will put in place a new policy directing city officials to more wisely use some of the existing resources generated by Coit Tower to preserve and protect it, while keeping commercial activities and private events appropriately limited so that Coit Tower remains a public place, not a private party venue for sale to the highest bidder.

Coit Tower and its murals are unique and priceless San Francisco treasures. But they aren't being treated that way.

Coit Tower needs our help. Vote Yes on Proposition B. Let's protect Coit Tower. Vote YES on Prop. B!

Sierra Club Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods San Francisco Democratic Party Protect Coit Tower Committee

Rebuttal to Arguments For
NO ON B: Treasure ALL parks, not just those that make money. SF Parks Alliance shares Proposition B's goal to maintain Coit Tower and its beautiful murals. However, it can not be achieved at the expense of other neighborhood parks. The Recreation and Parks Department (RPD) and SF Arts Commission have already outlined a plan and funding ($250,000 for restoration and 1% of Coit revenue annually) to maintain the murals. This amount is double that spent on the murals' recent restoration in 1990, revealing far from "lax oversight" by the City. The measure would NOT add to the robust preservation plans already in place. However, the measure WOULD reduce park funding by "strictly limiting" appropriate activities that create revenue-- the same revenue needed to maintain Coit Tower and its murals.

This is illogical.

The measure has not identified revenue sources to replace those activities it would limit, so ultimately would remove potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars annually from the park budget. It would also compel what revenue is generated by Coit to be spent there. Since most parks in San Francisco do not generate revenue as Coit does, this would set a dangerous precedent of parks that "have" and parks that "have not."

This is not the San Francisco way.

All our neighborhood parks are treasures, and they all need our support. We can and will protect Coit Tower, but Proposition B is a step backwards by robbing our park system of much needed funding.

SF Parks Alliance

SF Parks Alliance (SFPA) urges you to vote NO on this restrictive, vague, and backwards Coit Tower Policy measure. If passed, it would likely take funding away from your neighborhood park.

SFPA agrees that, like every park, Coit Tower and Pioneer Park should be maintained properly. Coit's historic murals need maintenance, and the Recreation and Park Department (RPD) has already pledged $250,000 for their restoration and 1% of revenues generated by Coit annually for their maintenance. The SF Arts Commission, responsible for maintaining the murals, agrees amounts pledged by RPD will be sufficient. The SF Arts Commission views the current repair needs of the murals to be "routine", and does not link repair needs to specific activities at the site.

Coit provides RPD with approximately $950,000 in revenue annually from concessions and events, and RPD spends approximately $270,000 on operations and maintenance there annually. Appropriately, RPD uses surplus revenue from Coit to maintain other city park facilities in need. If passed, the measure suggests this surplus would not be available for other neighborhood parks. This measure could set the precedent of determining maintenance standards for parks based on each park's ability to generate revenue. This standard would be incredibly poor park policy, and would overly restrict RPD's ability to address needs throughout an already under-resourced park system.

Most importantly, if such a precedent is adopted, it could leave other neighborhood parks with repair and safety issues further behind-- simply because they do not generate revenue. This is unfair.

Curtailing concessions and events at Coit potentially could reduce by more than $500,000. Since that revenue in part supports upkeep of Coit Tower and its murals, reducing revenue ultimately renders the measure illogical, and sabotages its own stated goals.

VOTE NO - Keep ALL parks safe and beautiful. SF Parks Alliance

Rebuttal to Arguments Against
Why is a group called "SF Parks Alliance" making wild-eyed threats against our neighborhood parks if we vote to protect Coit Tower? Maybe they're worried their group won't be able to keep benefiting from the late-night private candlelight dinner parties the San Francisco Chronicle recently revealed they've been holding right next to the historic murals inside Coit Tower, exposing the endangered art to even more damage.

That's wrong. Coit Tower doesn't belong to them + Coit Tower belongs to all of us!

The SF Parks Alliance also makes the outlandish claim that Prop. B "could reduce revenue by more than $500,000." That's just made-up. The independent analysis of the San Francisco City Controller in this Voter Information Pamphlet states the truth about Prop. B: "Should the proposed declaration of policy be approved by the voters, in my opinion, it would not affect the cost of government." Read the full text of Proposition B for yourself: "It shall be the policy of the People of the City and County of San Francisco to protect Coit Tower and preserve the historic murals inside Coit Tower by strictly limiting commercial activities and private events at Coit Tower and by prioritizing the funds received by the City from any concession operations at Coit Tower for preserving the Coit Tower murals, protecting and maintaining the Coit Tower building, and beautifying Pioneer Park around Coit Tower."

Coit Tower is a special place that's worth protecting. Vote YES on Proposition B!

Jon Golinger, Chair Protect Coit Tower Committee

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Created: July 26, 2012 13:01 PDT
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