A Park or a Parking Lot? The Struggle Continues by Dave Snyder

olden Gate Park is supposed to be a "sylvan retreat from urban pressures," but instead it seems overwhelmed at times by the most pernicious form of urban pressure: the automobile. That pressure was expressed in the worst way in June 1998, when 58% of the voters approved a plan to build under the Concourse a parking garage for 900 cars, and to remove that many spaces from the surface of the park.

The SFBC, along with the Alliance for Golden Gate Park, opposed the garage measure and simultaneously worked to mitigate its language. The parking spaces to be removed must be removed from the "most congested areas" of the park, and some of the private money raised for the garage must be used to implement nonmotorized transportation improvements.

The SFBC also opposed the $90 million bond measure for the DeYoung Museum, on the basis that its reconstruction should not be supported unless they abandoned their plans for the garage. The bond would have subsidized the garage because the Museum's public funding directed to the museum freed up private money to go to the garage. Though we lost on the garage, we won on the bond measure; it fell 3% short of the 67% needed for passage. The SFBC's success at the polls constituted a very public display of strength for our agenda. Even Chronicle columnist Ken Garcia praised the SFBC's grassroots efforts. Most members agreed with our opposition to both the garage and the bond measure, but some were upset with our opposition to the museum, and withdrew their memberships.

This March, the California Academy of Sciences, which also backed the garage, has put its own bond measure (Prop B) on the ballot, an $87 million request to retrofit and expand their building. Again, members are split on the issue, though a contingent of our most active members came to the January Board meeting asking us to oppose it. Until the Academy changes its plans for the garage and its historic opposition to SFBC goals such as Saturday closure of JFK Drive, we should oppose them, they said.

Seeking to leverage the SFBC's influence on park issues, the SFBC Board of Directors authorized the Executive Director to negotiate with the Academy in exchange for the SFBC's neutrality on the bond measure. The Executive Director was asked to obtain a commitment from the Academy to support the opening of JFK Drive to car-free recreation on Saturday as well as Sunday, as well as a commitment to find funding for a feasibility study of the G-line Muni extension into Golden Gate Park.

As of press time, the result of these negotiations is not known. SFBC members will be receiving a separate communication about the SFBC's position on Prop B.