Coit Tower is a symbol of San Francisco, occupying a special spot in our city’s heart and soul.
Why, then, has it been neglected by The City for so long, considered by the head of the Recreation and Park Department that oversees it to be little more than a “cash cow” to be squeezed to fund other things? If you walk through the front door of Coit Tower today, you see lead paint peeling from the ceiling, dim lighting and leaking water seeping through the walls, corroding the 27 historic New Deal-era murals inside. Many of the murals have been repeatedly scratched, gashed and chipped because nobody is there to protect them.
This is shortsighted, unnecessary and simply unacceptable.
On June 5, voters have the chance to begin a fresh approach to the poor management of Coit Tower by passing Proposition B to prioritize the protection and preservation of Coit Tower and its historic murals. Prop. B creates a new city policy prioritizing the funds generated at tower for its preservation and keeping commercial activities and private parties at Coit Tower limited so public access remains the top priority. Backing Prop. B are the daughters and descendants of the original Coit Tower mural artists, preservation groups such as the Sierra Club, San Francisco teachers, the Labor Council, the Democratic Party, and dozens of neighborhood associations and civic groups such as the West of Twin Peaks Central Council and the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods.
This citywide coalition has come together to back Prop. B because Coit Tower is more than just some aging building or another annoying headache for The City to worry about in hard times. Consider the words of Lincoln Bergman, a Bay Area poet who grew up in San Francisco and is a member of the Revolutionary Poets Brigade, in his poem, “Oh, What a Wonder Coit Tower!”:
Oh, what a wonder Coit Tower
Where WPA murals did flower
For their saving let’s plan
Good folks of San Fran
For they represent people’s power!
Coit Tower stands high in the sky
Inside great art meets the eye
For the murals we care
In their strength we all share
They’ve got power that no one can buy!
Zakheim, Arnautoff, all the rest
Were painting their absolute best
Their wonderful art
Is deep in our heart
This city has truly been blessed!
A people’s great treasure is Coit
With murals by painters adroit
They, I’m sure you’ll agree,
Belong to the com-mun-i-ty
Art no one should ever exploit!
Yes, time does its work on all things
To rock, erosion it brings,
But we must do our part
To preserve this great art —
For Coit Tower, my heart truly sings!
So we trust that by now you’ll agree
In this city that loves liberty
Have no inhibition
About this proposition
Yes on B! Yes on B! Yes on B!
Coit Tower and its murals are inspired and inspiring, a 78-year-old gift to every San Francisco resident from Lillie Hitchcock Coit and 25 hard-working artists. We are now entrusted with protecting and celebrating this special place.
Let’s do just that by voting yes on Prop. B.
Jon Golinger is chair of the Protect Coit Tower Committee.