SF Examiner file photoA portion of Golden Gate Park has been named after billionaire Warren Hellman.

Golden Gate Park field named after festival backer Warren Hellman

Golden Gate Park’s Speedway Meadow is now officially Hellman Hollow.

The Recreation and Park Commission voted unanimously Thursday to rename the portion of the park after 77-year-old billionaire Warren Hellman upon the urging of Supervisor Sean Elsbernd with the support of the Board of Supervisors.

The renaming drew support from San Francisco’s political elite, including Gavin Newsom, Nancy Pelosi, Willie Brown and John Burton.

“I can’t think of another citizen of San Francisco that has done more for The City or had The City as his highest priority on almost everything he has ever done,” said Mark Buell, chairman of the commission.

The hearing included testimony from a number of people who praised Hellman’s generosity in holding the free Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in the park, donating to help schools and working to bring down city government’s pension tab.

“We hear about the 99 percent and the 1 percent. Here in San Francisco, we have someone from the 1 percent who is so actively involved with the 99 percent that we are standing in line to speak praise of him,” said Tom O’Connor, president of Firefighters Local 798.

Mayor Ed Lee — appearing at a city commission hearing for the first time as mayor — showed up to encourage the renaming and to praise Hellman for helping him with bringing down the pension costs.

The Recreation and Park Department will soon install a sign marking the area as Hellman Hollow.

The honor comes as Hellman faces health concerns. His daughter, Tricia Hellman Gibbs, told the commission Hellman had an illness that had “brought him to the hospital on many occasions in the past few months.” 

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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