Historic Preservation Commission to consider Golden Gate Park ferris wheel extension on Wednesday

Opposition says the structure disrupts wildlife, creates light pollution

The proposed four-year extension of 150-foot SkyStar Observation Wheel in Golden Gate Park faces another hurdle Wednesday, when the San Francisco Historic Preservation Commission will review the Recreation and Park Department’s request for a certificate of appropriateness.

Installed last fall to honor the park’s 150th anniversary, the Ferris wheel is scheduled to be removed in March. It only operated for five weeks before it was closed because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Recreation and Park is proposing to extend the SkyStar Observation Wheel’s stay until March 1, 2023, to “offset financial hardship experienced by the vendor” and to March 1, 2025, to reinvigorate the city’s post-pandemic economy.

The Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay chapter has asked the Historic Preservation Commission to deny the extension for environmental reasons.

“The SkyStar Observation Wheel has bands of exterior booth lights and flashing, rotating designs on the sides — all extremely bright LEDs — that stay lit until 10 p.m. every night,” the Sierra Club’s Katherine Howard wrote in a blog post.

“Our city parks are a vital refuge for wild animals struggling to deal with the loss of habitat and open space,” she continued. “Wildlife needs darkness. Light pollution can have a negative impact on birds — both resident and migrating — as well as bats, insects, amphibians, and other animals. Artificial light can alter an animal’s circadian rhythm, disrupting breeding, foraging, and sheltering cycles. Furthermore, it can draw and disorient some species while repelling others — in both cases, to deadly effect.”

Meanwhile, Grow the Richmond, a political group organizing to get more housing built in the district, has put together a pro-SkyStar Observation Wheel petition titled “Ferris Wheels Are Fun!”

In the petition, the group states, “Unfortunately anti-fun scolds are at it again. … We at Grow The Richmond are here to say, in addition to everything else we stand for, we are pro-FUN. Be a part of the pro-fun alliance too! Tell the Historic Preservation Commission and Rec and Parks that you support the temporary extension of this unique, enjoyable, and temporary addition to the park.”

The San Francisco Historic Preservation Commission meets at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

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