Muni likely to oversee world’s oldest cable car

The rich history of The City’s cable cars will soon be under the control of San Francisco.

In 2005, Muni began exploring options of contracting out operations at the Cable Car Museum to a new organization. However, the department’s plans were halted because the nonprofit group in charge of the museum since 1993, the Friends of the Cable Car Museum, owned a bevy of important relics, including the Clay Street Hill Railroad — the oldest cable car in the world — and the Sutter Street Railroad, which is the second-oldest.

Also on display at the center, which was established in 1974, are grips, track mechanisms, brakes and a collection of historic photographs. In an agreement with The City, Friends of the Cable Car Museum pays Muni a $50,000 concession fee each year to operate the museum.

To control more of the future operations at the museum, which is located on the corner of Powell and Washington streets and is currently free to the public, Muni began investigating the possibility of buying the historic equipment. Conflict arose, however, when an independent evaluator hired by Muni valued the possessions in question at $370,000, while a separate assessor hired by the nonprofit group estimated the value at a little over $1 million.

As a compromise, Muni offered to buy out the materials for $660,000, doled out over 10 years. To pay for the artifacts, Muni is planning on waiving its $50,000 concession fee over the next decade, and use grant funding or operating revenue to make up the remaining $160,000, according to city documents. As part of the agreement, admission will remain free, according to Jose Godoy, the director of the nonprofit organization.

“We’re thrilled with the arrangement,” Godoy said. “We absolutely wanted The City to purchase these artifacts so that they stay in San Francisco, and we wanted to make sure that this museum stays free to the public.”

The agreement was approved by the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee on Wednesday. The full board will need to give approval before it is authorized.

Antique travel

Cable Car Museum facts:

1974 Year founded

1993 Year Friends of the Cable Car Museum took over operations

$50,000 Amount FCCM pays Muni each year in concession fees

$660,000 Amount Muni will pay FCCM to purchase several historic cable car artifacts

1873 Year that the Clay Street Hill Railroad line, which Muni will purchase, was first used

Source: SFMTA

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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