Neighbors divided over Panhandle band shell

A proposal to build a temporary band shell for acoustic performances in the Golden Gate Park Panhandle is drawing opposition from neighbors who say the structure would bring unwanted trash, noise and crowds.

The band shell, made of used car hoods, computer circuit panels and plastic water bottles, is part of the Black Rock Arts Foundation ScrapEden SF project, funded in part by a $50,000 grant from the San Francisco Department of the Environment.

The project is pitting advocates against some neighbors who say the structure is better suited for one of Golden Gate Park’s larger areas. Advocates say the band shell would bring an interactive art endeavor to a stretch of park often overlooked for such uses.

“We’re always looking for ways to keep [the Panhandle] beautiful since it has been saved from becoming a freeway,” said Rose Marie Dennis, spokeswoman for The City’s Recreation and Park Department.

The Panhandle, which stretches eight blocks between Oak and Fell streets, is the oldest part of Golden Gate Park, Dennis said. Basketball courts, a playground and a pedestrian path are used daily. Picnickers and people playing catch with their dogs are a common sight.

Under ScrapEden SF, the band shell, which would be 30 feet wide and 18 feet tall, would be the first of three temporary art structures installed in the Panhandle. If The City approves the band shell Thursday, it will be up from June 1 to Sept. 15.

“It’s a good project, and I believe it will add well to a neighborhood that is starting to see a lot of families grow or return,” Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi said.

Project directors plan to schedule nonamplified performances from noon to dusk daily at the band shell, from jazz and puppet shows to theatrical performances. The shows are expected to attract fewer than 25 people.

“Our hope and intention is to sponsor and promote community building projects,” said Leslie Pritchett, executive director of the Black Rock Arts Foundation, developed by Burning Man founders. Some Panhandle neighbors, however, are not convinced the performances would attract small crowds.

“The noise factor is definitely a deterrent for anyone in the neighborhood,” said Maureen Murphy, who lives on Oak Street. “Although they said there would be no amplification, any time you construct any sort of a band shell … Things start out with the best intentions, but things get out of hand.”

Murphy said she is concerned about safety, since the Panhandle sits between two major thoroughfares, and about trash generated from the crowds.

Deborah Chiarucci said Sharon Meadows in Golden Gate Park would be a better venue for the band shell.

“It’s such a small area. It would be unfair to put that burden on that location,” she said.

The City’s Recreation and Park Commission will discuss the proposed band shell at 2 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.

arocha@examiner.com

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