Peace house proposed for Alcatraz Island

Could Alcatraz Island house a wonder that is comparable to the Taj Mahal or Parthenon? The idea may seem unlikely now, but one Bay Area man envisions that future for the defunct prison.

If San Francisco voters approve a Feb. 5 ballot initiative that would restore operating power of Alcatraz back to the cityand county of San Francisco, it could possibly open the doors for a “Global Peace Center,” the final iteration of Mill Valley resident and Light Party founder Da Vid’s ambitious renovation plan for the island tourist attraction.

“I think people are sick of seeing the negative connotation of a prison on Alcatraz,” said Vid, who helped spearhead a campaign that garnered 20,000 signatures for the initiative, allowing it to appear on the February ballot. “This is just the beginning. We have people who think when this project is finished it will be the eighth world wonder.”

Alcatraz is currently administered by the National Park Service under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior. If voters approve the initiative, Vid said, the next step would be to work with city officials to identify funding sources for the island complex. Vid said proposed plans for the island include a statue of St. Francis, a multimedia entertainment center and a world cultures conference room.

Vid said he is working close with Native Americans — who hold Alcatraz in a sacred context — on developing the project.

Marshall Jack, a member of the Paiute and Washoe tribes, said the Global Peace Center would be a “win-win situation.”

“It is an opportunity for Native Americans to give back to the world,” said Jack, also known as Golden Eagle. “This project is a step in the right direction, to show that people of different backgrounds can work together to make something beautiful.”

The path to the Global Peace Center has plenty of barriers. Any motion to remove property from the National Park Service would have to get approval from Congress, and proposed alterations to the Alcatraz prison complex, which is a National Historic Landmark, would have to get approval from California’s Office of Historic Preservation.

The overhaul could also alarm environmentalists concerned about damage to the numerous bird habitats on the island, said National Parks Service spokesperson Rich Weideman. Weideman also said that recent work done to restore Alcatraz’s historic gardens would be derailed by the change.

Fisherman’s Wharf merchants, who base much of their marketing around Alcatraz merchandise, would not be pleased with the change, said Fisherman Wharf Community Benefits District spokeswoman Karen Bell.

“Any idea that involves taking Alcatraz away would certainly be viewed with skepticism by merchants in this area,” Bell said.

wreisman@examiner.com

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