Recreation commission recommends plan for refreshment kiosk on Coit Tower’s westside

Jessica Kwong/the s.f. examinerTerry Grimm

The remaining matter of discord surrounding Coit Tower — where to position a refreshments kiosk — appears on its way to finally being settled.

As with virtually every issue involving the city landmark, Telegraph Hill residents voiced a range of opinions on the kiosk at the Recreation and Park Commission meeting Thursday. Some still preferred having no food and beverage service, while residents east of the tower bashed a proposal to build the kiosk near them, advocating that it instead be placed west of the tower parking lot. No residents on the west spoke out against having the kiosk on their side.

Considering safety and quality of life complaints about the eastside option — and no public opposition to the westside proposal — commissioners unanimously voted to direct staff to pursue the westside proposal for environmental review.

Terry Grimm, the new vendor operating the tower and gift shop, admitted he originally favored the eastside location for the kiosk because the topography on the westside is more complicated and expensive to build on. But he took no issue with the west side decision.

“We just keep going through the process and try to end up with a kiosk at the end of the day,” Grimm said. “I'm happy to make the neighbors happy. Hopefully we can increase the bottom line.”

A kiosk offering refreshments and food that does not require cooking was deemed necessary not only to serve visitors, but to feed into the vendor's revenue stream.

Under the five-year contract with a three-year option to extend, Grimm, the operator since the restored tower reopened in May, receives 10 percent of elevator ticket sales. The remainder goes to the Recreation and Park Department. At a community meeting regarding the kiosk late last year, Grimm reported his share of the elevator revenue was not enough to sustain his operation costs, and that he was seeing a $10,000 shortfall per month.

Rob Hammond, 45, who owns 356 Greenwich St., the condominium building closest to the kiosk at its proposed eastside location, said the space lacks a sidewalk connecting to the tower, unlike the westside

“I have to confess I came in as an eastsider,” commission Vice President Allan Low said. “I'm now switching to the westside because of pedestrian safety. Not having to cross in front of cars is probably paramount.”

Jon Golinger, 44, chairman of Protect Coit Tower, reiterated that relatives of benefactor Lillie Hitchcock Coit recently sent a letter to the commission opposing a concession stand near the tower. But if the kiosk has to go somewhere, he said, the westside trumps the eastside.

“A building in front of the tower has never been done before,” Golinger said, “that doesn't mean it can't be done in the best way possible.”

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