Supes seek info to set down new rules for Coit Tower

S.F. Examiner File PhotoPolicy: Prop. B

After a contentious fight over restoration and maintenance policies at Coit Tower in the spring, the Board of Supervisors is getting down to the tricky business of interpreting and implementing a vague policy statement that requires San Francisco to “strictly limit” private events at the landmark and to “prioritize” revenue earned there for its upkeep.

The policy measure — dubbed Proposition B and upheld by 53 percent of voters in June — was floated by neighborhood activists in response to the deteriorating state of the landmark’s 1930s-era labor-inspired murals, plus structural problems at the 210-foot concrete tower.

It was opposed by Recreation and Park Department head Phil Ginsburg, who said restraints on the parks budget could hinder his agency’s ability to take care of open spaces citywide.

On Tuesday, Supervisor John Avalos asked The City’s budget analyst to get a detailed description of expenditures and revenue at the tower, and potentially make recommendations on how to interpret the policy. Board President David Chiu, whose district includes Coit Tower, introduced a resolution last week to “reaffirm the commitment to protect and preserve” the landmark.

Sarah Ballard, a Rec and Park spokeswoman, said much of the financial data had already been released in the run-up to a vote on Prop. B. She estimated the tower earns more than $600,000 annually and that about $200,000 goes back into maintenance, including gardening at the surrounding park on Telegraph Hill.

“That leaves about half a million we use to subsidize programs throughout our system, especially in underserved neighborhoods,” Ballard said.

The department has been engaged in initial contract negotiations and community meetings about recruiting a new concessionaire to sell food and beverages at the tower. Ballard said the preliminary contract offering would require a minimum annual guarantee of $540,000 in revenue and allows for 12 private events per year. The latter irked the measure’s proponents, who said monthly private fundraising events violate voter will and do not keep with the spirit of the “strictly limit” language.

While Ginsburg has said the department’s efforts to fix problems were under way before Prop. B passed, that wasn’t enough for Jon Golinger, leader of the measure’s backers. Golinger said the board’s upcoming action will be the first real step in curing what ails the landmark.

“How much has come in for Coit Tower — and exactly what it has been spent on — has been discussed, but not analyzed in detail,” Golinger said.

dschreiber@sfexaminer.com

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