Swan song for S.F. park band shell

A request to extend the permit for a band shell made of recyclable materials in the Golden Gate Park Panhandle was shot down Thursday, as city officials refused to renege on a deal to remove the structure after three and a half months.

The Black Rock Arts Foundation — which is operating the temporary band shell project with a $50,000 grant from the San Francisco Department of the Environment — requested an extension of the current operating permit through November.

The Recreation and Park Commission, however, voted unanimously Thursday to maintain the guidelines of the current permit, which requires the band shell to be removed by Sept. 15. The 30 feet wide by 18 feet tall structure, made of used car hoods, water bottles and computer parts, was assembled offsite and brought to the Panhandle near Clayton Street in early June.

“We promised the neighbors it was a temporary installation,” Commissioner Jim Lazarus said. “I think we should stick by that timeline.”

Supporters of the band shell said the project was meant to bring the surrounding neighborhood together, while also informing people of different ways to use recyclable materials. Since June, the band shell has been used by various performers, including storytellers, three-piece bands and puppet shows.

“Supporting the extension sends a message to these young people that creating projects for The City is a valuable and meaningful endeavor,” said Melissa Alexander, executive director of the Black Rock Arts Foundation.

Since the initial proposal, however, neighbors have argued that the structure would be a magnet for homeless people, while generating more litter and higher noise levels.

“There has been increased vagrancy in the park, as well as homeless encampments,” said Kathleen Fung, who lives on Fell Street and opposes the project.

San Francisco police Lt. Mary Stasco, of Park Station, which patrols the Panhandle, said there have not been any complaints about homeless people sleeping in the temporary band shell. Homeless advocates and neighbors, however, havesaid homeless people have been using the structure to some degree.

“There is a reason people are sleeping in the band shell — it’s because they’re homeless. It’s a tendency of people to find places that are secluded and protected from the weather,” said Juan Prada, executive director of the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness. “If you are talking about removing people from the band shell, you need to be talking about homelessness.”

arocha@examiner.com


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