Back in 1947, San Francisco Mayor Roger Lapham tried to scrap the cable car lines, arguing that buses would be more efficient transit. A grass-roots movement saved the cable cars, collecting 50,000 signatures to force a ballot measure that passed with 77 percent approval.
Today, it seems almost incomprehensible that serious consideration could have ever been given to demolishing one of San Francisco’s signature visitor attractions and a uniquepiece of local history. But the works of mankind do weaken with age, and the Bay Area has a lengthy roster of lost or endangered landmarks.
Two irreplaceable artifacts are currently facing imminent disappearance, one on San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf and one on the Peninsula, at NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field alongside Highway 101. It would be truly saddening if the last remaining Monterey clipper fishing boats or gigantic Hangar One disappeared forever from the Bay Area.
In the 1920s, there were 500 picturesque Monterey clippers sailing out of Fisherman’s Wharf. Today, only about 25 remain, fully sea-
worthy but obsolete for commercial fishing, outmoded by larger and faster boats capable of longer trips.
The surviving clippers are now mostly used for recreational fishing or maintained by hobbyists. The Fisherman’s Wharf Historic Fishing Boat Association is pushing for a break on already low berth rent and a subsidy from Fisherman’s Wharf businesses to help keep the boats around as a unique tourist attraction.
The City and waterfront businesses should do all they can to retain one of the wharf’s favorite visitor draws. Maybe some of the Monterey clippers could even be used for short Bay cruises to help fund the project. What visiting family wouldn’t enjoy a quick ride on an antique fishing boat?
Preservation of Hangar One at Moffett Field would be a bigger fiscal challenge, costing tens of millions of dollars to be made usable again. Built in 1933 to house huge dirigible airships, Hangar One is as big as seven football fields, wide enough to fit three Titanics side by side and 17 stories high with its own interior rain drizzles. It is also a toxic site leaching dangerous PCBs into the local groundwater.
Only a handful of these dirigible-sized super-hangars remain in the U.S. and there is certainly nothing vaguely like it in Northern California. If funding could somehow be found to replace the toxic metal skin and clean up the site’s PCBs, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is looking for a place to put Space World, a proposed museum of space flight featuring ultrafuturistic interactive displays and simulators.
Something like Space World would be another major tourism-dollar magnet for the Bay Area. And bringing it into Hangar One would be something worth striving for.