‘MLK Widening Continued…’

by on March 25, 2005

Dear Randy, Casey and all,

I am writing you on behalf of the Alliance for Golden Gate Park to thank you for covering the news about our campaign to stop a second, illegal garage entrance/exit from being constructed inside the Music Concourse.

We also want to stop the Concourse Authority and the private Music Concourse Community Partnership from widening MLK Drive at 9th Avenue and LIncoln Way, which is already a deathtrap for bicyclists and pedestrians and the disabled who try to enter the Park at that location.

Save Golden Gate Park! and the Alliance filed a comprehensive lawsuit against the deYoung Garage project in mid-December, 2003, after Supervisors Peskin, McGoldrick, Sandoval, Ma, Maxwell, Dufty, Hall and Newsom approved a flawed and fraudulent Environmental Impact Report for the garage. We sought to enforce the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act because of the manner in which the project sponsors “chopped” the $900,000,000 Concourse development into three: the deYoung, the Academy of Sciences and the Garage, to avoid looking at the cumulative impact of all three interdependent projects.

Last August, the Superior Court issued a provisional ruling, promising to validate the entire project, including the flawed EIR, and a 35-year ground lease between Warren Hellman’s MCCP and the City Recreation and Parks Department, IF a dedicate access route can be determined to serve this second entrance.

The private lease-hold on Golden Gate Park, and an accompanying $54,000,000 plus revenue bond which was never approved by SF voters, may some day be validated by the court when all of our legal actions and appeals are final, BUT, NOT ONE PART OF THIS PRIVATIZATION SCAM HAS BEEN VALIDATED BY THE COURT at this time. Not one.

Contrary to the assertions of Mike Ellzey of the Concourse Authority, neither the garage design, with it’s illegal second entrance, nor the ground lease, nor the revenue bond have been approved by the Courts. We believe that it is time for the Board of Supervisors to step in and insure the Pedestrian Oasis that was approved by voters. And to call for an immediate financial audit of the MCCP’s public funding.

When current Board President Aaron Peskin presided over the Finance and Audits Committee in December, 2003, he and Supervisor Sandoval made specific demands asserting the Board’s right of review and control over the Music Concourse “Surface Circulation Plan.” Now that the Concourse Authority claims that all environmental review is complete, and especially since the Landmarks Preservation Board is attempting to “landmark” the roads and the cross-park commuter traffic, the Board needs to act NOW. Not later, after the second entrance is built, or after the roadways and speeding commuters are reconstituted.

The Alliance for Golden Gate Park and two, long time Alliance members, Pinky Kushner and Howard Strassner, filed additional “CEQA” actions against the Concourse Authority and the MCCP in early January.

Rest assured that the support we have received from merchants and neighbors in District 5, including the Upper Haight, and the Inner Sunset, has been anything but luke warm. A whole new grass roots coalition has popped up over the past five months and is continuing to grow. Some folks will look closely at new legislation, but others are ready to go back into the streets. What they seem to want is the Pedestrian Oasis. When do they want it? NOW!


Stephen Willis,
Save Golden Gate Park!

NOTE: SGGP! is the legal defense committee for the Alliance for Golden Gate Park. We led the call for the Finance and Audits Committee meetings held last November, and we organized merchants and businesses in the Haight and the Inner Sunset to stand up against the second garage entrance and the MLK widening.

PS – The MCCP has destroyed all three of the 108-year old pedestrian tunnels in the Music Concourse. Their idea of “restoration” is to demolish and replace with cheaper materials.


In your MLK widening story (BeyondChron, 3-21-05), Catherine Roberts says, “To me it’s very disturbing to see that a small group of people with lots of wealth and power can subvert the democratic process so easily…”

Actually, this is a good description of what Catherine Roberts and a few others are doing on the issue, since city voters passed Proposition J in 1998 to create the Concourse Authority to build an underground garage in Golden Gate Park. Roberts spent $50,000 in legal fees to challenge Prop. J, but she lost in court last year. The court upheld Prop. J. and the Concourse Authority, though Judge Warren, in his Statement of Decision, ordered the Authority to design a southern entrance to the Concourse garage that begins outside the park as per the text of Prop. J. The “widening” of MLK is simply the Authority’s attempt to obey Judge Warren’s order.

In fact, MLK is only being widened by a few feet, since the Authority’s plan essentially removes the parking lanes on both sides of that road to accomodate a street design that will have a lane dedicated to those driving to the garage, one for buses and bikes, and another for other traffic.

If you read the text of Proposition J, the “pedestrian oasis” idea
refers only to the Concourse itself, not to the park as a whole, which, at a number of points, is an integral part of the city’s traffic grid. Prop. J requires that for every new parking space created by the garage a parking space will be removed from the surface roads of the park, including 200 from the Concourse itself. Hence, once the project is done, the Concourse will indeed be a lot more like a “pedestrian oasis” than it was before Prop. J.

The Music Concourse Community Partnership has not “taken over the Concourse Authority’s oversight role.” The Authority has contracted with the MCCP to build the garage, but it still has oversight over the whole project—and the Rec. and Park Dept. has oversight over the Authority. This is all in the text of Prop. J (http://www.sfpix.com/garage/legal_text.html). Nor, according to Judge Warren, has there been any public money involved in the construction of the garage.

People need to read Prop. J, Judge Warren’s Statement of Decision, and the Concourse Authority’s Staff Report of last November on the entrance issue to understand this controversy.

Judge Warren rejected every single cause of action in the suit filed by Roberts and her attorney, except for the entrance issue. No one has challenged the entrance to the garage at Tenth and Fulton. But what Roberts and others are now trying to sell is the notion that no other entrance to the garage is necessary. Judge Warren quite rightly rejected this idea, and, as no new arguments have been advanced, is unlikely to reverse himself on that issue, since the text of Prop. J explicitly states that the public must have reasonable access to the garage and the Concourse.

Rob Anderson

You can submit letters to the editor by clicking on this link:rshaw@beyondchron.org
or by writing to:
Beyond Chron
126 Hyde Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
415-771-9850 (phone)
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