5/1/06

 

Promises Unkept
Closing JFK Drive to car traffic on Saturdays was supposed to make up for building an underground parking garage in the city's premier park.

By Savannah Blackwell
SF Progressive Editor

Nearly six years ago, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s Dave Snyder and Mike Smith of Advocates for a Safe Golden Gate Park had a little powwow with Wells Fargo heir Warren Hellman. 

They did so at the behest of former state assembly member (now state Senator) Carole Migden, who tried to talk them out of going forward with a ballot measure calling for immediate prohibition of automobile traffic on the eastern mile-and-a-half section of John F. Kennedy Drive on Saturdays, based on Hellman’s objection. 

Like he told Migden, Hellman told the two activists he had no problem with closing JFK Drive on Saturdays – just as it has been on Sunday for nearly 40 years – once his parking garage was constructed underneath Golden Gate Park's Music Concourse. He had all sorts of worries about that, including the fact that the M.H. de Young museum’s wealthy patrons -- who had clamored for the garage -- weren’t eager to fork over money for its construction.

Smith and Snyder refused to back down. And so voters ended up dealing with two competing measures on the Nov.,2000 ballot addressing what has come to be called “Saturday closure.” The one hastily drawn up by former Supervisor Michael Yaki (a Hellman and Willie Brown shill if there ever was one) called for closing part of JFK Drive on Saturdays once the garage was completed. 

Harry Parker and Dede Wilsey from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco wrote in their argument supporting Prop. G published in the voters' handbook that the measure would “ensure the maximum enjoyment and the minimum inconvenience to all park users.”

Prop. G’s proponents focused their energy on defeating Prop. F. So both measures failed, the latter by only five percentage points.

Fast-forward to spring 2006. The nasty underground parking garage has been built – despite ongoing objections from some park activists and various lawsuits. And in violation of the stipulations in Proposition J – the 1998 measure authorizing construction of the thing – the garage we have today is NOT the result of decisions made by a public body. Rather, it reflects what Hellman could get for the money he could raise or leverage. (see “Hellman’s Hole” San Francisco Bay Guardian 2/5/03) 

The Golden Gate Park Concourse Authority, the public panel created by Prop. J, actually approved a design that was friendlier to the environment -- with such notable features as open light shafts. However, it cost more than Hellman was willing to pay. 

Today, when you enter the new de Young from the garage, you’ll see a placard that drives home this subversion of the terms of the voter-approved ordinance. The sign gives credit for the facility’s construction to the Music Concourse Community Partnership – the private group Hellman put together in 2001 that ended up determining the design of the garage.

But Hellman is holding up his end of the controversial deals over Golden Gate Park’s Music Concourse area in one respect: He’s publicly supporting Supervisor Jake McGoldrick’s proposal, approved by seven of his colleagues on April 25, to close JFK Drive to car traffic on Saturdays for a six-month trial period. 

During the April 14 discussion at the supes’ land use committee, a note from Hellman turned up stating: “After a great deal of thought and consideration, I have decided to support the testing of the Saturday closing of Golden Gate Park to vehicular traffic. Most importantly, I believe that at the time the city voted on Propositions “F” and “G,” most of us working for “G” came out in favor of a test of Saturday closure. I know I did. I do not intend to go back on my word; therefore, I will support the test closure. At the end of 6 months, the city can take another look.”

I know I’ve given Hellman a hard time for at least eight years – ever since he started trying to increase the influence of private interests over the park. (see “Private Parking” SFBG 5/6/98) But he deserves credit for sticking to his Saturday closure pledge. Of course, it would have been a lot more powerful if he had shown up in person to say it himself. 

We sure can’t say the same of the president of the museum’s Board of Trustees. 

She is Dede Wilsey, widow of the deceased and obscenely wealthy Alfred Wilsey. 

Her unbelievably bad behavior, including backing away from public pledges to accept Saturday closure once the garage was built, drives home her stepson, Sean’s, portrait of the bleached-blonde heiress in his 2005 book, “Oh the Glory of it All.”

According to Sean Wilsey, when Pat Montandon – Sean’s mother and Alfred Wilsey’s first wife -- dialed the phone number of the wine country home she once shared with her ex and got Dede on the line, his mother asked, “Is this the bitch who stole my husband?”

And Dede cheerily replied, “Yes, it is!”

At least she was honest with Pat about her true nature.

Four members of the Board of Supervisors, Michela Alioto-Pier, Bevan Dufty, Sean Elsbernd and Fiona Ma voted againstMcGoldrick’s legislation. That means McGoldrick is one vote shy of a veto-proof majority.

Assuming the vote count remains the same when the board considers giving final approval tomorrow, the big question is, what will Mayor Gavin Newsom do?

Word from those close to Room 200 is that he doesn’t want to veto the proposal and is trying to negotiate with DedeWilsey.

That effort seems pretty pointless. Dede has not acted rationally and has proven herself a liar. 

The museum’s new director, John Buchanan, just arrived from Portland and appears to have no idea what’s going on nor any real influence. So it’s pretty safe to assume that it was Dede’s bright idea to put out the message that the De Young’s ticket sales falter on car-free Sundays. 

Since the museum was forced to turn over the real numbers at McGoldrick’s April 14 hearing – everyone got to see that the assertion was a crock of you-know-what. 

It's also likely Dede was behind the museum’s claim that polling shows closing JFK Drive on Saturdays would be unpopular. But Smith, now of WalkSF, made quick mincemeat of that ridiculous statement when he cited a 2000 David Binder poll at the hearing.

The idea of closing JFK Drive on Saturdays goes back more than a decade. In the San Francisco Examiner’s 1996 editorial urging voters to support Prop. B, the measure that would have allocated public bonds for rebuilding the de Young, the paper said, “The anti-automobilists’ rap is unfair to the De Young Camp. The museum is now resigned to a ban of cars from Kennedy Drive in the park on Saturdays as well as Sundays…The underground garage would compensate…”

They wrote that, because that’s what former director Parker told them. 

That’s the same thing he told me when I met with him and former museum spokesperson Carolyn Macmillan to discuss the controversial design plans for the new de Young. They reiterated that the museum would not oppose closing JFK Drive to car traffic on Saturdays – once the garage was completed. (Parker actually said he would be “open to the idea.” Macmillan was more direct.)

San Francisco supposedly has an official “transit first” policy. That’s why former mayor Willie Brown told environmentalists he wanted to permanently ban cars on the eastern portion of JFK Drive when he was luring them into a political deal that would require them to stay neutral on 1996’s Prop. B, which included plans to build an underground parking garage. In exchange, de Young officials were supposed to drop their longtime opposition to banning cars on Saturday. 

The de Young officials got their garage – 500 slots larger than the one in the failed 1996 measure. Now they should deliver their end of the deal. To renege is unfair.

Email Savannah Blackwell at savannah.blackwell@gmail.com. Read more of her writing.

 

 

5/1/06

Closing JFK Drive to car traffic on Saturdays was supposed to make up for building an underground parking garage in the city's premier park.

 

By Savannah Blackwell

SF Progressive Editor

##M:[more]##

Nearly six years ago, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s Dave Snyder and Mike Smith of Advocates for a Safe Golden Gate Park had a little powwow with Wells Fargo heir Warren Hellman.

 

They did so at the behest of former state assembly member (now state Senator) Carole Migden, who tried to talk them out of going forward with a ballot measure calling for immediate prohibition of automobile traffic on the eastern mile-and-a-half section of John F. Kennedy Drive on Saturdays, based on Hellman’s objection.

 

Like he told Migden, Hellman told the two activists he had no problem with closing JFK Drive on Saturdays – just as it has been on Sunday for nearly 40 years – once his parking garage was constructed underneath Golden Gate Park's Music Concourse. He had all sorts of worries about that, including the fact that the M.H. de Young museum’s wealthy patrons -- who had clamored for the garage -- weren’t eager to fork over money for its construction.

 

Smith and Snyder refused to back down. And so voters ended up dealing with two competing measures on the Nov., 2000 ballot addressing what has come to be called “Saturday closure.” The one hastily drawn up by former Supervisor Michael Yaki (a Hellman and Willie Brown shill if there ever was one) called for closing part of JFK Drive on Saturdays once the garage was completed.

 

Harry Parker and Dede Wilsey from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco wrote in their  argument supporting Prop. G published in the voters' handbook that the measure would “ensure the maximum enjoyment and the minimum inconvenience to all park users.”

 

Prop. G’s proponents focused their energy on defeating Prop. F. So both measures failed, the latter by only five percentage points.

 

Fast-forward to spring 2006. The nasty underground parking garage has been built – despite ongoing objections from some park activists and various lawsuits. And in violation of the stipulations in Proposition J – the 1998 measure authorizing construction of the thing – the garage we have today is NOT the result of decisions made by a public body. Rather, it reflects what Hellman could get for the money he could raise or leverage. (see <ahref=http://www.sfbg.com/37/19/news_hellman.html>“Hellman’s Hole”<a/> San Francisco Bay Guardian 2/5/03)

 

The Golden Gate Park Concourse Authority, the public panel created by Prop. J, actually approved a design that was friendlier to the environment -- with such notable features as open light shafts. However, it cost more than Hellman was willing to pay.

 

Today, when you enter the new de Young from the garage, you’ll see a placard that drives home this subversion of the terms of the voter-approved ordinance. The sign gives credit for the facility’s construction to the Music Concourse Community Partnership – the private group Hellman put together in 2001 that ended up determining the design of the garage.

 

But Hellman is holding up his end of the controversial deals over Golden Gate Park’s Music Concourse area in one respect: He’s publicly supporting Supervisor Jake McGoldrick’s proposal, approved by seven of his colleagues on April 25, to close JFK Drive to car traffic on Saturdays for a six-month trial period.

 

During the April 14 discussion at the supes’ land use committee, a note from Hellman turned up stating: “After a great deal of thought and consideration, I have decided to support the testing of the Saturday closing of Golden Gate Park to vehicular traffic. Most importantly, I believe that at the time the city voted on Propositions “F” and “G,” most of us working for “G” came out in favor of a test of Saturday closure. I know I did. I do not intend to go back on my word; therefore, I will support the test closure. At the end of 6 months, the city can take another look.”

 

I know I’ve given Hellman a hard time for at least eight years – ever since he started trying to increase the influence of private interests over the park. (see <a href=http://www.sfbg.com/News/32/31/Features/parks.html>“Private Parking”<a/> SFBG 5/6/98) But he deserves credit for sticking to his Saturday closure pledge. Of course, it would have been a lot more powerful if he had shown up in person to say it himself.

 

We sure can’t say the same of the president of the museum’s Board of Trustees.

 

She is Dede Wilsey, widow of the deceased and obscenely wealthy Alfred Wilsey.

 

Her unbelievably bad behavior, including backing away from public pledges to accept Saturday closure once the garage was built, drives home her stepson, Sean’s, portrait of the bleached-blonde heiress in his 2005 book, “Oh the Glory of it All.”

 

According to Sean Wilsey, when Pat Montandon – Sean’s mother and Alfred Wilsey’s first wife -- dialed the phone number of the wine country home she once shared with her ex and got Dede on the line, his mother asked, “Is this the bitch who stole my husband?”

 

And Dede cheerily replied, “Yes, it is!”

 

At least she was honest with Pat about her true nature.

 

Four members of the Board of Supervisors, Michela Alioto-Pier, Bevan Dufty, Sean Elsbernd and Fiona Ma voted against McGoldrick’s legislation. That means McGoldrick is one vote shy of a veto-proof majority.

 

Assuming the vote count remains the same when the board considers giving final approval tomorrow, the big question is, what will Mayor Gavin Newsom do?

 

Word from those close to Room 200 is that he doesn’t want to veto the proposal and is trying to negotiate with Dede Wilsey.

 

That effort seems pretty pointless. Dede has not acted rationally and has proven herself a liar.

 

The museum’s new director, John Buchanan, just arrived from Portland and appears to have no idea what’s going on nor any real influence. So it’s pretty safe to assume that it was Dede’s bright idea to put out the message that the De Young’s ticket sales falter on car-free Sundays.

 

Since the museum was forced to turn over the real numbers at McGoldrick’s April 14 hearing – everyone got to see that the assertion was a crock of you-know-what.

 

It's also likely Dede was behind the museum’s claim that polling shows closing JFK Drive on Saturdays would be unpopular. But Smith, now ofWalkSF, made quick mincemeat of that ridiculous statement when he cited a 2000 David Binder poll at the hearing.

 

The idea of closing JFK Drive on Saturdays goes back more than a decade. In the San Francisco Examiner’s 1996 editorial urging voters to support Prop. B, the measure that would have allocated public bonds for rebuilding the de Young, the paper said, “The anti-automobilists’ rap is unfair to the De Young Camp. The museum is now resigned to a ban of cars from Kennedy Drive in the park on Saturdays as well as Sundays…The underground garage would compensate…”

 

They wrote that, because that’s what former director Parker told them.

 

That’s the same thing he told me when I met with him and former museum spokesperson Carolyn Macmillan to discuss the controversial design plans for the new de Young. They reiterated that the museum would not oppose closing JFK Drive to car traffic on Saturdays – once the garage was completed. (Parker actually said he would be “open to the idea.” Macmillan was more direct.)

 

San Francisco supposedly has an official “transit first” policy. That’s why former mayor Willie Brown told environmentalists he wanted to permanently ban cars on the eastern portion of JFK Drive when he was luring them into a political deal that would require them to stay neutral on 1996’s Prop. B, which included plans to build an underground parking garage. In exchange, de Young officials were supposed to drop their longtime opposition to banning cars on Saturday.

 

The de Young officials got their garage – 500 slots larger than the one in the failed 1996 measure. Now they should deliver their end of the deal. To renege is unfair.

 

Email Savannah Blackwell at <a href=savannah.blackwell@gmail.com>savannah.blackwell@gmail.com</a>. Read <a href=http://www.sfprogressive.com/link.asp?smenu=16&sdetail=143>more<a/> of her writing.

 

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