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Jaggi Singh, squats - Montreal style

VOLUME 2, NUMBER 30    <>     MONDAY, AUGUST 27, 2001

deyoung3.jpg (32039 bytes)


Ode to Kim

Eun-Jung knows well where
my heart lies red hot
not in black and white
in sterile society
banker empty of plasma


Philip Hackett


Eun-Jung Kim’s mixed media works, including “Where Is My Heart,” appeared recently at the Academy of Art College Gallery.


the butler did it

Good servants are hard to find, they say. Take that big house in the middle of Golden Gate Park known as the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum.

The old structure, badly damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, closed its doors on December 31, 2000. Its walls are scheduled to come tumbling down early next year to make way for a new state-of-the-arts edifice, complete with a tower that’s either a proud symbol of San Francisco civility or the control tower of an aircraft carrier, depending on how you look at it.

But the issue that rocked the walls of City Hall last Monday was not aesthetic. The occasion was a public appeal to the Board of Supervisors, an elected assembly, to review the conduct of the Planning Commission, an appointed body. It was ostensibly environmental — to affirm the commission’s certification of the Final Environmental Impact Report — but in fact it focused on whether the servants in that big house were doing their job properly.

Members of People for a New de Young, the group that has long and loudly criticized the project, said no way: attorney Susan Brandt-Hawley called the EIR “significantly inadequate and incomplete.” Supervisor Aaron Peskin, experienced in environmental practices, concurred: “There is a certain kind of self-serving language in these reports that creates a certain kind of self-serving result.”

The odd thing was that the Planning Department agreed.

It seems that there had been a “very significant” snafu during the preparation of the EIR, so that projected environmental impacts were based on a tower 10 percent shorter than the one in the architects’ plans. Straight-faced, Planning Director Gerald Green and Museums Director Harry S. Parker III apologized for the error, admitting that the supes had no choice but to return the EIR for revisions.

What the…? Why didn’t they just ask to postpone the hearing until they could come up with a corrected document?

The answer comes straight out of City Politics 101: How to Undercut Your Opponents.

Parker told Chronicle reporter Rachel Gordon that the he was “alerted to the problem” during the week of August 6; the newspapers carried the story on the following Monday. But on August 10 Parker sent a letter to museum members that failed to mention the “problem” but raised the specter of DELAY. His good little soldiers turned out in huge numbers for the supervisors’ hearing on August 20.

Their impassioned pleas to save the city’s cultural life almost worked. The supes voted, as expected, to send the EIR back to accommodate the pesky extra sixteen feet in the tower. They demurred , however, on most of the appellants’ other concerns, including the absence of alternative plans, the absence of possible cumulative effects with other proposed construction in the area. The museum and its planning colleagues nearly got away with doing sloppy homework.

Nearly. There was a glitch. The concourse area of Golden Gate Park is being nominated for landmark status, which brings the possibility of federal funds. How, the board wants to know, will the proposed design affect its prospects? Maybe it won’t at all. But the question gets to the heart of the dispute — how the “new de Young” fits into its surroundings — and good stewards should be able to answer it satisfactorily.

But then, good stewards should also be able to find ways for the people they serve to enjoy the de Young’s collection, or at least part of it, over the next four years. Why has no one suggested taking over a wing of the Legion of Honor for the duration? Instead, the public is threatened with artistic deprivation if the plans for the new museum are not rubber-stamped.

Talk about uppity servants! You just can’t get good help these days.

Betsey Culp

Office of the Director
California Palace of the Legion of Honor
M.H. de Young Memorial Museum

August 10, 2001

Dear Museum Member:

I am sure you have been following the determined effort to rebuild the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in Golden Gate Park. Over the past several years we have endured bond issue losses and political setbacks as we persevered in our efforts to secure the Museums’ collections in a seismically safe building — safe for the collections and for visitors alike.

Now, our efforts have come to an important moment when you can be extremely helpful. Our plans will be the subject of a public meeting of the Board of Supervisors scheduled on August 20 at 3:00 p.m. in City Hall. The main point for discussion will be the Environmental Impact Report, which was certified by the Planning Commission in December of last year. However, the certification decision has been appealed to the full Board of Supervisors by a small group calling itself People for a New de Young. Primarily at issue will be the adequacy of the original Environmental Impact Report, which includes such issues as shadow impacts of the new building, visitor projections, and conformity to the City’s master plan. These issues were considered by the Planning Commission in the greatest detail with over a year’s worth of work and multiple opportunities for community input. A decision to re-open the EIR would be exceedingly costly in terms both of money and time. With the de Young now closed, we are eager to maintain our original schedule and open the new facility as planned in 2005 to serve the many audiences of the de Young.

You can help by attending the public hearing to support the museum through your presence or by calling or writing the Supervisor who represents your district. You might wish to focus your comments on the theme of “Don’t Delay the de Young” and include the following points:

· Completion of the new de Young is essential to return this unique and valuable cultural resource to our city.

· The speedy completion of the new de Young is vital to our public schools, which depend on the de Young’s educational programs and support services.

· Completion of the new de Young is important to the future of Golden Gate Park and to the cultural resources in the Concourse area.

· The new de Young is necessary to ensure the safety of both our collections and visitors.

I list below the San Francisco districts, their Supervisors, their office telephone numbers and e-mail addresses. Now is the time to lend your political support in whatever form is most convenient for you.

I appreciate the loyalty of the museum membership, which has been so supportive financially as well as in other constructive ways. If you have any questions about these issues or your advocacy role, please give me a call at 750-3543.

Yours sincerely,
Harry S. Parker III
Director of Museums

P.S. If you are a donor to the project through the My de Young campaign, you might want to let your supervisor know that the project is being funded by community members such as you.