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UPDATE: Why Is the City Attorney Defending the Privatization of Golden Gate Park?

Prop J was sponsored by the downtown Committee on Jobs almost seven years ago. Primary sponsors were Democrats Mayor Willie Brown, Michael Yaki, and Gavin Newsom at City Hall, and Republican financier Warren Hellman, representing the deYoung Museum and the Academy of Sciences. Prop J was about the abuse of the voter initiative process to undermine the Park Master Plan, and quietly privatize the park by wrapping it in the mystique of  "free" park revitalization....and promises like "not one cent of public funding."

This "revitalization scam" has manifested in one “bait and switch” tactic after another, until we can expect to get nothing that the voters approved when they passed Prop J in 1998. That is, unless City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Mayor Newsom and the Board of Supervisors take control of the project from a thoroughly corrupted Recreation and Parks Commission and call hearings now to investigate the MCCP's violations of their "ground lease."

The Concourse Authority's Mike Ellzey has repeatedly declared how proud he is of this "$54 million gift to the city," without explaining that it's not a gift at all, but a new financing scheme adopted because Hellman's MCCP failed to raise the necessary funds from private philanthropic donations, as promised.

Since Herrera refuses to represent the public interest, we challenge the MCCP Board, including Warren Hellman, Richard J. Young, W. Richard Bingham, Greg Colley, and Michael Burke, to meet with the public and answer all of the following questions, and many, many more in addition to these:

Unresolved Financial Issues of the Music Concourse Community Partnership

• Who is funding the construction of the garage, and does this meet the conditions of the Lease Agreement?

• Are the MCCP's Escrow Account and the Work Restoration Account fully and adequately funded?

• How will the project be fully funded to completion?

• What is the risk to the city if the garage cannot be funded to completion?

• Will the city be forced to make decisions that violate other city codes and policies that harm the park ?

• Is the executive director of the Concourse Authority paid by a grant from you, or not?

• How is the city obligated to fund improvements not allowed for in Prop J?

• What has the city spent to date on the project and what more have they committed to it?

• When will there be a financial audit of these costs to the public?

• Will the bonds sell if potential investors fully understand the debatable assumptions the garage’s revenue generating potential is based upon?

• Who are American Industrial Partners and what is their relationship to the city?

• What is the impact on First Amendment rights in the park, if the MCCP wins a validated ground lease?

The Concourse Authority director recently gave an interview to an obscure San Francisco blogger, and not once in the approximately 10,000-word interview did he mention the term "ground lease" or "revenue bond," but he insists this is not about privatization or the take-over of our parks by private corporate interests.

If the MCCP board members are so proud of their "gift" to the city, then why do they hide behind the Concourse Authority, and slick PR handling by such notables as Solem & Associates, Public Affairs Management, and Staten and Hughes??? Let them come forward and honestly explain what their 35-year ground lease really gives them, and how they plan to fund and operate Golden Gate Park.

Respectfully yours, 

Bob Damron, Billy Webb, Janice Rothstein and Stephen Willis,

Save Golden Gate Park!


Save Golden Gate Park filed the original environmental suit against the city, seeking to enforce the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act ("CEQA"). We represent the public interest and the future of Golden Gate Park as a public resource. For more information: (415) 621-3090, 661-7927.

An earlier article on the Music Concourse appeared in the SF Call on February 22, 2005.