February 5, 2003

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In this issue

I'VE NEVER UNDERSTOOD why anyone saw the need for a parking garage in Golden Gate Park. And I'm not talking from the perspective of someone who thinks there shouldn't ever be any cars at all in the park. I go there all the time, and a lot of the time I drive.

When my only companion is my three-year-old son, we take the bus or BART most places – Michael loves the buses and trains. (Sometimes we don't even go anywhere, really – we just ride the Muni trains up and down Market Street all day.)

But when his sister – who is too small to walk and too big to carry, and thus rides in a stroller – is with us, I load the crew (and the stroller, and a bag of diapers, and a change of clothes, and some Lego, and a couple of rubber balls, and maybe a few stuffed animals, and sometimes a pirate sword, and lots of water and snacks) into the car. I hate driving, and I hate parking, so I hate going anyplace where I'm going to have to circle for hours. But somehow I never have trouble at the park, even in the area where they're going to build the garage.

Even on busy weekend days, even in the rain, even when – gasp – JFK Drive is closed, we manage to park right near the California Academy of Sciences without much hassle. We walk a block or two to get into the academy sometimes, but you know what? We're going to the park. Walking a block or two isn't such a big deal.

It's always seemed to me that what Golden Gate Park needed was more road closures on weekends, less traffic, and fewer parking spaces.

So I opposed Proposition J, which authorized the parking garage – and now it's turned out that parking is only a small part of the problem. The private entity that is handling the funding for the garage has changed the plans, on its own. As Savannah Blackwell reports on page 16, what we're seeing here is the creeping privatization of Golden Gate Park.

Warren Hellman, the Wells Fargo heir and godfather of the garage, seems to be having some trouble raising money for the monstrosity, so he's making it more cheap and nasty, and it's becoming an even worse monstrosity. And it shouldn't be his decision.

Tim Redmond

tredmond@sfbg.com