February 19, 2003

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Talkback

No secrets

Savannah Blackwell's article, "Hellman's Hole" (2/5/03), stated that important planning decisions about Golden Gate Park's underground parking facility are being made "behind the scenes." This is simply untrue.
Thousands of San Franciscans have participated in deliberations about the direction and design of the Concourse renovation. More than 650 people submitted over 900 comments. These public comments provided essential direction for the projects and produced some of the finest improvements made to the garage design. For example, preserving the three pedestrian tunnels was not part of the original design. The public, however, believed that this was a serious error and spoke strongly in favor of the tunnels. In response, the entire eastern portion of the garage was redesigned so that the two eastern pedestrian tunnels will be preserved and the portals of the southwest pedestrian tunnel will be reconstructed.
While most city park projects hold an average of 5-15 public meetings at which individuals may comment or submit written remarks, the Golden Gate Park Concourse Authority has held 43 public meetings, eight neighborhood workshops, regular meetings between staff and neighborhood activists, and a variety of public hearings before the Planning Commission, the Recreation and Parks Commission, and the Arts Commission.
The Concourse Authority Board is committed to an open planning process and will continue to welcome and encourage public participation in this exciting urban park revitalization project.

Nancy Conner
President
Golden Gate Park Concourse Authority Board of Directors

Savannah Blackwell responds: Nancy Conner is a board member of the Friends of Recreation and Park, which has long lobbied for the underground garage. So I'm not exactly surprised she had problems with the piece.
The article never said the public cannot attend meetings of the Golden Gate Concourse Authority. People do attend, and have raised various issues over the years. The problem is that the substantive discussion of how the garage should be designed is taking place at private meetings between Concourse Authority executive director Mike Ellzey, the architects, and Dick Young, the director of the nonprofit Music Concourse Community Partnership. The MCCP is raising money from private sources for the garage and is closely connected to Wells Fargo heir Warren Hellman. The fact is, because Hellman has indicated he's not willing to raise more than $36 million, the design the authority approved in February 2002 was changed so that it would not cost more than that amount. After reading the minutes of the past two years of Concourse Authority meetings and talking to activists and sources at the authority, it's clear the public body is not driving that process. Rather, ideas for changing the design have been hashed out behind the scenes and between public meetings. The authority members are then presented with the results, which they have ratified without raising major opposition.
The three tunnels will be demolished. The garage builders promise two of them will be rebuilt. But exactly what they will look like and how they will be paid for remains to be seen. And the bottom line is, most members of the public supported a garage design that would not require demolition of the tunnels at all. And that was rejected outright, not by the authority but by Ellzey.

A green garage

I was surprised that your article about the underground garage planned for Golden Gate Park overlooked that the garage is one of the San Francisco Department of the Environment's Green Building Pilot Projects for 2003. Aside from being virtually invisible from the Music Concourse bowl, the underground garage is being designed under guidelines developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. The garage's many environmental attributes include: a green roof design and the return of more than three acres of now-paved areas to green space thereby reducing impacts to the city sewer system; concrete made stronger with high fly ash content (a byproduct of coal-fired power plants); paths and walkways made out of recycled rubber from tires; highly efficient lighting and ventilation systems; and nontoxic paint to help preserve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Best of all, collected storm water will be filtered and recharged into the park's natural aquifer, therefore helping replenish Lake Merced, Pine Lake, and Mountain Lake. San Francisco needs more environmentally friendly sensitive projects like the parking facility being planned for the Music Concourse area of Golden Gate Park.

Mark Palmer
Green Building coordinator
Department of the Environment
San Francisco

Flower mart's hours

In the article titled "In the Mood for Love" (2/5/03) there were some inconsistencies with the information given about the San Francisco Flower Mart. The San Francisco Flower Mart is open to the trade very early in the morning (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 2 a.m.-10 a.m.; and Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, 5 a.m.-10 a.m.), and after 10 a.m. the San Francisco Flower Mart opens to the public.
Also, one of the vendors, Oak Hill Farm, was listed as an organic product source, but in fact they do not sell to the public.

Rose Robinson
Director of operations
San Francisco Flower Mart