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S.F. voters pass advisory measure aimed at restoring Coit Tower

June 6, 2012 |  6:56 pm

Coit Tower, built in 1933, has become a widely recognized part of San Francisco's skyline.
San Francisco voters Tuesday approved an advisory measure that asks the city to limit commercial activities at the iconic Coit Tower and to use tourism dollars generated there for the upkeep of the structure and its Depression-era murals.

City officials and advocates of other municipal parks had opposed the ballot measure, arguing that the restrictions were too vague and that money from the tower’s elevator ticket sales and concessions was needed to maintain other Parks and Recreation Department facilities that do not generate revenue.

The measure was spearheaded by a citizens' group outraged over the deteriorating condition of the tower and its murals -- the largest collection of frescoes on the West Coast. 

Last month, Mayor Ed Lee and David Chiu, president of the Board of Supervisors, announced a $1.7-million fund to help restore the murals and repair and upgrade the tower.

The announcement came after the city commissioned a report that found damage to the frescoes from visitors’ hands, mineral blooms and insects. It also identified leaks in the tower and its roof, asbestos and lead concerns, and cracked exterior concrete.

The tower was built in 1933 with a bequest from philanthropist Lillie Hitchcock Coit.

The murals, completed as part of the Public Works of Art Project in 1934, depict urban and agrarian life in California at a time of great social and economic turmoil. They were painted by 26 artists and 19 assistants, many of whom had studied with or were influenced by Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.

The Protect Coit Tower Committee, which crafted the ballot proposition, earned the backing of the descendents of Coit and the daughters of two of the muralists whose works are in display in the aging structure.

“This is a huge win for Coit Tower and for everyone in San Francisco and around the world who adores this special place and the amazing murals that reside inside,” Jon Golinger, who chairs the committee, said Wednesday. “Yesterday the voters of this entire city delivered a clear message to everyone at City Hall that the mismanagement and creeping commercialization of Coit Tower is unacceptable and must be fixed now.”


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Photo: Coit Tower, built in 1933, has become a widely recognized part of San Francisco's skyline. Credit: Dave Getzschman / For The Times