In 2020 the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department (Rec and Park) installed a brightly lighted, 150–foot-tall observation Ferris Wheel in the middle of the Golden Gate Park Music Concourse to mark the 150th Anniversary of the creation of the park. The wheel was only supposed to be in place for one year—that year is up in March.
Now Rec and Park is backpedaling on that timeline and asking that the Wheel stay there for four more years.
Due to San Francisco’s resurgent COVID figures, this intrusive structure has remained mostly closed for the last year. Thus, the wheel is not just a failed attempt at brightening up a festival that never occurred, it has become an eyesore that can be seen above the park’s trees from miles away.
The wheel has bands of exterior-booth lights and flashing, rotating designs on the wheels – all extremely bright LED’s – that stay lit until late every night, even when it is closed down. They are powered by a noisy diesel generator that runs 24/7.
During COVID, more San Franciscans than ever have flocked to Golden Gate Park. They don’t come thinking Golden Gate Park is an amusement park. They come for the natural beauty. They come to birdwatch and to catch a glimpse of elusive wildlife. They come to take a relaxing stroll through the open meadows and to see their reflections in the many lakes. They come to enjoy the wonders of nature and find some respite from the noise and traffic of our city streets.
Rec and Park claims that extending the wheel four more years will attract tourists to Golden Gate Park, promote business interests, and even revive the city’s economy — all of which is doubtful, at best.
A bigger question: If the wheel’s stay is extended, what’s next? More “attractions” masquerading as recreation? More buildings that replace parkland to generate revenue for a city department?
Why is it that in the 21st Century, with climate change upon us and when San Francisco has declared itself to be a biophilic city committed to conserving the environment, we are selling out the environment for commercial reasons?
What is the lesson for the children who come to see the Observation Wheel? That it’s okay to damage the environment for short-term gain — instead of teaching them the need to protect the environment? Their future and the future of the planet Earth depend on drastically mitigating the impact of human activity on the natural environment.
Golden Gate Park is one of the few places in San Francisco where wildlife can also find a refuge. Wildlife needs darkness and quiet. The increased artificial lighting from the wheel can have a negative impact on birds – both resident and migrating — bats, insects, amphibians, and other wildlife. People are also adversely affected by artificial light pollution at night and noise pollution. The fumes from the diesel generator that powers the wheel add an additional stressor to the environment and raise questions about the city’s commitment to clean air.
There will be hearings at the Historic Preservation Commission (Feb 17th) and the Recreation and Park Commission (Feb 18th) on the proposed extensions. Write and call in – stand up for your park! Ask that the extension be denied and that the Observation Wheel be removed from Golden Gate Park permanently.
SF Historic Preservation Commission: Commissions.Secretary@sfgov.org
SF Recreation and Park Commission: Recpark.Commission@sfgov.org
San Francisco Board of Supervisors: Board.of.Supervisors@sfgov.org
Mayor London Breed: MayorLondonBreed@sfgov.org
Ann McPherson, David Romano, Linda Shaffer, Steph Wiseman
Learn more at SFUN – San Franciscans for Urban Nature – sfurbannature.org