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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

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News + PoliticsOpinionOPINION: The Ferris wheel must go!

OPINION: The Ferris wheel must go!

Golden Gate Park should not be a commercial amusement park with diesel generators and bright lights.


In 2020 the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department (Rec and Park) installed a brightly lighted, 150foot-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.

The wheel at night. Photo by Alces Images.

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.

Alert contacts

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

The agenda and call-in information for the HPC can be found at: www.sfplanning.org/historic-preservation-commission

Ann McPherson, David Romano, Linda Shaffer, Steph Wiseman

Learn more at SFUN – San Franciscans for Urban Nature – sfurbannature.org

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  1. Supporters of the SkyStar Wheel say its a “beacon of hope”. At $18 a ride and $12 for children under 12, a family of four better hope it can afford $60 for a view that you can see for free from Twin Peaks, Diamond Heights, the nearby Observation Deck of the de Young Museum, or even standing on the street in front of UCSF. The City is only getting a pittance for selling out Golden Gate Park. A Ferris Wheel is not going to be “an engine of economic recovery” as Rec and Park claims. That’s absurd. The residents who use the Park don’t want it there. We’re not going to be riding it.

  2. When I go to Golden Gate Park, I go to be in a calm serene setting, appreciate nature, picnic, play frisbee, walk the dogs, see the buffalo, go to the museum, ride a bike, etc. So disgusted in our parks dept and their disregard for urban wildlife.
    Rec & Park is a City agency, NOT an enterprise, though they do spend $ like they are. Their priorities are so screwed up.

  3. Wow, what a ridiculous editorial. First of all it is factually incorrect, the generator doesn’t run 24/7. I run by the ferris wheel 3-4 times a week and have only heard it running the wheel was active and people were in line to get on. Yes, before the December lockdown.

    But even bigger, this is a great attraction that young and old alike love. What a killjoy application of environmental extremism. Only someone without kids or a warped sense of fun would suggest that instead of hopping on a fun and safe ride that we discuss climate change. How about both?

  4. “OK, remove the wheel, but I’m not buying the whole “climate change and severe habitat loss” being even an issue with this.”

    Yes, the carbon footprint of this wheel is trivial, and certainly less than every one of the 200,000 air flights that happen every day globally.

  5. Rec and Park is an enterprise organization. The number one goal of an enterprise organization is to make money. It may have started as a simple jobs generator, and a goal to self-fund the city departments and agencies, but, now the enterprise has taken over every other consideration. Until the voters figure that out will we will watch city parks turn into concrete and AstroTurf covered lots. Gold courses are about as natural as you can get and that is too natural for Rec and Park. Someone will find a reason to dig them up soon. Parks are used as bait for developers. Wouldn’t you like a park in your neighborhood? You will need to the dense housing development next door to pay for it,. And don’t expect any views or sun in your park, it will be Astro Truf and concrete.

  6. OK, remove the wheel, but I’m not buying the whole “climate change and severe habitat loss” being even an issue with this.

  7. When I went to see the Freida Kahlo Exhibit before the recent shut down, the band was playing and as I crossed to the museum I good not only hear But I could smell the diesel exhaust for the Ferris wheel .. It was not a great greeting to the space, presence was pretty a pretty negative intrusion of you are just going to hear the music or go to the museum.. .. and I wondered how the musicians felt about the exhaust…

  8. There is more to this ‘attraction’ than just a ‘fun’ ride. The Sierra Club, Golden Gate Audubon Society, the California Native Plant Society, and other environmental groups are opposing it for the environmental damage it can cause. Why is it, that in the era of climate change and severe habitat loss, the Recreation and PARK department is putting this in the middle of one of San Francisco’s prime habitat area?
    Children may ‘love’ it, but wouldn’t it be better to teach them about the environment and to value nature?
    A lot of thought has gone into these concerns. You can read more at http://www.sfurbannature.org. – they have a 20 page paper explaining the problems of this Wheel being located in Golden Gate Park.

  9. It only takes one bureaucrat to come up with this kind of dumb idea, and dozens of other city government and activists to uproot it.

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OPINION: The Ferris wheel must go!

Golden Gate Park should not be a commercial amusement park with diesel generators and bright lights.
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