2 1 I 5ws of the Park Commissioners
on Extension of Municipal
1 Railway Through
BUREAU O" Gr""~"'VtN T AL RESEARCH
44 LIBRARY BUILDING
BUREAU OF GOVERNMENTAL RESEARCH
44 LIBRARY BUILDING
HON. EDWARD I. WOLFE,
Chairman Public Utilities Committee of the Board of Super-
visors, City Hall, San Francisco, Calif.
The Board of Park Commissioners has had under con-
sideration the request of the Supervisors presented by your
committee for the privilege of constructing and maintaining
across and within Golden Gate Park an extension of the
Municipal Railway, for the avowed purpose, among others,
of affording increased transportation facilities between the
Richmond and Sunset Districts, which are separated by the
The Commissioners have carefully examined the pro-
posed plan and route presented by the City Engineer, and
have taken into consideration all the arguments which have
heretofore been presented touching the public convenience
to be subserved by the construction and operation of the
A similar request was heretofore made by the Board of
Supervisors, and was denied by this Board, with the sugges-
tion that if a railroad was to be constructed across the Park
at all, it should be by a route other than the one then under
The modified plans now under consideration do not alter
the situation or remove the fundamental objections raised to
the former application.
While regretting the necessity of declining to authorize
the extension of the roadway as now requested, we feel that
there is no public convenince to be served which would
justify the damage which the park would suffer if the exten-
sion of the road were permitted as now proposed. We are
therefore of the unanimous opinion that the request should
In presenting the pending application, you represented
that the Park Commissioners were appealed to by the Super-
visors "as a matter of courtesy," which suggests the inference
that the Board of Supervisors claimed the right to cross the
park without the consent of the Park Commissioners.
We must respectfully beg to differ with you with ref-
erence to the jurisdiction of this Board over the City Parks.
The charter in distinct terms confers upon the Commis-
sioners the complete and exclusive control, management and di-
rection of these public recreation grounds, and the exclusive
right to erect and superintend the erection of all structures
thereon. With reference to the management and control of the
parks, this Board is clothed with the same power as the Board
of Public Works in its particular province. It is an inde-
pendent body clothed with exclusive powers, and it was so
intended by the people when the charter was adopted. If it
were not for this exclusive power, the Supervisors would be at
liberty to extend through Golden Gate Park every public street
which is now intercepted, without the consent or permission
of the Park Commissioners.
We cannot believe that in adopting the charter any such
result was contemplated. It is hardly pertinent to inquire into
the reasons for conferring on the Board of Park Commissioners
the exclusive control of the city parks. Having accepted office
under the provisions of the charter, we think it incumbent upon
us to obey it in letter and spirit.
We wish it understood that the Board of Park Commis-
sioners is not averse to permitting the municipal railway to
cross the park, but we must insist that the route selected must
meet with the sanction of this Board. This attitude of the
Park Commissioners has heretofore been exhibited, by consent-
ing to the running through Mission Park of the Church Street
line, and by tendering to the Board of Supervisors a route
through Golden Gate Park, by the way of Twentieth Avenue
which affords a central route, with an easy grade.
A few of the reasons which prompt us to decline the re-
quest of the Supervisors may be noted:
1. The destruction of the beauties of this part of the park,
one of the most important and highly cultivated sections. It
would require the removal of 345 trees, and substitute scars and
blemishes which could not be hidden.
2. The danger to human life at grade crossings, of which
there would be four one at Fulton Street, another at Lincoln
Way, and two others at drives and foot paths within the Park
3. The vertical retaining wall (25 feet high by nearly 400
feet long) intended to strengthen and sustain the border of
Stow Lake, which is over fifty feet above the sub-grade of the
proposed railroad. It will be impossible to beautify this wall
and the space above it, as there would be no room for terraces,
consequently it must remain bare, making not only a blot on
the landscape, but, acting as a sounding board, will reflect the
noise of the moving cars toward the bandstand, drowning the
sound of the music, probable to such an extent that it would
be necessary to remove the music stand to some other location.
Even if it were possible to eliminate the retaining wall from the
construction of the railroad, the noise of the cars would still
interfere with the pleasure of the audience in the music.
4. The public convenience of intercommunication between
Sunset and Richmond Districts would be best served by the
construction of a more central route, to-wit: Twentieth Avenue,
which route would meet with the approval of this Board.
5. The proposed route will cross a space 700 feet square
set apart for museum extension on the unit plan, one unit of
which is now about to be constructed.
6. The request made by the Supervisors has met with
protests from individuals and clubs, which are entitled to more
than perfunctory consideration. Among them are the follow-
Laurel Hall Club,
Haight and Ashbury Improvement Club,
North of Panhandle Improvement Club,
Vittoria Colonna Club,
Peralta Heights Improvement Club, and
Public Ownership Association.
It may be noted that the last Association named based its
protests mainly on economic lines, asserting that such an ex-
tension of the Municipal Railway would result in a loss to the
City, and would therefore tend to discredit municipal ownership
of utilities generally. With this, however, the Park Commis-
sioners have no concern.
In support of the application we have received only one
endorsement, and that from the Park Richmond Improvement
Club, which may be said to represent public opinion in the
Richmond District. Undoubtedly a similar opinion is enter-
tained in the Sunset District, as these two districts are the ones
to be especially benefited by the proposed extension.
7. The Parks are to be administered in the interest of all
the people and not a part. It is the duty of the Board to see
that the Parks are not commercialized or utilized in the interest
of any particular locality when that interest is not in harmony
with the purposes and objects for which public parks are estab-
lished and maintained.
8. Where the public convenience suggests the propriety of
crossing the park with a street railway, and there are two routes
over which it might be constructed, one which will seriously
injure the Park, and its highly adorned and improved areas,
and the other which will not produce this effect, the judgment
of the Board should be exercised in favor of ' the latter, par-
ticularly when it appears that the same result as to facilities
of intercommunication may be accomplished.
We have communicated with the Park authorities of numer-
ous typical cities of the United States, with a view of ascer-
taining their views and practice in the matter of permitting
street railways to cross the Park.
We find it to be almost the universal practice to inhibit the
cutting up of parks with street railways. The problem of get-
ting people into the Park is solved by transportation facilities
to its boundaries. In some of them, notably in Baltimore, the
Commissioners operate a phaeton or motor bus line, with such
success that a street railway extending into the Park was aban-
doned and the tracks torn up.
We may quote for your information some excerpts from the
responses sent to us by the authorities of the various munici-
palities, the list below being all that have been received, except
Boston, which has street railways running through its parks, and
which are said to be public conveniences.
CINCINNATI. (Board of Park Commissioners.)
The Board has at various times gone on record as strongly
opposing the establishment of any railway, not only in our
parkways which are in process of construction, as the
hard lines of the tracks do not harmonize with Park
conditions and the road bed cannot be made ornamental.
NEW YORK. (President of the Park Board.)
We have never had a trolley line crossing the Park on
the Park level, and I do not believe that such a road
would be approved by the public.
NOTE: The roads are sunken, and in many places so
concealed from view that the running of cars is only
noticeable through the noise.
DETROIT. (Dept. of Parks and Boulevards.)
We have never permitted it. In our largest park we main-
tain a motor bus service and we find it better and self-
BALTIMORE. (Dept. Public Parks and Squares.)
The proposition was to tunnel through with surface stations
in the interior for the accommodation of park users, but
it never amounted to more than a suggestion because of
the fact that the increasing use of motor vehicles for
hire as well as by owners made unnecessary an exten-
sion of street railways in the parks for Public Conveni-
ence, and left only the gain to private land owners as a
reason for the project. (Italics are ours.)
CHICAGO. (West Chicago Park Commissioners.)
As far as possible it is the policy of the Park Commis-
sioners not to have parks cut up by street railways, and
have not opened up any street car lines through the parks
where they were not originally located previous to the
purchase of the property.
ST. LOUIS. (Commissioner of Parks and Recreation.)
Where street car lines pass through Park property in the
St. Louis Parks, the condition is usually very ugly and
unsightly and at no time during my experience have I
seen a street car line in a public park, either in this city
or any other city, which in my opinion has an added at-
traction to the park, or of sufficient benefit to the people
as a whole to compensate the unsightly condition in the
park property. There is considerable agitation on the
part of one of the societies interested in the Art Museum,
which is located in one of the large parks of this city, and
they are trying to force the construction of a street rail-
way in order to obtain transportation to this building.
The Park Commissioner has taken a very decided stand
against this railway line on the grounds that it will not
add in any way to the beauty of the park, and will in
fact be an unsightly and unsafe addition to the park.
MINNEAPOLIS. (Board of Park Commissioners.)
I believe that the public, who is making use of street car
lines, is also entitled, to a certain extent at least to the
benefit of attractive park scenery. It goes without saying
that the location and construction of the tracks must be
under the supervision of the proper park authorities.
These views we think accord with the best park practice
in the United States, and are in harmony with the judgment
of the Park Commissioners of this city.
We trust that the Board of Supervisors will see its way
clear to adopt the Twentieth Avenue Route, in which event that
Board will have the hearty co-operation of the Park Commis-
BOARD OF PARK COMMISSIONERS,
(Signed) By CURTIS H. LINDLEY,
JAMES de SUCCA, Secretary.
San Francisco, California, May 4th, 1916.
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