By Ron Merk
Continuing my love/hate relationship WITH the city where I live, the proverbial, provincial and often self-absorbed narcissist by the bay, it came to my attention recently that the people who control the Golden Gate Bridge District want to start charging pedestrians and bicyclists a fee to walk or ride across this iconic symbol of San Francisco. While the bridge is technically not owned by the city or county of San Francisco (it’s a private, secretive “district” of its own), it does reside here, and no matter what the original covenants were with the people who financed its construction back in the 1930s might have been, I don’t think it was ever intended for people to pay to walk or bicycle across the bridge, and it should remain free forever. Period.
You can read more about this really bad idea at the URL: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Golden-Gate-Bridge-considers-charging-bicyclists-5837982.php?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=proposing%20a%20toll&utm_campaign=Bridge%20Petition
People always ask about bridges and toll roads: Aren’t they paid for yet? When will the tolls end? The answer is never. These things make money for the truly rich and the people who control them, the capitalists who put up the money to build them in the first place, and their heirs. They are not public entities by any stretch of the imagination. If you think they are, you’ve bought the lie.
This bridge toll controversy is not only symbolic, but emblematic of what’s happening in San Francisco during this period of building construction. Every empty hole in the ground is being filled by big buildings. The face of the city is being changed, and the prices of apartments have soared so that few people who live here now will be able to remain unless they’re locked into a low rate, rent-stabilized apartment.
Bit by bit the capitalists are buying up every empty space and filling it with something that will generate rents (tolls?) forever. They are getting special treatment from the city in every way. They completely ignore the noise ordinances, parking regulations and lots of other laws that protect the rest of us poor bastards. Just within one block of where I live near Civic Center, five huge buildings have gone up, and the contractor and owners act like land barons. They take up all the parking, park illegally without getting ticketed, make noise 24 hours a day, and even take over private streets. Stevenson Street, a short part of which can be entered on 10th Street, has been turned into a private park. Gates and guards at both ends remind us that we’re not welcome. When did this happen? Who at City Hall approved this? I want names!!! How far will this go?
Will whole streets be sold to private owners? Will we need to divert our travel to avoid them? Maybe pay tolls to use them? When will the sidewalks be leased to private owners? When will we need passports to walk around (with fees paid to the city)? When will Mayor Ed Lee see that he’s killing the golden goose with all this development? When will the people rise up and say, “we’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it any more!”?
The millions of visitors who come to San Francisco every year come for its charm and quaintness, its beautiful geographical setting, not to look at high rise buildings and “master plan” developments. At some point, tourists will be charged for taking photos by the “photo police.” Where and when will it end? The city belongs to all of us, not just the special interests.
If you want to make a difference, start with signing the petition about the Golden Gate Bridge walking and bicycling tolls. Say NO. It’s a start. Here’s the link:
You might say that saying NO is symbolic, but what is more symbolic of San Francisco than the Golden Gate Bridge. Let’s do all we can to keep our rights to walk and bicycle across. Let’s stop developers from privatizing streets and public land to their sole benefit. Let’s do whatever we can to hold onto our rights. San Francisco belongs to all of us, and if we don’t fight for it, it will become a fortress of the rich and we will be demoted to second class citizens or worse.