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Don’t give Coit Tower the shaft

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The plight of the graceful Art Deco tower crowning Telegraph Hill has received generous coverage elsewhere; even The New York Times has weighed in. So no need to take up this limited space with a lengthy recapitulation: In short, things are a mess up there, especially regarding the deteriorating condition of the historically valuable frescoes.

We’ll assume the folks over at the Recreation and Park Department – they run the joint – are sincere in their desire to restore and repair Coit Tower and its frescoes, although assuming sincerity on the part of self-interested careerists is always dicey. In any case, it’s the way they want to finance the repairs that is troubling.

They want to significantly expand food and beverage services and allow a new vendor to hold monthly soirees atop the tower.

Ignoring the irony of the well-heeled boozing it up and dancing under the stars to fund the restoration of frescoes created by leftist artists exalting organized labor and the working class, it’s still a bad idea. Public assets should not be placed in private hands, simple as that. It’s our tower, not his tower. Don’t let the Republicans tell you otherwise.

Besides, it’s unnecessary. If the money generated by admission fees to Coit Tower – roughly $500 grand a year – were used for tower maintenance instead of dumped into Rec and Park’s general fund, the dough would be there.

A petition to put a Protect Coit Tower measure on the June ballot has been submitted. If you’re interested in reading more about this issue, or think you might like to donate or work for the cause, check out www.ProtectCoitTower.org.


Do the math: Speaking of public treasures in peril, our public schools are certainly taking it on the chin these days. Fundraisers are one way to drum up a little cash, and Yick Wo Elementary School’s event will be held on Saturday, March 10, starting at 5:30 p.m.

Art on the Hill includes an art auction, featuring work by local artists, as well as a silent auction offering all the usual and unusually creative things people manage to drum up for these affairs.

The fundraiser, being held at the S.F. Art Institute (800 Chestnut Street), is admission free to the public and includes musical entertainment. The proceeds, of course, will benefit the school.


Restaurant recommendation: And it’s not just the public sector that’s scuffling these days. Small businesses can get kicked around pretty well too, especially in an atmosphere that’s often unfriendly (read: greedy landlords, pigheaded bureaucracy) to the little guy trying to stake a modest claim.

The backbone of North Beach and most other San Francisco neighborhoods is its small businesses, so here’s a plug for one that’s struggling but shouldn’t be: Urban Curry on the south side of Broadway, between Columbus and Kearny.

It’s generally a good idea for writers to avoid superlatives, but, really, this is some of the best Indian food I’ve had. So it always baffles me – as I’m sure it baffles the owner and his terrific staff – that the joint is nearly empty every time I go there.

Seriously, if your taste runs to tandoori and tikka masala, you’ll want these folks to stick around. If you start showing up, maybe they will.


Calling all artists: You can’t swing a dead cat around here without hitting an artist, so presumably a lot of you will be pitching in to help make Reflections 2012 a rip-roaring success.

This collaborative art exhibition, a fundraiser for our stellar North Beach Citizens, is open to all artists in any medium as long as they are willing and able to use a mirror (maximum size, 3 feet x 4 feet) as their form of expression. Work should be based on the themes of self-reflection, self-realization or transformation.

The exhibition runs from March 31 through April 26 at The Cannery. Pieces can be submitted to 2801 Leavenworth Street beginning at 5:30 p.m. on March 27.

Artists already committed include Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jack Hirschman, Amada Lynn, Winston Smith and Momo. Contacting Ethel Jimenez or Alexandra Neidenberg at creativeevents@northbeachcitizens.org can add your name to the list. They’d like to hear from you by March 1, which is right about … now.


One way, please: Longtime North Beacher John Tansley sat my butt down at the Caffe Trieste recently and demanded to know why that one block of Stockton Street between Union and Columbus is designated for two-way traffic.

“It should be one way, going north,” he said, pointing toward Pier 39. “Besides, you have to turn right on Columbus anyway and you just end up going right back where you came from.”

You know, he’s right. That block of Stockton, the one that includes North Beach Restaurant, Tony Nik’s, Tony’s Pizza, and now Original Joe’s, should be one way going north.

Somebody do something about that right now.

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