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Oh, Beautiful


There are some times when I just miss old-school politicians like Willie Brown.
Today is one of them. The San Francisco Chronicle’s John King is back in the swing of things with a piece on the beleaguered Bay Bridge rebuilding project, the one that’s taken what feels like a million years, cost a billion dollars and only just started construction. That one. King’s making the case that public works projects like the bridge – which will span the San Francisco Bay from Yerba Buena Island to Oakland – should be attractive.

He’s right. No one — no California politician — will listen to him. But he’s right. And that’s something that Willie Brown for all his backroom deal making and his somewhat misguided belief in the power of public works projects to conquer all understood. When you build big, you should build beautiful. Why? Because it shows you’re a cultured and civilized society, that’s why. Because ugly is, well, it’s ugly.
Of course, Brown undercut his vision, if you will, by loading up projects with union deals and all sorts of sweetheart arrangements. To put a stop to that sort of thinking, Gov. Schwarzenegger’s review of the bridge project is aimed at the state’s Democrats and their buddies in the unions. But, well, when you build big, you should build beautiful. The San Francisco Bay area has more than it’s share of mediocre architecture.
Along those same lines, sort of, the Chron also weighed in over the weekend with a piece on the well-organized efforts to take down the O’Shaughnessy Dam that’s created the Hetch-Hetchy reservoir, the home of San Francisco’s tap water. The paper has made up for their shameful delinquency on this story – everyone’s written about it by now – with a cool little graphic and an archive photo showing us what we’ve been missing. Both are worth a look; when they built O’Shaughnessy, they built big. But they took away beauty.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 12:09 PM | Permalink

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