Having failed back in 2008, a ballot initiative which aims to transform Alcatraz Island into a “Global Peace and Creative Art Center” has been re-drafted and is positioning to qualify for this November’s election.

If adopted, the measure would make it the official, but non-binding, policy of the City and County of San Francisco “to support and facilitate the acquisition of Alcatraz Island” for the express purpose of transforming the island into the aforementioned peace and arts center.

Keep in mind that Alcatraz Island, which garners well over a million paying visitors a year, is Federal land and would need to be declared as surplus property by the federal government prior to being sold to the City. In addition, prior to disposing of the property, federal law suggests that the government would first need to evaluate using the island to house the homeless.

The ballot measure managed to receive over 54,000 votes in favor of the initiative back in 2008, roughly 28 percent of the vote.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by L'UrbanistaSF

    There are plenty of other islands to choose from. Please leave The Rock alone.

  2. Posted by MyOddCommentHandle

    it seems so ‘very’ and ‘anti’ San Francisco to round up the homeless and put them on an island, albeit a beautiful one (in rendition).

  3. Posted by SFMichael

    That rendering looks more like a bad 1950’s Sci Fi book cover then it does something that that might actually be built/landscaped

    • Posted by SFMichael

      And I just noticed, as part of this project the SF cityscape is also being reverted to circa 1975.

      • Posted by Notcom

        Well I for one liked 1975, so if that was actually part of the proposal – and from the description (above) it sounds like time travel would be the easiest part of this – I would be in favor.
        But it isn’t;
        So exhibit #833 (or something big) of the need for electoral reform to make it harder for initiatives to qualify, so resources aren’t wasted on frivolous pretty much every “non-binding, advisory…” vote that’s ever been taken.

        • Posted by SFMichael

          Or how about a law that says if you put/get a non-binding resolution added to the ballot, you have to pay the incremental cost associated with printing and counting the ballots and the associated voter information packets. That would at least slow down this sort of nonsense.

          • Posted by Notcom

            Good idea: now if we can just get that proposal on the ballot…oh wait….

    • Posted by Brian M

      I thought “Starfleet Headquarters” myself.

  4. Posted by Anonymous

    What an absolutely god awful idea. Glad it’s never going to happen.

  5. Posted by Matt of Uptown

    What an absolutely awesome idea! Why is an old prison an historic resource anyway? Some really bad people lived there for a couple decades, some escaped… but it’s still just a dang defunct old prison. Why do we need to keep it like it is?

    • Posted by Fishchum

      Well, it’s not like over a million visitors annually are spending money in San Francisco, right?

      • Posted by Matt in Uptown

        “Hey kids, let’s go visit the former prison cells of bank robbers, murderers and rapists!” No thanks. They could just as easily visit the island once the buildings are removed and a nature center built.

        • Posted by Anonymous

          Your opinion is truly divorced from the long arc of observed reality. Probably not a good hill to die on.

          • Posted by Matt in Uptown

            Folks, talk about a divorce with reality -the DeYoung vs a shoddily built defunct prison? There. Is. Nothing historic. Nothing special. Nothing of value presently built on that island. Again, why on Earth retain a prison as a tourist destination -that’s about as Fisherman’s Wharf trash as it gets.

          • Posted by Fishchum

            @Matt – Well, guess what? Tons of visitors visit Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf annually and spend money in hotels, restaurants, and shops in SF. Don’t like it? Consider it “trash”? Well, no one is forcing you to go. But those tourists are vital to The City’s economy. If it ‘aint broke, don’t fix it.

          • Posted by Notcom

            1.famous or important in history, or potentially so
            I think the description fits … dare we even call it “iconic”? Nor is it entirely a prison.

            Anyway, one of the values of keeping old things around is so that the past may educate the present (and future): given your confusion over the role of FEDERAL prisons – lot’s of bank robbers, few murderers, fewer still rapists (at least that’s not for what they were incarcerated for…we won’t delve too deeply what they did at night while there) – you might benefit from a learning experience yourself.

        • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

          There’s already Angel Island as an alternative yet it doesn’t receive nearly the same number of tourists as Alcatraz. So there’s something about The Rock that visitors find enticing.

        • Posted by Ivoryhouse

          Im trying to decide if you are trolling us Matt. Let’s also turn GG park into a nature reserve and get rid of the De Young etc. After all, we can imagine what it was like.

    • Posted by Anonymous

      You know it wasn’t always a prison right? It has a much longer history than that. Oh, and it’s part the National Park Service. Let’s just dump chlorine into Crater Lake and make it a big swimming pool while we’re at it.

      • Posted by Charlie

        They’ve got to heat it though. The water is pretty cold.

        • Posted by Anonymous

          No problem. We’ll just blast out a flat area and the lake’s edge to build a nuclear reactor to power heating the whole lake.

      • Posted by Matthew A Chambers

        The truly historic buildings are all long gone. What’s there today is just a bunch of shoddily built prison structures that need constant repair. What I’m advocating for is habitat restoration, the exact opposite of your analogy .

        • Posted by Anonymous

          Good luck overturning the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmark designations that the island and it’s facilities have. Let us know how that crusade works out for you.

          Hey, while we’re at it, let’s demolish and un-fill all of Mission Bay to restore the actual historic bay that was there. None of that stuff even has historical protection. Let’s also wipe out the Sunset and restore the dunes. See how dumb that all sounds when put it to words?

          • Posted by Matt of Uptown

            The overturning of historic designation happens all the time -it’s a simple vote. Protecting a decrepit prison for posterity is nuts. It’s a monument to horrible people who did horrible things and we should forget about them, not celebrate their last home. Your hyperbolic analogies are quite entertaining, though.

          • Posted by Brian M

            Why stop with Mission Bay? Much of the north end of Downtown San Francisco is landfill. Besides, they are mostly just shoddy old piers and warehouses. No inherent value when compared to a few “native shrubs” and mudflats!

  6. Posted by Fishchum

    What an absolute waste of time. It’s non-binding, and garnered 28% of the vote last time around. Why is this even going on the ballot?

    • Posted by Serge

      Because they want to waste resources and time. Does this city government do anything reasonable anymore? I’ve honestly lost hope.

  7. Posted by archibleh

    IT ALREADY IS a global center for peace and art. the prison itself, similar to Eastern State Penitentiary in Philly, is a grim reminder of our unpleasant past and problematic present. and did you see Ai Wei Wei’s exhibit??? it was amazing!!

  8. Posted by yo-leven

    I really liked the tribe’s suggestion for a casino. How many years ago was that ???

  9. Posted by stop driving

    I do like the idea of putting the [homeless] on an island, but not Alcatraz. Something more remote would make sense.

  10. Posted by Rob Silver

    A west coast statue of liberty would be cool.

    • Posted by Anonymous

      Statue of Justice on the parade ground. FUND IT!

    • Posted by Adam

      We could have had our own version. The sculptor Ralph Stackpole designed a statue called “Pacifica” for the Golden Gate Exposition, and originally proposed placing it on Alcatraz or Angel Island after the fair was done, but the war took everyone’s attention elsewhere. There are some good pictures online of what it looked like.

  11. Posted by goodmaab50

    Best idea prior was an shared indian local casino on the bay with funds to assist native americans locally with housing, schools, and public information improvements on the tribes that lived here prior…. waiting not too long enough could be the underwater casino on the bay…. (see recent sohnetta project)

  12. Posted by Joanthan Carter

    Agree with a statue. How about the “Statue of Freedom” facing directly to China? This is a serious suggestion – imagine how amazing the view of it and from it – and way more $$$ in tourist visits than an old prison.

  13. Posted by sfdragonboy

    Come on, turn The Rock into a nightclub, casino destination hot spot. The prison theme, with gambling, booze and loose women would be awesome. The Fab 7×7 could use another tourist attraction

  14. Posted by Goodmaab50

    Agree with Sf dragon boy, themed casino with mobsters and theater along with super modern sci-fi architecture why be drab about a central casino go all out with the concept make it an e-helicopter destination any trouble makers get fed to the sharks

  15. Posted by Outoftown

    Lots of ideas – build them on Treasure Island, it isn’t suited for housing anyway.

  16. Posted by Mystery Realtor

    If the Indians had been successful in ’71, there’d be a casino on Alcatraz by now.

  17. Posted by c_q

    Looks like it’s being designed by Dr. No for his new SPECTRE headquarters.

  18. Posted by jlasf

    Star Fleet is going to be in the Presidio, according to the movies. How about making Alcatraz the West Coast “Men in Black” headquarters?

  19. Posted by John Baker

    This is idiocy. Alcatraz is a National Park, and a National Historic Landmark. This would take an act of Congress, and the National Park Service and historic preservation interest groups would never let this happen (I don’t believe that a transition of a landmark such as this to a use such as this has ever happened).

    That and it’s a money-maker. This will never happen, and is a colossal waste of time. The time spent on this should be spent on homeless crisis solutions, and increasing housing in the Bay Area.

  20. Posted by Ohlone Californio

    The sphere and the pyramid are cutting edge how do we fast track this? thru Aaron Peskin’s desk?

  21. Posted by citicritter

    The sphere, pyramid and obelisk – all old school architectural expressions of power, and left in their primitive form here – being used to represent peace and creativity?!

    The project sponsors could use the help of some actual visionary architecture…

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