Architecture critic John King brings us a delightful look back at the vocal opposition to the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge a class of people who should be grouped amongst the greatest fools of history next to segregation proponents and Nazi sympathizers. And we learn from this brief history lesson that there really always have been whiney jerks with no vision in this town who never want things to change and will make noise about any beautiful new thing anyone ever wants to build.
On the eve of the bridge's 75th anniversary, King says that looking back at the fight that erupted over the bond measure to build it, in 1930, "shows how little has changed in terms of the attacks that are aimed at major alterations to the landscape and the difficulty that one generation has in predicting how future generations might choose to live and the values they might hold." Those opposed to the bridge, and the $35 million in bond sales to build it, were characterized as "the old guard," and depicted in various editorial cartoons like one showing a clawed "hand of greed" reaching to destroy the proposed bridge.
The Commonwealth Club held debates on the topic in the fall of 1930, and among the objections to the bridge were a lot of familiar complaints: questions of whether it would come in on budget; questions about traffic projections being too optimistic; questions about whether enough alternatives had been considered. (Also, there were a fair number of elderlies who didn't want to see the Golden Gate itself "disfigured" by a bridge.) King points out that the same arguments arose when BART was being designed and constructed, and the same arguments are being used to thwart the high-speed rail plan. Did you know, for instance, that the SF Bay Guardian was a big opponent of BART, saying it was a money-drain and it was going to destroy neighborhoods?
He tries to be diplomatic, saying, "Some large projects should not be built. But the what-ifs and worst-case scenarios can blind us to the fact that projects of a certain scale often reshape the landscape in ways we can't imagine. And sometimes, the landscape is the better as a result." But obviously the point here is that people hem and haw too much over big projects, and if we listened to the naysayers at every turn, nothing would ever get done.