Poll: Should the City rename Speedway Meadow to Hellman Meadow?

The Bay Citizen reports that this week, the Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to support a resolution renaming Speedway Meadow in Golden Gate Park after Warren Hellman.

Warren Hellman is well-known, local financier who has made many contributions to Golden Gate Park over the years. He personally finances the popular Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival every summer and was instrumental in getting the underground parking garage built for the Academy of Sciences and de Young Museum.

Speedway Meadow is home to the Bluegrass festival every year, hence the effort to rename it in Hellman’s honor.

“I am absolutely blown away by this gesture,” Hellman said in a statement. “Golden Gate Park is home to some of the best (and worst) moments of my life: family picnics with my wife, kids and grandkids, morning runs, over a decade of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, and of course the longest eight years of my life building the underground garage. There are no words and my fingers couldn’t pluck a tune to express my gratitude. My only hope is that others experience the joy and happiness I’ve found standing, singing, plunking and listening in this beautiful meadow. Thank you,” Hellman told the Bay Citizen (of which he is Chairman).

While this sounds like a nice gesture to honor Hellman’s significant contributions to the park, not everyone is on board. Several commenters on the Bay Citizen story said it is in poor taste to name something after somebody who is still living. Hellman, 77, has been hospitalized recently for a treatable form of leukemia.

Other commenters say that is just one step closer to handing the park over to corporate interests. “Now he’s buying part of Golden Gate Park,” one person wrote. “Naming public realm for wealthy private citizens is the camel’s nose under the tent,” wrote another.

The Board of Supervisors is set to vote on a resolution recommending the name change to the Recreation and Park Commission next week. If approved, the Rec & Park Commission will then vote on whether to rename Speedway Meadow.

What do you think? Take the poll above and leave a comment to let us know your thoughts.

Sarah B.


  1. The meadow was historically a speedway, where carriage races took place in the late 1800s. Let’s not obliterate a historic name with historic meaning, please – it’s far more interesting than a new name no one will recognize.

  2. This is just another kick in the ass from the Board of Supervisors (and again I bring up Eric Mar) towards the residents of the Richmond District who have been complaining about the noise, parking, trash, etc. of the concerts every year. Mr. Mar stated he would be having a meeting with those of us who have concerns – never happened, as expected. He did nothing to assist the residents of the Richmond with the problems the concert caused; now he and the Board (and Phil Ginsburg) have slapped everyone in the face by making a decision to name a meadow after Hellman. GET RID OF MAR IN 2012… I’m ready to go through the same impeachment process we went through with Jake McGoldrick. S.F. City government and its back room deals as well as The BOS’s continual habit of making decisions for all of us without any feedback has become one of the most corrupt in the U.S. Ginsburg is much more interested in the holy dollar than he is in the citizens of San Francisco, and he’s been grinning all the way to the bank because he knows his job is protected. We need a major overhaul of administration here… until then, this kind of activity is not going to stop. San Francisco government is no longer interested in what its people think; they’re only interested in their own gains.

  3. If he had to live across from the park during Hardly Strictly, he’d disown his own concert. I’m sure he’s a great guy and all, but Golden Gate Park can’t accommodate so many people. No amount of renaming and buying off of politicians will change this fact.

    We don’t need another reminder that we live in the age of unequal opportunity, corporate wealth, and the 1% who play by such different rules that they can acquire the amount of money necessary to put on elaborate events such as this.

  4. Again more nonsense. Speedway Meadows is a fixture to all who know SF. A good write up on the man would suffice. I still call Army St., Army St. enuf said.

  5. I have no problems Hardly Strickly, and I respect Mr. Hellman; however, like Caitlin, I feel the Meadow should retain its historical name.

    As to impeachment… Mar is no hero of mine and I would like to see a new Sup. But, with his reelection next year, it does not make sense to expend the energy for a recall when forces could be put behind the election of another candidate through the normal process.

  6. I found an interesting article about the Golden Gate Park “Speed Road” – long before it became Speedway Meadow.

    Here is the site:

    A quote from the site:
    “In the 1870s and 1880s, a number of commercial horse tracks existed in the western part of the city. During this period, a group of wealthy men were pushing to build a track in Golden Gate Park for recreational use. The intent was to build it as an exclusive racing road, not for the people of San Francisco like the rest of the park features. William Hammond Hall, the first park superintendent, wanted the park to be bucolic and was against this road.”

    In the spirit of William Hammond Hall, we need keep the park for the people of San Francisco who enjoy it every day and not suck up to a wealthy sponsor by naming this beautiful site after him.

  7. The annual gift of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, the exact value of which has never been revealed, has never been approved or even discussed by the Recreation and Park Commission or the Board of Supervisors. As for the permits for the Festival, it has been nine years since the permit for this annual event has been approved by the Commission! The permit fees, the road closures, food sales, the modification of the amplified sound policy – none of these details have even been discussed since 2002. The Supervisors and the Rec Park Commissioners have repeatedly violated the Administrative Code and the Department’s own amplified sound policy in their efforts to keep the HSBF and preparations for this event hidden from public view. Please attend the RPC and Board meetings and oppose the remaning of Speedway Meadow!

  8. As for Mr. Hellman’s other significant “contribution” to Golden Gate Park, the Music Concourse Garage, the lease to the MCCP, the nonprofit established by Mr. Hellman to manage the garage and its finances, was never approved at a duly noticed public hearing as required by Section 16.112 of the City Charter. And don’t forget the CFO for the MCCP, Greg Colley, was indicted and convicted for embezzling more than 2.5 million in garage revenues.

    For the first eight years of operation, the MCCP collected the parking fees without first securing approval of those fees at a Public Hearing, a violation not only of the Charter but of state law as well! Between 2003 and 2010, tens of millions of dollars in parking fees have been illegally collected. Ordinance #031320, the legislation that originally created the Concourse Garage parking fees, is the only fee in the entire history of the Park Code that was not approved at a Public Hearing! This is not a legacy to be honored!!

  9. OMG, no! Given how some are affected by the noise level, which can vary with the acts booked, renaming it Hellman would be a slap in the face of D1 neighbors. FYI, I live three blocks from the polo field. In 2010, I did not have noise for the first time the concert has been held. However, this year, the noise was back for all three days. We have no assurances from year to year despite so-called telephone help-lines. So, HELL-NO to Hellman! just as historic buildings are preserved, historic names should be preserved. “Speedway Meadow” deserves preservation.
    D1 resident of 20 yrs

  10. Perhaps we can rename the department for Hellman. That would also be fitting.

  11. Does anyone know when the rec & park commision is going to vote on this? I tryed to find some info about this ubsurd proposal on their website and found nothing, seems like they are trying to keep this quiet. I cant belive they even have the power to do something like this, as the neighbors and public who visit and live next to the park should be able to have a say. By the way, isn’t golden gate park in the process of becoming a landmark?

  12. @Rob S. – It will most likely come before the Rec & Park Commission meeting which meets on on the third Thursday of every month at City Hall (which would be this Thursday, Dec. 15), Room 416 at 10:00 a.m. You can find out more details here, including how to comment etc.:


  13. Come on – everybody reeeelax – We own a flat in the Richmond and love having such a great music festival walking distance from our place – seems like it might be nice to name it after Warren and his music fest – I don’t understand why people are so resistant to change – things evolve – wonder what the Ohlone called the meadow before it was a racetrack? – i bet they hated the noise too – why have people that hate noise so much have chosen to live in a city – come on – take your shoes off and enjoy the ride – before you know – it’ll be over …

  14. First, I would like to wish Mr. Hellman well. I realize he is ailing. That being said, there is no way this Meadow should be renamed. The Department and the Commission have gone to great lengths to keep this event and the preparations for it as far removed from the public discussion as possible. Neither the permit nor the details – road closures, food sales, permit fees – have been publicly discussed since 2002 with the exception of one road closure back in 2005. I have just received a copy of the Department’s current Permits and Reservations Policy. The issuance of the annual permit to the HSBF violates several major portions of the Policy.

    Most notably, the policy clearly states staff shall not issue permits for any facility/venue where projected attendance is expected to exceed the maximum capacity for that venue. The policy then lists the maximum attendance numbers for several locations including –
    Speedway Meadow – 18,600 Marx Meadow – 4,000 Lindley Meadow – 9,300 and Polo Field – 50,000. For all the neighbors and wildlife that call this area home, this is a violent assault not a “gift.” Media coverage this year from a devoted fan of the concert admitted it was too big. For years, the Department has continued to issue the permits knowing full well that the expected attendance would well exceed the maximum capacities for these otherwise green and open spaces. And the Property Manager handling the permit the last two years, Nick Kinsey, stated that the HSBF was only expected to draw 25,000-30,000 people per day. For at least the last five years, the attendance has been 100,000s/day.

    The actual permits give the HSBF exclusive control of these areas for ten days. Even though the Permits and Reservations Policy clearly requires the provision of at least one portable toilet/200 people, 1/5th of which must be ADA compliant, the the permit for the last three years has only required a minimum of 50 toilets, 7 of which are ADA compliant. This is a clear violation of the Policy. Even at 25,000 people, the Policy would require a minumum of 125 toilets, 25 of which are ADA compliant. So for anyone who feels that were waiting a long time at the porta potty, thank Nick Kinsey, the RPD Property Manager who prepared the HSBF permit the last two years.

    The HSBF permit also violates the sound permit regulations contained in the Permits and Reservations Policy. In the absence of modifications or exceptions to the sound permit policy approved by the Commission, the Department had no authority to issue the permit under these conditions. The permit also violates the Permits and Reservations Policy requiring all outside food sales not associated with a recreation event to be approved by the Commission. I could go on but I will stop. Leave Speedway Meadow be and restore honesty and accountability to the Recreation and Park Department and Commission!

  15. I’m willing to bet this is a done deal already as far as Ginsburg is concerned. He’s been brown-nosing Mr. Hellman since he took his position. Who knows what kind of perks he and the Board of Supes are receiving? One thing is certain, he’s in his own world, oblivious of SF residents, and makes his decisions that way. Get ready for “Hellman Meadow.”. Also, to Anna M: very awesome post!

  16. “The Recreation and Park Commission unanimously approved the name change today after taking testimony from musicians, educators, union representatives, business leaders, park neighbors, movers-and-shakers in high society and community activists who support the honor for Hellman.”

    You can be sure they were notified in advance to show up to the hearing… Ginsburg is famous for doing this in order to outnumber/sabotage those who disagree. There are usually very few speakers who show up for a Rec and Park meeting.

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