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light show
Does this look like wildlife habitat? An example of night lighting recommended by the Gardens of Golden Gate Park

Please oppose light shows in the SF Botanical Garden

Kathy Howard
Kathy Howard

•••••••••• December 20, 2023 ••••••••••

Golden Gate Park provides not only habitat for wildlife but also a haven for San Franciscans who find refuge in nature in our parks. The Observation Wheel was recently moved out of the Park to a more appropriate location at Fisherman’s Wharf, after concerns were expressed over the Wheel’s impact on both the habitat and character of the Park. But now, a new threat to Golden Gate Park has been proposed.

The Gardens of Golden Gate Park (GGGP), a non-profit in partnership with Rec and Park, has issued an RFP (Request for Proposals) for holding major nighttime light shows in the San Francisco Botanical Garden for two months next winter. (The plan might also include the Japanese Tea Garden and the Conservatory of Flowers.) The goal is to attract 80,000 to 180,000 people to Golden Gate Park at night, at a time when the Park should be dark and quiet for wildlife. General admission will cost between $28 to $40 per person – and that includes San Franciscans.

quote marks

One of the stated goals of the GGGP is: “Expanded global plant conservation efforts protecting biodiversity in the face of climate change and the extinction crisis.” Yet this new artificial entertainment will be located in the wildlife habitat of the Botanical Garden.”

The RFP was issued on October 12, 2023 with no public notice or opportunities for public input and with a deadline of November 15, 2023. Light shows do not need to be approved by the Rec and Park Commissionand the Board of Supervisors does not have the power to reject the contract. The GGGP has not responded to an inquiry as to when – or if - there would be any public meetings on this topic.

One of the stated goals of the GGGP is: "Expanded global plant conservation efforts protecting biodiversity in the face of climate change and the extinction crisis." Yet this new artificial entertainment will be located in the wildlife habitat of the Botanical Garden. Biodiversity means plants AND wildlife – they need each other! This project will endanger both plants and wildlife for the following reasons:

  • Artificial nighttime lighting has a negative impact on birds, insects, bats, and other wildlife.
  • Artificial nighttime lighting has a negative impact on plant life and could harm the plants that the Botanical Garden is trying to protect and conserve.
  • Adding noise and large crowds at night also has a negative impact on wildlife.
  • Adding more noise and light has a cumulative impact on Golden Gate Park's habitat. The Park already suffers from the amplified noise at the Bandshell as well as the 150,000 watts of stadium lighting at the Beach Chalet Soccer Fields and new lighting at other park facilities. At some point, Golden Gate Park will cease to be a haven for wildlife.
  • This proposal sends the message that our parks need to be commercial enterprises rather than valuing them as wildlife habitat and as a refuge from the stress of urban life for people.
  • This proposal also sends the message that somehow nature as nature is not good enough – it has to be 'tarted up,' in order for people to appreciate it.
  • San Francisco should be moving in the direction of adopting Dark Skies initiatives; this proposal goes in the wrong direction by adding more artificial lighting at night to our major landscape park.

If you share these concerns, please write to the following officials and ask that the GGGP rescind this proposal for any of the above reasons – or add your own!

Please write to:
Sarah Ryan, President, Board of Directors, CEO
Board of Supervisors
Recreation & Park Commission
Commission on the Environment
Please copy me on your letters. For more information go to

Katherine Howard, ASLA, is an open space advocate in San Francisco.

December 20, 2023

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