George Moscone and other San Francisco Mayors

George Moscone and other San Francisco Mayors

Protecting the City's Control of Yosemite


Yosemite National Park's Hetch Hetchy Valley rightfully belongs to all of us, but San Francisco has occupied it for their own use for the past century. It's time to take it back.

Ever since James Phelan filed for water rights on the Tuolumne River in 1901, San Francisco's mayors have been staunch defenders of the city's occupation of Hetch Hetchy Valley. 


Mayors Phelan, Moscone, Feinstein, Newsom and Lee.

Mayor (now Senator) Dianne Feinstein famously declared Hetch Hetchy to be San Francisco's birthright. Current Mayor Ed Lee used the word "insane" twice in the same sentence when Restore Hetch Hetchy merely proposed a public study of restoration via the 2012 ballot. 

Even Mayor Gavin Newsom, currently California's Lieutenant Governor, said he would fiercely defend the City's use of Hetch Hetchy after first saying he would be open-minded about water system alternatives that would accomodate restoration.

Until recently, we were unaware that Mayor George Moscone had ever commented about restoring Hetch Hetchy. But we just discovered a letter, written to Senator Clifford Hansen in 1976, in which Moscone opined that restoration "could likely spell the end of our existence as a major metropolitan area". That's some strong, and unwarranted, hyperbole.

If anybody knows why Moscone felt the need to write such a letter, please let us know - there must be a story behind it. Moscone, along with Supervisor Harvey Milk, was tragically assassinated in 1978, so he is unable to answer any questions about his strong views on Hetch Hetchy.

Feinstein, Newsom, and Lee, however, are still around and all still hold public office. It would be great to have a thoughtful reporter interview them and ask a few questions. 

  • Why should San Francisco be the only city in the United States allowed to destroy a national park for its benefit? 

  • Why can't San Francisco reform its water system so it can deliver Tuolumne River supplies to the city without using Yosemite as a water tank? After all, other California cities have done more to lessen their impact on California's rivers and wetlands. 

  • In light of its occupation of Hetch Hetchy, can San Francisco rightfully be called a "green" city?

We would love to work cooperatively with elected officials in San Francisco, but we are not holding our breath. We've been rebuffed and disrespected. So we have taken our case to the California courts, where we intend to present evidence that the value of restoration outweighs its costs. Naturally, San Francisco is trying to prevent the courts from even hearing our case. 

Eventually, San Francisco city leaders will come to support restoration of Hetch Hetchy Valley, just as officials in Los Angeles have come to support a healthy Mono Lake.  But we have to make it happen.